Basic Online Safety Expectations

The Basic Online Safety Expectations, known as ‘the Expectations’, are a key element of the Online Safety Act.

This outlines the Australian Government’s expectations that social media, messaging and gaming service providers and other apps and websites will take reasonable steps to keep Australians safe.

The Minister for Communications established the Expectations through a legislative instrument called a determination. 

Find out more about the Online Safety (Basic Online Safety Expectations) Determination 2022 – referred to as ‘the Determination’ – and read the explanatory statement on the Federal Register of Legislation at legislation.gov.au.

Under the Online Safety Act, eSafety can now require online service providers to report on how they are meeting any or all of the Expectations. The obligation to respond to a reporting requirement is enforceable and backed by civil penalties and other mechanisms. eSafety can also publish statements about the extent to which services are meeting the Expectations.

The requirements are designed to improve providers’ safety standards, and improve transparency and accountability. 

Find out more about the regulatory guidance for providers, how to comply with the Expectations and respond to mandatory reporting requirements. 

On this page:

Summary of the Expectations

Some of the Expectations for providers include:

  • taking reasonable steps to proactively minimise material or activity that is unlawful or harmful, and ensuring users can use a service in a safe manner
  • protecting children from content that is not age appropriate like pornography
  • taking reasonable steps to prevent harmful use of anonymous and encrypted services
  • putting in place user-reporting mechanisms, and clearly outlining their terms of service and enforcing penalties for people who breach these terms
  • cooperating with other service providers
  • responding to requests for information from the eSafety Commissioner.

A more detailed summary of the Basic Online Safety Expectations is available for download on this page. 

Reasonable steps

The Determination includes examples of reasonable steps that online service providers may take to meet the Expectations. The steps that are listed are not mandatory requirements and service providers may consult with eSafety and choose other steps – based on the nature of their business. 

The reasonable steps that a provider may take include:

  • Undertaking assessments of safety risks and impacts, and implementing safety review processes, throughout the design, development and deployment of the service.
  • Making sure the default privacy and safety settings of services targeted at, or used by children, are robust and set to the most restrictive level.
  • Working with other online service providers to detect high volume, cross-platform attacks (also known as ‘volumetric’ or ‘pile-on’ attacks).
  • Incorporating processes that require verification of identity or ownership of accounts.
  • Implementing age assurance mechanisms.

Providers should be prepared to report on the steps they have taken, why they are reasonable, and how they help to meet the relevant Expectation(s) and keep people safe.

Reporting

There are three different ways eSafety is able to seek information from providers regarding compliance with the Expectations:

  1. Requesting information about terms of use complaints, the time frame for responding to removal notices, or measures taken to make sure people can use the service in a safe manner. Failure to comply would give the Commissioner discretion to prepare a statement.
  2. Issuing a reporting notice to an online service provider requiring them to produce a report about their compliance with any or all of the Expectations. These notices are enforceable, backed by civil penalties and other enforcement mechanisms, and can require non-periodic (one-off) reporting or periodic reporting over a specified time frame of six to 24 months. 
  3. Making a reporting determination – a legislative instrument – requiring periodic or non-periodic reporting for a specified class of services. These determinations are enforceable and backed by civil penalties and other enforcement mechanisms if the provider fails to report.

Transparency

On 29 August 2022, eSafety issued non-periodic reporting notices pursuant to section 56(2) of the Online Safety Act 2021. 

The notices were issued to Apple, Meta (and WhatsApp), Microsoft (and Skype), Omegle, and Snap, requiring them to outline the steps they are taking to address child sexual exploitation and abuse on their platforms, as part of the Basic Online Safety Expectations.

Download the information sheet with the full explanation of the first round of notices on this page.

More information will be available once this regulatory process has concluded.

More information

Where necessary, eSafety will produce additional guidance on the Expectations and reasonable steps to meet them, in consultation with stakeholders.

Where there is a connection between the Expectations and other eSafety work streams – such as the industry codes and the age verification roadmap – we will ensure alignment and consistency across the different elements and aim to use these learnings from different engagement processes.

eSafety encourages providers to review these resources:

  • The Basic Online Safety Expectations regulatory guidance.
  • eSafety’s Safety by Design principles and assessment tools. These resources will enable service providers to audit and improve their current safety practices and position themselves to meet the Expectations.
  • A summary of the information provided by eSafety at a session with industry on 21 June 2022, outlining key aspects of our regulatory approach to the Basic Online Safety Expectations.