A new law gives teeth to Australia's eSafety Commissioner to hold tech companies accountable for online abuse.
Child sexual abuse. Beheadings. Animal cruelty. Graphic self-harm. Vicious trolling. If you’ve ever wondered why revolting content is permitted to exist online - and to find its way to our kids - the answer is simple: No one has had the power to take it down.
Now someone does, thanks to world-leading Online Safety Act, which came into effect on Sunday, gives the eSafety Commissioner sweeping powers to remove the “worst of the worst” content and protect victims of online abuse.
It marks for the first time a clear set of expectations about online accountability, placing the onus squarely on service providers to do much more to ensure the safety of all users - no matter what their age.
Beefed up powers
The new act - which puts Australia at the forefront in the fight against digital harm - gives the Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, the clout needed to identify abusers who hide behind anonymous accounts to bully and abuse others or to exchange illegal content.
Once identified, perpetrators will now face fines of up to $110,000. As for the platforms that host offending content, they will be put on notice to remove it within 24 hours - or pay steep penalties.
Children will get extra protection from cyberbullying, as the Act extends the Commissioner’s powers to gaming platforms and direct messaging apps.
In a world first, it also provides new protections for adults who are targeted for abuse.
Holding industry accountable
The Act targets the tech industry in proactive ways, mandating new codes for detecting and removing illegal content, and placing greater onus on industry to protect kids from adult content. Social media platforms, messaging services, search engines and internet service providers will all be subject to these new provisions.
“The internet has brought immense advantages, but also new risks, and Australians rightly expect the big tech companies to do more to make their products safer for users,” Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said.
“Australians deserve to be able to use online platforms in the knowledge that they will be safe from vile and unacceptable online abuse, along with other dangers.”
What to do if you or your child is being bullied
Report the content to the platform hosting it, and ask for it to be removed. And don’t forget to it to the police as well. It’s a crime to harass people online.
If the company refuses or simply fails to respond, report the incident to the eSafety Commissioner. She will then launch an investigation and issue a notice to the platform for the content to be deleted within 24 hours.
Failure to do so will result in a fine of up to $555,000.
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