Industry codes to protect Australians from online harms a key step closer

Development of new online industry codes to better protect Australians from online harms has entered the next phase with Australia’s eSafety Commissioner providing detailed feedback on the latest industry draft. 

The new codes, which will operate under the Online Safety Act 2021, will require industry to take reasonable and proactive steps to detect and remove illegal content like child sexual exploitation material, while also taking a greater responsibility in shielding children from harmful content.

As part of the formal code development process, and as a requirement under the Act, eSafety has today also issued formal notices to the six industry associations developing codes, notifying them of their obligation to have a fit-for-purpose draft ready to be registered by eSafety later this year. 

“eSafety has been working collaboratively with industry to ensure that robust codes are developed which offer meaningful safety protections for Australians of all ages online. We will continue to work closely with them through this important next phase of the drafting process,” eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said. 

“Ultimately, we want the online industry to succeed in this because we believe eSafety and the online industry have a critical co-regulatory role to play here in helping keep Australians safe online.” 

“If the industry is unable to establish appropriate codes in a timely fashion, the eSafety Commissioner has the power under the Act to declare industry standards.” 

The codes apply to eight industry sections, including social media services, websites, search engines, app stores, internet service providers, device manufacturers, hosting services, and electronic services, including email, messaging, gaming and dating services. 

The responsibility is on industry to draft the new codes and offer solutions to how they might achieve the required safety measures, including through measures like proactive human and machine monitoring, account suspensions and deactivations, deindexing of search results, and the use of forms of age assurance or parental controls.

Industry players will also be required to have tools in place that empower users, allowing them to control their own access, as well as children’s access, to harmful content.

"There is no question that these are ambitious mandatory industry codes applied to a diverse ranges of industry players.  Whilst this brings complexities, it should also bring much more sweeping levels of safety protections on the range of online services we know young people, in particular, are using."

Under the Act, eSafety will be able to receive complaints and investigate potential breaches of the codes or standards, and may use civil penalties, enforceable undertakings and injunctions to ensure compliance.

"The Codes are another important tool in eSafety's regulatory arsenal to tackle safety weaknesses at the systemic and processes level, building on the fundamentals of safety by design, and working in a complementary fashion with the Government’s Basic Online Safety Expectations," Ms Inman Grant said. 

 

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