Online Safety Act 2021 receives Royal Assent

eSafety welcomes the passage of the new Online Safety Act through Parliament which today has received Royal Assent.

While countries around the world look to take their first tentative steps towards online regulation, Australia is again leading the world and protecting the safety of all Australians online. 

Just six short years ago, we became the first online safety regulator in the world, with a singular purpose to help protect Australian children online.

Over this time, our remit has expanded to the protection of all Australians as we’ve seen abuse spread from the major social media sites to surface on new platforms and in new ways, which is why it is so imperative our laws continue to keep pace with this rapid evolution.

This new Act builds on the strengths of the existing legislative framework for online safety to provide the eSafety Commissioner with expanded powers to better protect Australians across all platforms where harm is now occurring, including video gaming platforms, dating websites, and even private messaging apps.

For the first time anywhere in the world, eSafety will formally begin operating a new adult cyber abuse scheme to finally give Australian adults who are the victims of seriously harmful online abuse, somewhere to turn when the platforms fail to act.

And there will be significant financial penalties for perpetrators, so trolls will no longer feel safe to perpetuate abuse and online hate with impunity.

Added to this, the time platforms have to remove harmful content after receiving a notice from the eSafety Commissioner will be halved – from 48 hours to 24 – greatly reducing the mental and emotional distress experienced by victims. 

Australia’s online content scheme, which deals with illegal and harmful content including child sexual abuse material, will also be modernised for the 21st century, giving eSafety the power to tackle this content no matter where it is hosted.

And the government has lifted the bar on what it expects of the tech industry, setting out a core set of basic online safety expectations industry must uphold to improve and promote online safety if they wish to continue to operate in Australia.

The new Act will commence six months from today, with industry codes expected to be developed within 12 months.

There is much work to be done between now and commencement, but we want to assure all Australians that during this time, eSafety will continue to provide the same citizen-focused services and support we always have. 

We will update our website with more information as we develop our regulatory priorities and guidance in the coming months.

Read more about the new Online Safety Act

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