16 February 2019
The Morrison Government’s commitment to keeping Australians safe online will be further underpinned by the release of a draft Online Safety Charter that sets out the Government’s expectations, on behalf of the community, of digital platforms in reducing online harm.
A public consultation process on the charter is now underway following an independent review of online safety legislation by Lynelle Briggs AO.
The Government expects technology companies and social media platforms to do more to ensure online safety, particularly for children.
The draft charter sets out what the Government expects from digital and social media platforms, including the removal of offensive content, stricter controls on accounts, the earlier identification of illegal and harmful content, and accountability and transparency, including regular complaint and compliance reporting.
Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield said the charter was an important next step in the Government’s online safety agenda.
“It is important that we be clear with industry about what we expect from large technology firms that have such a significant influence in our economy and community,” he said.
“The Australian community expects that standards of behaviour online should be the same as those that apply offline.”
Comments on the draft charter will be sought from industry experts and the community. Parent and community groups are particularly encouraged to make submissions, which close on 5 April.
The Briggs Review, tabled in Parliament this week, found that the world-leading initiative of the Office of the eSafety Commissioner has achieved much success since it was established in 2015.
The review also concluded that Australia’s current regulatory arrangements will require refurbishing to reflect the continually evolving digital environment.
“I welcome this thorough and robust review of the current legislative framework,” Minister Fifield said.
The Briggs Review makes five recommendations, including the key proposal for a single, consolidated piece of online safety legislation.
The Government is committed to ensuring the best online safety arrangements and making the legislative framework the world’s best.
“The current laws rightly focus on protecting children but technology and online user behaviours have changed since they were introduced. It is now time to revisit them,” Minister Fifield said.
The Morrison Government has a strong record of investment in online safety.
In 2015, the Coalition established the world’s first Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner to help protect Australian children from cyberbullying and to take a national leadership role in online safety for children through education, advice and enforcement.
In 2015, the Coalition legislated the world’s first kids cyberbullying material take-down regime, giving the eSafety Commissioner the power to direct social media organisations to take down materials, and issue end-user notices to individuals. Failure to comply with these measures can lead to fines of up to $21,000 for an individual and up to $105,000 for a corporation, per day.
In 2016, the Government legislated to extend the remit of the Office of the eSafety Commissioner to cover all Australians in light of the office’s expanded responsibility.
The funding for online safety through the Office of the eSafety Commissioner is now more than $100 million over the next four years.
In 2018, the Government passed legislation which gives the eSafety Commissioner additional powers to combat image-based abuse, including revenge porn, by issuing ‘removal notices’ to websites, content hosts and social media providers, including civil and criminal penalties, including fines of up to $525,000 for platforms and $105,000 for individuals and jail time of up to seven years for an aggravated offence.
The eSafety Commissioner can issue ‘take-down’, ‘service-cessation’ and ‘link-deletion’ notices to remove prohibited content or block access to prohibited services, such as child pornography and content advocating terrorism.
In December 2018, the Government announced the $17 million ‘Keeping Our Children Safe Online’ package which committed additional resources to support parents, teachers and carers of children under 5, as well as funding a new online safety research program, a new annual national eSafety survey, new national awareness campaign, and the development of an online safety charter.
Earlier this month, the Government announced $10 million for a new Online Safety Grants Program to enable non-government organisations (NGOs) to deliver practical online safety education and training projects.
On the advice of eminent child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, the Government is also commissioning a review of digital licences and other tools designed to build and test children’s online safety skills in primary school, akin to the old pen licence.
The Briggs Review is available at: www.communications.gov.au/enhancing-online-safety-act-online-content-scheme