Australia’s online safety framework is underpinned by two key pieces of legislation, the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 and the Online Content Scheme.
In recognition that vulnerable adults also face dangers online, the Australian Government expanded the eSafety Commissioner's remit in 2017 to include all Australians.
The eSafety Commissioner works to promote online safety for children, women, older Australians and other vulnerable members of the community.
Other key pieces of legislation relevant to the eSafety Commissioner’s functions are:
- Schedule 5 and Schedule 7 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Online Content Scheme)
- Offences under the Criminal Code Act 1995 relating to use of carriage service for sharing of abhorrent violent material (Division 474, Subdivision H, 474.30 – 474.45).
The Act gives the eSafety Commissioner powers to administer a complaints service for Australian children who experience serious cyberbullying.
It gives the eSafety Commissioner the power to investigate complaints about serious cyberbullying material targeted at an Australian child and remove material that is harmful to a child from large social media sites.
Social media services that do not comply with a notice to remove cyberbullying material may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $105,000.
In 2018, the Parliament passed the Enhancing Online Safety (Non-consensual Sharing of Intimate Images) Act 2018, which targets people who share, or threaten to share, intimate images without consent.
Offensive and illegal online content
The Online Content Scheme regulates prohibited and potential prohibited online content in Australia based on the National Classification Scheme.
Content is assessed on the basis of a public complaints to the eSafety Commissioner. If the eSafety Commissioner finds content hosted in Australia to be prohibited content, the content provider will be directed to remove or prevent access to the content. For content hosted overseas that is found to be prohibited, the URL to the material is added to the eSafety Commissioner’s prohibited URLs list.
- child sexual abuse material
- material that advocates carrying out a terrorist act
- detailed instruction or promotion of crime or violence
- instruction in paedophilic activity
- gratuitous, exploitative and offensive depictions of violence or sexual violence
Abhorrent Violent Material
Under the Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Act 2019, (Sections 474.30 to 474.45 of the Criminal Code), the eSafety Commissioner can notify content or hosting services that abhorrent violent material is available on their services. If content or hosting services do not remove this material expeditiously, they could be subject to prosecution for failure to remove it.
Programs, prevention, education and awareness
The Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 also gives the eSafety Commissioner a range of functions to promote online safety for Australians, play a national leadership role in online safety education, run programs, and conduct research about online safety.