UK Government publishes Online Media Literacy Strategy to empower users to make safe choices online and to support organisations to undertake media literacy activity in a more coordinated way.

Key date(s)

  • 27 October 2020 – The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (“DCMS“) publishes an executive summary of their review of online media literacy evidence.
  • 15 December 2020 – The DCMS published the Online Harms White Paper.
  • April 2021 – The DCMS publishes the phase 1 and phase 2 reports of their mapping exercise and literature review.
  • 12 May 2021 – The DCMS publishes the draft Online Safety Bill which establishes a new regulatory framework to tackle harmful content online.
  • 14 July 2021 – The DCMS publishes the Online Media Literacy Strategy, along with its first action plan for the 21/22 Financial Year.


  • On 15 December 2020, the DCMS published the Online Harms White Paper in response to its consultation on the Government's plans for regulating and tackling online harms. As part of the Online Harms White Paper, the DCMS set out a commitment to develop an Online Media Literacy Strategy in advance of the implementing an online harms regulator.
  • On 14 July 2021, the DCMS published the promised Online Media Literacy Strategy (the “Strategy”). The extensive feedback from stakeholders highlighted that there are six key cross-sector challenges which are acting as barriers to improving user media literacy capabilities in the UK. These are:
    • a lack of evaluation into which media literacy initiatives are most effective;
    • a lack of long-term and stable funding;
    • the non-traditional training required for hard-to-reach audiences (e.g. those who are disengaged with the issue of online safety or those with limited access to the internet);
    • a lack of specific/targeted media literacy provisions suitable for vulnerable users (e.g. those that get support from social workers/youth workers etc.);
    • a need beyond legislation to build audience resilience to mis- and disinformation; and
    • a lack of coordination required between different organisations within the sector.

 What it hopes to achieve 

  • The Strategy aims to educate and empower all UK internet users to stay safe online.
  • The Strategy also hopes to support organisations to undertake media literacy activity in a more coordinated, wide-reaching, and high quality way over the next three years.
  • Specifically, the Strategy looks to support these objectives in four ways:
    • setting out a strategic direction for the future of media literacy in the UK;
    • ensuring a coordinated approach to media literacy activity;
    • addressing key gaps within the media literacy landscape; and
    • reducing barriers and creating opportunities for organisations undertaking media literacy activity.

Who does it impact? 

  • All businesses with user-facing online platforms should be cognisant of the objectives and challenges highlighted by the strategy, in particular those with vulnerable end users and broadly sourced content creation and social media platforms.
  • All end users of such services online should benefit from increased awareness of, and action regarding, the Strategy

Key points 

  1. Simplifying the steps that users can take to protect their privacy online
    • Businesses should provide terms and conditions that are easy for users to access, review, and understand how their personal data is being used.
    • There should also be a simple and easy mechanism for users to review and amend their privacy setting
  1. Clarity around the operation of the online environment to enable users to make informed decisions
    • Businesses should be transparent with how user data is used to operate their platforms, and where content has originated from (e.g. if it was sponsored)
  1. Users to understand how content is created and to critically analyse content
    • Businesses should clearly differentiate false content in an age-appropriate manner and encourage users to critically think about the source of the information (e.g. warning users when they are about to share content that has been disputed or found to be false).
  1. A reminder that actions online have offline consequences
    • Businesses should provide guidance and support to users that are experiencing unwanted/hateful behaviour, as well as reminding users of potential consequences before they post online.
  2. Encouraging online participation whilst reminding users of the risks
    • Businesses should provide users with prompts and guidance on safe online engagement with others, especially when they make contact with someone outside of their regular online network.
    • Businesses are also advised to make it simple for users to report any suspicious or unsafe engagement with other users.

Originally Published 14 July, 2021

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