How eSafety can help
eSafety can direct the removal of illegal online content, such as child sexual abuse material and pro-terror material.
In certain circumstances, we can also direct an online or electronic service or platform to either remove or ensure that access is restricted to online content that is inappropriate for children and young people under 18.
On this page:
Report illegal and restricted content to eSafety
You can report illegal and restricted content, including child sexual exploitation material, to eSafety. All reports about illegal and restricted online content can be made anonymously – that means you don’t have to give your name or contact details when you report it.
What you can report
Illegal online content
Illegal content is the worst type of harmful online material. It shows, describes, promotes, incites or instructs people in violent crimes including:
- sexual exploitation of children
- terrorist acts
- attempted murder
- kidnapping with violence or threats of violence
Child sexual exploitation material is any content that sexualises and takes unfair advantage of a child or young person under 18, as well as child sexual abuse material that shows their sexual assault.
Restricted online content
Restricted online content is material that is unsuitable for children, such as simulated sexual activity, nudity and high impact violence.
eSafety can direct an online or electronic service or platform to ensure that restricted online content can only be accessed by people who are 18 or older.
What types of online content can eSafety investigate?
The online content we can investigate includes posts, comments, chats, texts, messages, emails, memes, livestreams, images or videos. The material can be sent or shared using an online or electronic service or platform including:
- social media services
- messaging services
- email services
- chat apps
- interactive online games
- review forums, news groups and bulletin boards
- files that can be downloaded via peer-to-peer software.
Who can report?
Anyone of any age who lives in Australia can report illegal and restricted online content.
Reports can be made anonymously.
All reports about illegal and restricted online content can be made anonymously – that means you don’t have to give your name or contact details when you report it.
Key steps to report and deal with illegal and restricted online content
To report illegal and restricted online content to eSafety or the police, you will need to provide the location of the content, for example webpage addresses (URLs), account profiles or usernames, or other information about where the material is located.
Do not take screenshots or photos of illegal and restricted content, especially child sexual exploitation material. Possessing, creating or sharing sexualised images of people under 18 is usually unlawful. For more information about relevant laws in Australia, visit Youth Law Australia.
Find out more about how to collect evidence.
Report harmful content
If you have seen illegal and restricted online content, including child sexual exploitation material, report to eSafety immediately.
Reports can be made anonymously.
You can use what you can report to work out if your complaint meets the legal threshold for investigation.
You can report content that you believe is illegal or restricted to eSafety at any time, without first reporting it to the online or electronic service or platform where it appears.
Note: If you are concerned about the safety of a child online now, you should report the matter to your local police. If you are in Australia and a child is in immediate danger or at risk of harm call Triple Zero (000).
If you suspect a child is a victim of online child exploitation or grooming you can report to the Australian Federal Police via the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE).
Prevent further contact
To limit your exposure to this type of material, ensure you are not searching for it or using search terms that may connect you with this material. You can also use optional filtering or parental control products and check your privacy settings to prevent further exposure.
The eSafety Guide has online safety advice and information about how to control your privacy settings.
Get more help
Seeing harmful online content can be very disturbing. You may find it helpful to use some strategies to manage the impacts illegal and harmful content.
You can also find counselling and support that is right for you.
The actions eSafety can take
One of eSafety’s investigators will assess your complaint to check if it fits the legal definitions of illegal and restricted content or abhorrent violent conduct and meets the threshold for further action.
Reports can be made anonymously. However, if you wish to be contacted, we will notify you of the approach we decide to take using the email address you supplied. This may include explaining why we have decided not to investigate your report.
eSafety prioritises the investigation of complaints about the most harmful class 1 material. This includes child sexual exploitation material, material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act and material that promotes, instructs or incites in matters of crime and violence.
If we can investigate
When helping to have illegal and restricted content removed or access restricted for people who are under 18, eSafety may make informal requests or take formal actions.
eSafety often approaches online service providers informally to ask them to remove illegal or restricted content in the first instance. Informal requests often lead to faster removal of the material compared to formal action, resulting in fewer Australians being exposed to harmful online content.
Additionally, where there are established reporting pathways for the removal of online child sexual exploitation material, eSafety will prefer them over taking formal action.
For example, eSafety is the Australian hotline member of the International Association of Internet Hotlines (INHOPE), a global network of organisations dedicated to the rapid removal of online child sexual exploitation material. All hotline members have established relationships with the online industry and law enforcement agencies in their own country, which means that the removal of reported material can be actioned much faster than if we chose to issue a removal notice.
We generally adopt a graduated approach to formal actions, starting with the least severe.
Service provider notifications – a written notice that informs an online service provider that eSafety is aware of illegal or restricted online content on its service.
- Removal notices – a written notice requiring the recipient to take all reasonable steps to remove illegal or restricted content from a service within 24 hours or a longer timeframe as specified by eSafety.
