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Regulatory information

eSafety’s purpose is to help safeguard Australians at risk from online harms and to promote safer, more positive online experiences.

eSafety has a range of regulatory functions and powers, which we apply in a flexible and integrated way to promote compliance and achieve good outcomes for all Australians.

These powers are enhanced by the Online Safety Act 2021 (the Act), which commenced on 23 January 2022. 

The Online Safety Act

The Australian government enacted the Online Safety Act 2021 to better equip eSafety to prevent and address current and future online harms in a rapidly changing environment.

The Act enhanced eSafety’s regulatory schemes for dealing with the cyberbullying of children, image-based abuse, and illegal or restricted online content, while also introducing a new scheme for dealing with adult cyber abuse.

Our Regulatory guidance documents explain how eSafety implements each of the regulatory schemes included in the Act.

Basic Online Safety Expectations

A key element of the Act is the Basic Online Safety Expectations, known as ‘the Expectations’. They outline the Australian Government’s expectations for a broad range of online services. By empowering eSafety to request or require information about how services are meeting the Expectations, the Act can help drive greater transparency and accountability.

Find more information about the Basic Online Safety Expectations in the regulatory guidance for providers, as well as the notices which have been issued, and the responses to notices

Industry codes

Six industry codes regulate Class 1A and 1B material, covering the most seriously harmful online content such as videos showing the sexual abuse of children and pro-terror material. 

Five codes were registered on 16 June 2023 and came into effect on 16 December 2023: 

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

A code covering search engine services was registered on 12 September 2023 and came 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 open for consultation until 22 December 2023.

The second phase of industry codes development, focusing on class 2 material such as online pornography that is inappropriate for children, has not yet formally commenced. eSafety expects that notices to industry associations requesting them to develop and submit draft codes for registration will be issued following the conclusion of the first phase and the determination of the industry standards addressing the risk of class 1A and class 1B material on relevant electronic services and designated internet services.

Read more about the Phase 1 Industry Codes Regulatory Guidance, and the consultation on the draft Phase 1 industry standards. You can also make a complaint to eSafety if you believe an online service is not complying with a registered industry code for online safety.

Safety by Design

Safety by Design is an initiative that puts user safety and rights at the centre of design and development of online products and services.

Rather than retrofitting safeguards after a harm has occurred, Safety by Design focuses on how technology developers and service providers can prevent online harms by anticipating, detecting and eliminating risks for users before their products and services reach the market and throughout their lifecycle.

This proactive approach focuses on embedding safety into the culture, leadership and processes of industry participants. It emphasises accountability and aims to foster more positive, civil and rewarding online experiences for everyone.

Last updated: 11/03/2024