On 1 June 2021, the Australian Government requested the eSafety Commissioner develop an implementation roadmap for a mandatory age verification (AV) regime relating to online pornography.
This roadmap forms part of the government’s response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs report, ‘Protecting the age of innocence’.
eSafety welcomes the Government’s response and commitment to protecting children from harmful online content. For young children, accidental encounters with pornography can be distressing and even harmful. For older children who stumble upon or seek out pornographic material, there is a risk that it will give them unrealistic and damaging ideas about what intimate relationships should look like – especially as the material becomes increasingly violent and extreme.
Call for evidence
eSafety issued a call for evidence on 16 August 2021, seeking insights into effective age verification techniques, as well as the impact of online pornography on children and proven methods of educating young people about both respectful and harmful sexual behaviours.
Apart from welcoming evidence from the general public, eSafety invited responses to specific questions that were targeted to several sectors:
- Age verification and assurance providers
- Digital environments, services and platforms
- The adult industry
- Civil society
The call for evidence is now closed - thank you to all those who responded. The submissions are being used to inform and direct the next phase of eSafety's age verification roadmap process.
eSafety recognises the need for extensive research and consultation to identify what a proportionate, effective, and feasible age verification system may look like when addressing children’s access to online pornography in an Australian context.
eSafety is now embarking on targeted consultations with stakeholders, which will allow closer examination of the evidence submitted in response to the call to action. It is intended this will help to identify appropriate mechanisms for an Australian age verification regime that restricts children’s access to online pornography.
Following the consultations, eSafety will continue to work closely with relevant stakeholders to define the minimum requirements for an effective regime and scope its various elements. These requirements and elements will then be presented to the Australian Government for consideration.
The following timeline shows how the age verification roadmap fits alongside other eSafety regulatory initiatives.
Glossary of terms
Adult industry – commercial enterprises (individuals, businesses or peak bodies) involved in the sale or purchase of sex-related entertainment services.
Age assurance – the broad range of processes that can be used to establish or predict the age (or age range) of an individual. Examples include self-reported (for example stating your year of birth), confirmation of age by another person (for example a parent or peer), use of biometric information (for example face, fingerprint or voice recognition), or use of behavioural or online signals (for example digital traces or gesture patterns).
Age verification – a technical process that confirms the age of a person using their attributes or other confirmed sources of information. Examples include tokens or licences, third party verification, government e-ID systems.
Digital environments, services and platforms – online spaces that may allow access to and uploading, distribution and sharing of online pornography or other sexually explicit content. These include, but are not limited to, social media services, designated internet services, or relevant electronic services (as defined in the Online Safety Act 2021), as well as search engines and gaming platforms.
Not-for-profit sector – social enterprises, charities and other non-government organisations which provide social or human services or conduct related research that informs social policy. These include, but are not limited to, services that support the wellbeing of children and their families or carers.
Pornography – material that contains sexually explicit descriptions or displays that are intended to create sexual excitement, including actual sexual intercourse or other sexual activity.