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Industry codes and standards

Industry codes and standards will protect Australians from illegal and restricted online content.

On this page:

About the industry codes and standards

The Online Safety Act, which commenced on 23 January 2022, provides for industry bodies to develop new codes to regulate ‘class 1’ and ‘class 2’ illegal and restricted online material, and for eSafety to register the codes if they meet the statutory requirements. If a code does not meet the requirements, then eSafety can develop an industry standard for that section of the online industry instead.

Class 1 and class 2 material ranges from the most seriously harmful online content, such as videos showing the sexual abuse of children or acts of terrorism, through to content which is inappropriate for children, such as online pornography.

The industry bodies tasked with developing the industry codes adopted a two-phase approach, as suggested in eSafety’s position paper. The first phase focused on class 1A and class 1B material, including child sexual exploitation material and terrorist material.  

The second phase of codes development, focusing on class 2 material such as online pornography, has not yet commenced.

Five industry codes addressing class 1A and class 1B material were registered on 16 June 2023, and will come into effect on 16 December 2023. These are for:

  • social media services
  • internet carriage services (also known as internet service providers)
  • equipment providers
  • app distribution services
  • hosting services.

One industry code addressing class 1A and class 1B material, for internet search engine services, was registered on 12 September 2023 and will come into effect on 12 March 2024.

The eSafety Commissioner declined to register two draft industry codes addressing class 1A and class 1B material, for relevant electronic services and designated internet services. Draft industry standards have been developed and are now open for consultation.

eSafety is required to maintain a register of online industry codes and industry standards. Find the register and the notices issued to representatives of online industry sections.

Draft industry standards consultation for class 1 material

On 31 May 2023, the eSafety Commissioner declined to register the draft Designated Internet Services Code and draft Relevant Electronic Services Code for class 1A and class 1B material. The draft codes did not meet the statutory requirements for registration because they did not contain appropriate community safeguards for users in Australia.

Given the absence of appropriate community safeguards, it is necessary for the eSafety Commissioner to determine industry Standards for Relevant Electronic Services and Designated Internet Services. 

Draft Standards have been prepared and a public consultation period is open for 31 days, until 21 December 2023.

The eSafety Commissioner invites the views of the online industry, civil society groups, the general public and other interested stakeholders on the two drafts.

Find out more about the consultation.

Background to development of the industry codes for class 1 material

In September 2021, eSafety released a position paper to help the online industry develop codes.

The paper set out 11 policy positions regarding the substance, design, development and administration of industry codes for class 1 and class 2 material, as well as eSafety’s preferred outcomes-based model for the codes.

On 11 April 2022, eSafety issued notices formally requesting the development of industry codes to address class 1A and class 1B material. These were issued to six industry associations that formed a steering group to oversee codes development for the eight industry sections outlined under the Online Safety Act.

These industry associations were:

  • Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association
  • BSA – The Software Alliance
  • Communications Alliance
  • Consumer Electronics Suppliers’ Association
  • Digital Industry Group Inc
  • Interactive Games and Entertainment Association.

On 23 June 2022, eSafety issued a variation of the notices, to change the due date for codes to be provided to eSafety.

Public and industry consultation

Public and industry consultation on the draft codes was the responsibility of the industry associations.

The industry associations responsible for developing the first phase of codes, for class 1A and class 1B online material, carried out consultation in September 2022.

Submissions received as part of the industry associations’ consultation were published at onlinesafety.org.au.

Submission of draft industry codes

Following public consultation, the industry associations submitted draft industry codes to eSafety on 18 November 2022. The industry associations also submitted to eSafety a formal request for registration, the submissions log and industry associations' response to public consultation. The industry associations published the log and response at that time.

The draft codes were published by the industry associations on 22 February 2023 at onlinesafety.org.au.

eSafety's preliminary views on draft industry codes 

eSafety considered the draft industry codes submitted by the industry associations and, on 9 February 2023, the eSafety Commissioner wrote to the industry associations to inform them of her preliminary views. She advised that the class 1 draft industry codes did not provide appropriate community safeguards and were unlikely to meet the statutory requirements for registration. 

The eSafety Commissioner invited the industry associations to respond and/or resubmit draft industry codes that addressed eSafety’s feedback. These are the letters sent to the industry associations in relation to each draft industry code.

The eSafety Commissioner granted an extension to the industry associations to resubmit draft industry codes by 31 March 2023.

eSafety's decisions on draft industry codes

On 31 March 2023, industry associations resubmitted eight industry codes for class 1A and class 1B material to eSafety for registration.

After careful and comprehensive assessment the eSafety Commissioner decided to register five of these industry codes, for:

  • social media services
  • internet carriage services
  • equipment providers
  • app distribution services
  • hosting services.

These industry codes were published on the Register of online industry codes and industry standards page on 16 June 2023. The obligations contained in these codes will come into effect on 16 December 2023.

The eSafety Commissioner decided not to register the draft Relevant Electronic Services Code and draft Designated Internet Services Code because they did not provide appropriate community safeguards for users in Australia. She announced industry standards for these industry sections would be determined. 

On 1 June 2023, the eSafety Commissioner reserved her decision regarding the Internet Search Engine Services Code due to concerns that the code did not sufficiently capture the proposed changes to search engines to incorporate generative artificial intelligence features.

At the request of the eSafety Commissioner, and following feedback from eSafety, the relevant industry associations submitted a new Internet Search Engine Services Code on 14 August 2023 that addresses the risk associated with this new technology.

On 7 September 2023, the eSafety Commissioner decided to register the Internet Search Engine Services Code.

These summaries of the eSafety Commissioner’s reasons for the decision on each class 1A and class 1B industry code were published on 31 May 2023.

This summary of the eSafety Commissioner’s reasons for the decision on the class 1A and class 1B industry code for internet service providers was published on 7 September 2023.

The industry codes and standards environment

eSafety’s formal regulatory powers will be underpinned by industry codes and industry standards, built on a solid foundation of Basic Online Safety Expectations. All these elements will work together to help keep Australians safe online.

 

Last updated: 24/11/2023