Our legislative functions
The eSafety Commissioner has various functions and powers, under Australian Government legislation, to foster online safety.
The eSafety Commissioner was established as an independent statutory office under the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 (Cth).
The functions of the Commissioner are set out in section 15 of the Act.
Initially, these functions primarily related to enhancing online safety for Australian children. In 2017, the Act was amended to expand the Commissioner's remit to promoting and enhancing online safety for all Australians.
Powers relating to cyberbullying
The Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 gives the Commissioner the power to investigate and act on complaints about serious cyberbullying material targeted at an Australian child.
The Act establishes a two-tiered scheme for the removal of cyberbullying material from participating social media services. The two tiers of the scheme are subject to different levels of regulatory oversight:
- Social media services participate in tier 1 of the scheme on an opt-in basis.
- Social media services that are declared tier 2 services by the Minister for Communications may be subject to legally binding notices and civil penalties for non-compliance with requests from the Commissioner.
In addition, the Commissioner has powers to issue notices to individuals who post cyberbullying material and request that they take the material down, refrain from posting further cyberbullying material or apologise to the child who is the target.
Under the Act, the Commissioner may share information with parents, guardians, teachers and school principals in order to support the resolution of a cyberbullying complaint. In some cases, the Commissioner may disclose information to the police so they can investigate whether any criminal laws have been broken. Youth Law Australia has more information on the criminal laws that may apply to cyberbullying in your state or territory.
Find out more about cyberbullying complaints and reporting.
Powers relating to image-based abuse
The Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 establishes a civil penalties scheme that allows the Commissioner to help with the removal of intimate images or videos from online platforms. In some cases, the Commissioner may also be able to take action against the person responsible for the image-based abuse.
The scheme gives eSafety the power to give enforceable removal notices to social media services, websites, hosting providers and perpetrators, requiring the removal of intimate material.
The civil penalties scheme also gives eSafety a range of powers to take action against perpetrators, such as by:
- issuing a formal warning
- giving a remedial direction
- issuing an infringement notice
- accepting an enforceable undertaking
- seeking an injunction or civil penalty order in Court.
Find out more about image-based abuse complaints and reporting.
Powers relating to prohibited online content
Under this scheme, the Commissioner may investigate valid complaints about online content, and take action on material found to be prohibited or potentially prohibited. This includes child sexual abuse material.
Find out more about what we can investigate under the Online Content Scheme.
The scheme is underpinned by the National Classification Scheme that also applies to films, computer games and publications.
The Online Content Scheme interconnects with the role of law enforcement and with the International Association of Internet Hotlines (INHOPE), which combats online child sexual abuse.