- Remedial notices – a written notice requiring the recipient to take all reasonable steps to remove restricted content from a service, or place it behind a restricted access system, within 24 hours or a longer timeframe as specified by eSafety.
- Link deletion notice – a written notice requiring the recipient to stop providing a link that gives Australian service users access to illegal or restricted content within 24 hours or a longer timeframe specified by eSafety.
- App removal notice – a written notice requiring the recipient to remove an app, including a computer program, that provides access to illegal or restricted content from a service within 24 hours or a longer timeframe specified by eSafety.
- Blocking request – A blocking request is a written notification requesting that an internet service provider take one or more specific steps to disable access to particular abhorrent violent conduct material. Internet service providers are not required to respond to a blocking request as it is voluntary.
- Blocking notice – a written notice requiring an internet service provider to take one or more specific steps to disable access to abhorrent violent conduct material. Failure to comply with a blocking notice may result in civil penalties or enforcement actions including enforceable undertaking and injunctions.
If we can’t investigate
Find out more about options if eSafety can’t investigate and read our frequently asked questions about illegal and restricted online content.
Can I have eSafety’s decision reviewed?
You may be able to request a review of a decision taken by eSafety under the Online Content Scheme or that relates to our abhorrent violent conduct blocking powers.
The decision may be reviewed internally by eSafety and externally by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Find out more about review rights, including who can seek a review.
Frequently asked questions about illegal and restricted online content
Child sexual exploitation material is any content that sexualises and takes unfair advantage of a child or young person under 18, as well as child sexual abuse material that shows the sexual assault of a child.
We do not use the term ‘child pornography’ to describe this content. Pornography is a form of media entertainment produced by consenting adults for the purpose of producing sexual arousal in viewers. As noted by Interpol, ‘Child abuse images involve children who cannot and would not consent and who are victims of a crime.’
Describing such content as ‘pornography’ trivialises the impact of sexual abuse and exploitation on children and obscures the fact that they are victims of serious crime.
Find out more about child sexual abuse online.
Which types of content does eSafety prioritise in its investigations of illegal and restricted online content?
eSafety prioritises investigation of material that shows or describes the sexual exploitation or abuse of children, pro-terror material and material that promotes, incites or instructs in matters of crime or violence.
Investigations into child sexual exploitation material are a key priority. The trade in child sexual exploitation material online is global, lucrative, and abhorrent. Every time an image or video of a child being abused is shared or distributed, demand is fostered for new and more extreme material. By assisting with the removal of this content, we help undermine this dark economy.
But even more importantly, we do this work because victims matter. Survivors are haunted by the knowledge that material depicting their abuse remains in circulation.
Every image removed therefore helps reduce the risk of revictimisation and can help survivors take control of their recovery.
Under the Online Content Scheme, eSafety cannot investigate material that is, or would likely be, classified below R18+ (or, in the case of publications, category 1 restricted).
The Online Content Scheme does not provide eSafety with powers to address online issues such as copyright infringement, spam content, defamation and cybercrime, nor does the scheme provide eSafety with powers to investigate racist and discriminatory content, privacy issues or online scams. For information about alternative reporting pathways for these issues see options if eSafety can’t investigate.
While eSafety investigates and helps remove online child sexual exploitation material, our notice powers do not extend to the creation of the material or the sexual exploitation of children – these are police matters.
Children and young people can be sexually abused online through the sharing of sexual content, comments or conversations, or through livestreaming sexual or sexualised activity or conversations. Usually they are tricked or persuaded to trust the person first, so it is easier to abuse them – this is called ‘grooming’.
Both sexual abuse and grooming a child for sexual abuse are crimes and should be reported to police immediately.
If you are concerned about the safety of a child online now, you should report the matter to your local police. If you are in Australia and a child is in immediate danger or at risk of harm call Triple Zero (000).
If you suspect a child is a victim of online child exploitation, including online grooming and inappropriate contact, you can report this to the Australian Federal Police via the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE). If you are concerned about the possibility that your child is at risk, or you know of a child possibly at risk, act on it.
For information about the legality of a proposed online content service, we recommend that you seek independent legal advice.
No. Examples of the kind of illegal and restricted content eSafety investigates include webpages, content streams, embedded videos, image galleries, and files shared over peer-to-peer networks.
No. eSafety strongly discourages the public from actively searching for prohibited material and other illegal online content, even if such actions are intended in good faith.
Accessing or distributing illegal material such as child sexual exploitation material are crimes in Australia. By deliberately seeking out such material for the purpose of reporting it to eSafety, a person may expose themselves to a risk of criminal prosecution by police.
If you do inadvertently access online material that you believe is illegal, please report it to us by using our online report form. Reports may be made anonymously.
For more information about reporting illegal and restricted online content see frequently asked questions about reporting a complaint.
Last updated: 15/02/2024