Online industry given more time to resubmit draft codes
The eSafety Commissioner has given the online industry until the end of the month to resubmit draft industry codes that provide 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.
The Commissioner’s preliminary view is that draft industry codes submitted by the industry associations on 18 November last year did not go far enough in protecting users of their services in Australia.
“On 9 February this year, I wrote to the industry associations to inform them of my preliminary views that the draft industry codes as they stand do not provide appropriate community safeguards and would not meet the statutory requirements for registration,” eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said.
“I originally gave industry associations until 9 March to resubmit draft industry codes with improved protections. Industry requested more time and I have decided to grant them a short extension to 31 March to address my areas of concern.
“We recognise the complexity of the issues involved in drafting robust codes and thank industry for their work to date. I look forward to seeing improved codes at the end of the month that deliver meaningful online protections to all users in Australia.”
eSafety has been engaging closely with industry associations and industry participants throughout the development of the codes since mid-2021.
The concerns raised in letters sent by the eSafety Commissioner to industry in February are similar to concerns that have been raised by eSafety with industry over the past 9 to 12 months, and were also raised in the public consultation undertaken by industry last September.
The eSafety Commissioner will assess each draft code and make her final decision shortly after 31 March.
If industry does not submit appropriate codes by this date that meet the statutory requirements, the eSafety Commissioner has the power under the Act to determine industry standards. eSafety would consult with industry and the public in the development of industry standards.
Once industry codes or standards are in place, eSafety will be able to receive complaints and investigate potential breaches. An industry code or standard will be backed up by enforceable undertakings and injunctions to ensure compliance, and any breach may be subject to civil penalties.
The draft industry codes were published by the industry associations on 22 February 2023, along with eSafety’s letters to the industry associations, and are available at onlinesafety.org.au/codes. eSafety’s preliminary views on the draft codes can also be found at eSafety.gov.au/industry/codes.