New tools for tech companies to prioritise safety

Tech companies wanting to bolster online safety can now access free interactive assessment tools developed by Australia’s eSafety Commissioner.

“eSafety is releasing these world-first dynamic interactive tools that help to put safety firmly front and centre of product design and development,” said eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant.

“For tech companies developing platforms that enable social interaction, safety risks should be assessed upfront. Protective measures need to be put in at the start of the product design and development process. We call this ‘Safety by Design’.

“When we get into our cars, we almost take for granted that the brakes will work, the seatbelts will be effective, and the air bags will deploy when needed. We want similar safeguards to become standard in the online world.”

In a world first, eSafety have released two interactive assessment tools for both early-stage technology companies (Start-up edition) and one for mid-tier or enterprise companies (Enterprise edition). The tools provide guidance for companies of all sizes and structure - to help them along the way in developing safe products, assisting them to embed safety into the culture, ethos and operations of their business.

“Building in sound safety practices up front, rather than retrofitting safeguards after any damage has been done - after a ‘tech wreck’ moment – mitigates any further revenue, regulatory or reputational damage down the line.

“Prioritising the safety, rights and dignity of users will help create a culture of innovation, motivate workforces, and ultimately will positively impact on bottom-lines,” said Ms Inman Grant.

The tools and accompanying guidance materials steps participants through five core interactive and dynamic modules, each with a specific set of questions addressing core safety topics and issues:

  • Structure and leadership
  • Internal policies and procedures
  • Moderation, escalation and enforcement 
  • User empowerment
  • Transparency and accountability

These free interactive assessment tools can be used by organisations anywhere in the world - a global effort in the fight to minimise online harms.

“A tailored report is available at the end of each module which acts as both a safety health check and a learning resource that can be drawn upon and used to help make refinements or innovations in the future. These reports also include good practice templates and proposed workflows,” says Ms Inman Grant.

The Safety by Design initiative has been developed with industry, for industry. Extensive stakeholder consultation has been undertaken for these resources, with a broad range of key industry members involved in the development process.

Companies who road-tested the beta version of the tool have provided positive feedback, with some indicating it had been used as an effective internal audit tool and a “safety impact assessment” for others.

All in all, it is about a seven-hour commitment to complete the full suite of assessment modules. No personal or corporate information or data is shared with the eSafety Commissioner - these tools have been developed to guide, assist and support industry so that the bar for online safety is continuously raised. Our end goal here is to help companies lift their safety standards for the benefits of their users, and society more broadly.

//ENDS

Stakeholder statements: Safety By Design

Sarah Friar, CEO, Nextdoor

“At Nextdoor we know that safety by design is a necessity in order to build a platform that helps neighbors connect and create stronger, more resilient communities.  We view the work of the Australian eSafety Office as best in class, and are delighted to partner today and in the future.”

  • Jennie Sager, Head of Nextdoor (Australia): "Building a safe online world should be top of mind for every organisation, no matter how big or small. We're thrilled to partner with the eSafety Office on the Safety By Design tools to make sure that every employee is educated, prepared, and invested in building a kind and positive space."
  • Craig Lisowski, Head of Trust and Safety, Nextdoor (USA)“We all have a role in making the internet a safer place, and I really appreciated being part of the effort in the development of safety by design, as an industry member the collaborative approach was fantastic.”

Remy Malan, Vice President of Trust and Safety and Chief Privacy Officer at Roblox

“Today’s launch represents a vision to translate Safety by Design principles into direct action. As a platform that puts safety at the heart of everything we do, Roblox strongly supports these efforts that promote best practices and prompt companies to think deeply and differently about how they’re addressing people’s safety,”

Samantha Yorke, Government Affairs and Public Policy, Google and YouTube (Australia)

“Google and YouTube congratulate the eSafety Commissioner's Office on the launch of the Safety by Design Assessment Tools. These tools will assist businesses of all sizes design apps and services with safety front of mind. We hope that our experiences with content moderation and moderator wellbeing can help inform others in this important effort.”

Lee Hunter, General Manager, TikTok Australia and New Zealand (Australia)

"The Office of the eSafety Commissioner has been instrumental in driving the tech industry to lift voluntary safety standards, which is a principle that we are wholly aligned on. Nothing is more important than the safety of our community and it has been fantastic to be involved with such a collaborative partner on this journey, as we seek to be industry leaders in this space.

“The Office of the eSafety Commissioner has been truly innovative in its development of tools to assess potential risks and surface best practice, which we expect will be welcomed by the wider tech industry. We are thrilled to have been a part of this project and the Commissioner should be commended for this important initiative."

John Carr OBE, Online Safety Expert and Executive Board Member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UK)

“The depth, breadth and quality of this work is outstanding - Safety by Design is truly world-leading. Tech companies the world over will be beating a path to the eSafety Commissioner thanks to her leadership in online safety innovation.”

Nick Abrahams, Global Head of Technology & Innovation at Norton Rose Fulbright, company director, start-up founder and author of, "Digital Disruption in Australia." (Australia)

"To succeed in the future, Australian tech ventures need to embrace risk-taking - but they do not need to excel in risk-making. To be sure, assessing and understanding risk and building in safety protections at the front end of the design process makes good business sense and is absolutely compatible with innovation.  This is where the eSafety Commissioner's game changing Safety by Design tools come in. The hour that start-ups spend understanding online harms and how their platforms might be weaponised could save them months, if not years of future pain in terms of lost revenue, reputation and trust."

"Digital disruption doesn't need to result in societal disruption or the perpetuation of online harms.  Whether a start-up or larger company, I encourage companies to engage in due diligence upfront to understand their likely risks and to engineer out misuse before product launch.  The eSafety Commissioner's innovative Safety by Design interactive assessment tools can help companies do just that."

"Australia is facing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take our technology innovations further. Never before have start-ups managed to move so quickly to maturity and even global leadership. Lawyers, VCs and the investment community serve as important levers in ensuring that these companies are actively mitigating their safety risks before they go to market.  This is where important voluntary assessment tools like those developed by the eSafety Commissioner can help surface risks, recommend innovative solutions and ensure future success."

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