Online Safety Bill to protect Aussies from harmful abuse
The Australian Government has introduced an Online Safety Bill into Parliament, to better protect Australians from online harms. The Bill sets out a modern regulatory framework for online safety, and helps the eSafety Commissioner counteract cyberbullying, toxic online abuse, harmful content and image-based abuse (the non-consensual sharing of intimate images).
The Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said the Bill reflects the government’s expectation that industry must work harder to prevent online harms occurring in the first place, and introduces new protections for Australians when things go wrong.
“When people interact in person, they take for granted that the rule of law applies. People should be able to expect the same when they interact online,” Minister Fletcher said.
The Bill introduces a cyber-abuse scheme for adults, to help victims of seriously harmful online abuse have the material removed, when online platforms fail to act. The Bill will also allow the eSafety Commissioner to require social media services, relevant electronic services and designated internet services to provide identity and contact information about end users in relation to cyberbullying, cyber abuse or image-based abuse. Civil penalties will apply to services that do not comply with a written notice from the eSafety Commissioner.
“The Morrison government wants Australians to engage online confidently — to work, communicate and be entertained, without fear of being viciously trolled or exposed to harmful content,” Minister Fletcher said.
The Bill also includes a new set of online safety expectations for industry that make clear the community’s expectations for online safety, with associated reporting requirements for service providers.
The eSafety Commissioner will also have rapid website-blocking power, to respond to online crisis events, such as the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attacks, by requesting that internet service providers block access to material depicting or promoting terrorist and other abhorrent conduct.
The Bill also enables the eSafety Commissioner to require app stores to remove apps that enable the provision of harmful online content, such as child sexual abuse material, in addition to powers to require search engines to delete links to sites that do not comply with take-down notices.
An updated Online Content Scheme has also been included in the Bill, requiring industry to do more to keep users safe online through updated industry codes. The Bill also features consistent take-down requirements for image-based abuse, cyber abuse, cyberbullying and seriously harmful online content, with online service providers required to remove such material within 24 hours of being notified by the eSafety Commissioner.
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