Tips on how to stay safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 Alert

Due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) it may take longer than usual to address all reports or enquiries made with our investigation teams.

Please continue to submit reports and we will review them as soon as possible.

If you are worried about your safety or are at risk of harm right now contact police immediately by calling Triple Zero (000).

If you need someone to talk to and are under 25, contact Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800).
For all other ages, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

The actions we can take

The Cyber Report team investigates and helps to remove illegal and harmful content from the internet. We give priority to combating online child sexual abuse material.

We work with law enforcement partners but we do not hunt and prosecute offenders. We leave that to Australia’s state and national police agencies and their international counterparts.

The actions we can take vary depending on the type of content and where it is located.

Child sexual abuse material

We take action to remove online child sexual abuse material that is hosted in Australia and overseas. 

Material hosted in Australia

We notify the relevant Australian police about child sexual abuse material and, once we are certain that their investigation will not be compromised, we issue a takedown notice directing the hosting provider to remove the content.

Any hosting provider that does not comply with a takedown notice issued by the eSafety Commissioner faces serious penalties. 

Material hosted overseas

The eSafety Commissioner is the Australian member of INHOPE (the International Association of Internet Hotlines), a network of 45 hotlines that works as a global mechanism to rapidly remove child sexual abuse material from the internet.

If child sexual abuse material is located in an INHOPE member country other than Australia, we refer the content to that country’s hotline so the relevant law enforcement agency is alerted. The vast majority of content referred through INHOPE is removed in less than three working days.

In the small number of cases where child sexual abuse material is hosted in a non-INHOPE member country, we inform the Australian Federal Police.

We have been a member of INHOPE since 2000 and adhere to its Code of Practice.

Abhorrent violent material

Amendments made to the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) after the Christchurch terrorist attacks in 2019 created new offence provisions relating to abhorrent violent material (AVM). 

The Act defines AVM as audio, visual or audio-visual material created by a perpetrator or an accomplice that records or streams: 

  • a terrorist act leading to serious injury or death
  • murder or attempted murder
  • torture 
  • rape
  • kidnapping involving violence or the threat of violence. 

Under the amendments, the eSafety Commissioner may issue an AVM notice to a website or its hosting service if they are providing access to AVM. Failure by a website or hosting service to remove access to the material may constitute a criminal offence. 

Commonwealth law enforcement agencies are responsible for prosecuting this offence, however any prosecution first requires the consent of the Attorney-General. 

You can find further information in our factsheet on abhorrent violent material. 

ISP blocking in an online crisis event

The eSafety Commissioner, in consultation with internet service providers (ISPs), has developed a protocol for issuing a blocking direction during an online crisis event. 

Under the direction, the eSafety Commissioner can require ISPs to block Australian access to websites to prevent the viral distribution of material that promotes, incites or instructs in terrorist acts or violent crimes. The aim is to limit harm to the community.

Any blocking direction made under the protocol would only be in place for a limited time, to be determined on a case by case basis. Following the initial blocking period, the eSafety Commissioner could take further action to address the relevant material, in consultation with the ISPs and affected websites.

This protocol was recommended by the Australian Taskforce to Combat Terrorist and Extreme Violent Material, established in response to the Christchurch terrorist attacks in 2019. 

You can find further information in our factsheet on ISP blocking.