Online industry asked to address eSafety’s concerns with draft codes

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner has asked associations representing the online industry to respond to areas of concern and resubmit draft industry codes that include appropriate community safeguards for users in Australia. 

The new codes, which are being developed by industry and will operate under Australia’s Online Safety Act 2021, must take adequate steps to reduce the availability of seriously harmful online content, such as child sexual abuse and pro-terror material.

In November, the industry associations submitted eight draft codes covering different sections of the online industry for registration by the eSafety Commissioner.

“We recognise the complexity of the issues involved in drafting robust codes that give people in Australia meaningful online protections and thank the industry associations for their hard work and cooperation to date,” eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said.

“eSafety has been working closely with the online industry throughout the development of these codes and we’re here to support them in ensuring a modern, fit-for-purpose online safety ecosystem which safeguards the community.

“While I have not made a final decision, my preliminary view is that the draft codes we received in November are unlikely to provide the appropriate community safeguards required for them to be registered.

“I have written to the industry associations and encouraged them to resubmit draft industry codes with improved protections and to provide them with a final opportunity to address areas of concern.”

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

If industry does not submit appropriate codes that meet the statutory requirements, the eSafety Commissioner has the power under the Act to determine industry standards.

The eSafety Commissioner aims to make the decision on whether to register the draft codes in March.

Once codes or standards are in place, eSafety will be able to receive complaints and investigate potential breaches which will be enforceable by civil penalties, enforceable undertakings and injunctions to ensure compliance.

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