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Social media Tier Scheme

Legislation underpins the way we work with social media services in the removal of cyberbullying material.

Section 21 of the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 envisages that all social media services accessible to Australian children will have: 

  • terms of use that prohibit cyberbullying material being posted on the service
  • a complaints management system for removing cyberbullying material
  • a contact person for eSafety to liaise with about cyberbullying complaints.

The Act establishes a two-tiered scheme for the removal of cyberbullying material targeted at an Australian child from participating social media services: 

  • tier 1 services participate in the scheme on a cooperative basis 
  • tier 2 services may be subject to legally binding notices and civil penalties for not complying with requests from the Commissioner.

The Act has specific definitions for the terms:

Tier 1 services

Any social media service may apply to eSafety to be declared a tier 1 service under section 23 of the Act. The application must be made in writing and attach or link to information which demonstrates that the service complies with the basic online safety requirements set out at section 21 of the Act.

Current tier 1 social media services are listed on our working with social media page.

If a complaint is made to a tier 1 service about cyberbullying material and the material is not removed within 48 hours (or other specified period), eSafety may issue the provider with a request to have the cyberbullying material removed from the service.

Tier 1 social media services can choose how they receive and assess these requests.

If a tier 1 service repeatedly fails to comply with requests to remove material over a 12-month period, or eSafety is satisfied that the service does not comply with the basic online safety requirements, eSafety may revoke the service's tier 1 status and recommend that the Minister declare the service as a tier 2 service.

Under section 88 of the Act a social media service may apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to review any decision made by the Commissioner to refuse or revoke its tier 1 status.

Tier 2 services

A social media service may be declared a tier 2 service by the Minister for Communications following a recommendation from eSafety.

eSafety may make such a recommendation if the service:

  • has requested eSafety make the recommendation to tier 2 status, or 
  • is a large social media service. 

If the service has never been a tier 1 service, it must first be invited by eSafety to apply to become a tier 1 service under section 31(4)(a), and eSafety can only recommend a tier 2 declaration if the service fails to do this within the required timeframe (28 days).

Current tier 2 social media services are listed on our working with social media page.

If a complaint is made to a tier 2 social media service about cyberbullying material, and the material is not removed within 48 hours (or other specified period), eSafety may give the provider an enforceable social media service notice (under section 35 of the Act) to remove the content within 48 hours.

If a tier 2 provider does not comply with a social media service notice, civil penalties may be imposed, or eSafety may issue a formal warning. Under section 40 of the Act, eSafety may also draft and publish a notice on the eSafety website to that effect.

Under section 88(3) of the Act the provider of a tier 2 social media service may apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to review any decision made by the Commissioner under section 35 to give the provider a social media service notice.