Frequently asked questions about reporting

Every report of serious online abuse or illegal and restricted online content is taken seriously.

Our investigators assess each one, taking into account all the information you provide, before deciding on the best way to help.

First of all, we make sure you are safe. Then we check if your experience is covered by the laws that allow us to remove content. You can learn more about how we make our decisions by reading the regulatory guidance for the schemes that eSafety regulates.

More questions

For complaints about child cyberbullying, adult cyber abuse, image-based abuse or child sexual exploitation material, you can expect to hear from us within two business days – but in many cases we will contact you sooner. We will also notify you if we decide not to investigate your report.

We also aim to respond to complaints of illegal and restricted online content as quickly as possible, but child sexual exploitation material is usually our priority.

As image-based abuse or illegal and restricted content complaints can be made anonymously, you will need to set up a way for us to contact you if you would like to be updated without revealing your real name. For more information, see the next question 'Can I make an anonymous complaint?' 

You can report illegal and restricted online content to eSafety anonymously, including child sexual exploitation material. You do not need to identify yourself when you report the content to us, but we do ask you to declare whether you are an Australian resident when you make a report.

Image-based abuse complaints can be made anonymously – you do not need to give your name or contact details. However, it is important that we still have a way of contacting you to ask for further information or to let you know the outcome of the complaint. One way to report to us without giving us your name is to set up an email account which does not use your name (for example: somethingelse@email.com). You can list this email as your contact address when you make a report. We would also like to know which state or territory you are in, as this will help us to tailor advice for you. This is important because the laws relating to image-based abuse differ between states and territories.

You cannot make an anonymous cyberbullying or adult cyber abuse complaint to eSafety.

After assessing your complaint and ensuring it meets the relevant legal threshold for investigation, we can direct an online or electronic service or platform to remove harmful content within 24 hours of receipt of our removal notice (or a longer timeframe specified by eSafety).

For illegal and restricted online content, we work with law enforcement agencies through the global network INHOPE to remove child sexual exploitation material wherever it is hosted as soon as possible. We also remove online pro-terrorist material and material that promotes, instructs or incites in matters of crime as soon as possible. If you provide your contact details and request a response about the outcome of your report, our timeframe is five business days from the conclusion of the investigation.

For eSafety to help with the removal of harmful online material, we need you to provide us with some information before we can act.

Complaints made to eSafety are confidential. The fact that a complaint has been made about a person is not publicly available information.

Find out why personal information is collected and how we protect and handle this information under our Privacy policy

We can investigate a complaint even if you do not know the identity of the person who has been targeting you with serious online abuse. We can still direct the online service provider to remove the harmful content, even if the person who sent or shared it can’t be contacted.

Complaints made to eSafety are confidential. The fact that a complaint has been made about a person is not publicly available information.

We do not need to contact the person who targeted you with serious online abuse to get harmful content removed – we can do that through the online or electronic service or platform. But if we decide the best way to handle your complaint is to issue a formal removal notice to the person responsible for the cyberbullying, adult cyber abuse or image-based abuse, we may need to tell them who has made the complaint. We may also need to give that person a right of reply, so they get a chance to tell their version of what happened. We will confirm that you are comfortable with us issuing the removal notice before we do so.

If the harmful content meets the definition of child cyberbullying, adult cyber abuse or image-based abuse we usually request or direct the online or electronic service or platform to remove the harmful content.

If relevant to your specific situation, we might also:

  • report the accounts of the person who targeted you to the service or platform to take appropriate action – this could result in deletion of the person’s accounts
  • speak with police if they are already involved or we think the police ought to be involved (we would only seek to involve police in very serious cases – for example, where credible threats of violence are involved, or the frequency of contact and the content depicted is menacing to the point that the person is in serious distress)
  • involve your school if we feel your school can help us deal with the problem – we would generally discuss this with you first.
  • take action against the person who posted the harmful online content, for example, by issuing them with a formal warning (unlike police, we do not administer criminal laws so any action we take against the person will not affect their criminal record).

In case of adult cyber abuse we can also fine or seek penalties against the person responsible if they do not comply with a removal notice. In the case of image-based abuse we can also fine or seek penalties against a person regardless of whether we issue a removal notice.

If you are under 18 or have a guardian, talking to a trusted adult can help you deal with cyberbullying, adult cyber abuse or image-based abuse and manage the impact of the harm.

The general rule is that will we ask you if it is OK for us to contact your parent(s) or guardian to help us resolve your complaint. But in situations where you are in danger, we may need to contact your parent(s) or guardian even if you have not given us consent to do so.

If you are under 15 years old, we recommend that you provide the details of your parents or an adult you trust when you fill out a report form.

If your parent or guardian has made a complaint on your behalf, they will be involved in the investigation process.

If you are still at school, we may ask for you to provide its contact details.

The information you give us can help us to resolve your complaint. Your school may be able to help deal with the problem, especially if the person who targeted you with serious online abuse goes to the same school. Your school may also provide you with help and counselling.

The general rule is that will we ask you if it is OK for us to contact your school to help us resolve your complaint. But in situations where you are in danger, we may need to contact your school even if you have had not given us consent to do so.

If you are in Australia and are in danger or at risk of harm, or the online abuse is part of domestic and family violence, contact police immediately. Call Triple Zero (000) now or contact your local police station.

Sometimes the police may already be involved when you report a complaint to eSafety. If not, we may encourage you to report the matter to police while we continue to help you.

eSafety has the power to disclose information to the police if it might help resolve your complaint or we think you are in danger. We must refer your complaint to the police and child protection authorities if the matter is serious enough that we are legally required to do so.

We encourage you to report to us directly, but if you need help to report a complaint to eSafety you can:

  • ask a friend or family member to sit with you while you complete the report form, or have them complete the form on your behalf, or
  • speak to a counselling or support service and ask them to work with you to complete the report form.

For information in another language, call 131 450 from anywhere in Australia for the cost of a local call.

The Translating and Interpreting Service can also call us on your behalf.

If you are hearing or speech impaired, please visit the National Relay Service or call 133 677 for TTY and voice calls (for the cost of a local call).