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Significant online safety milestone reached as Australia’s world-leading industry codes commence

eSafety Commissioner 3 mins read

Social media companies, app stores, internet service providers, hosting providers, device manufacturers and suppliers will all need to take meaningful action to tackle the ‘worst-of-the-worst’ online content as five new industry codes come into force tomorrow.

Australians will be able to make a complaint to a social media service if the service is not meeting the requirements of the new industry codes to tackle harmful and often unlawful content including online child sexual abuse and pro-terror material.

The codes will also require services to provide safety information and reporting tools to respond to user complaints. If a complaint is not resolved, Australians can seek assistance from eSafety through the industry codes complaints form. eSafety has the power to investigate possible non-compliance, direct a service to comply with an industry code and take enforcement action if necessary.

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the commencement of the new codes, which were drafted by industry and submitted for registration, was an important next step in Australia’s world-leading efforts to make the internet a much safer place for all Australians.

“Having mandatory and enforceable codes in place which put the onus back on industry to take meaningful action against the worst-of-the-worst content appearing on their products and services is a tremendously important online safety milestone,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“I think today more than ever, the Australian community expects the online industry to take all reasonable steps to prevent their services from being used to store, share and distribute horrific content like child sexual abuse and terrorist material.

“Unfortunately, these steps have not always been taken. These mandatory codes give those sectors covered by the codes a clear and agreed blueprint for how they tackle this illegal content going forward.

“We started this codes journey with industry over two years ago, and while the road hasn’t always been smooth, what we have achieved together culminating in today with these five codes is very significant, world-leading and will have a real impact when it comes to the online safety of all Australians.”

eSafety has released a complaints form to assist users in reporting potential breaches of a code and Regulatory Guidance to assist industry, setting out eSafety’s approach to monitoring and enforcing compliance with the codes.    

Under Australia’s Online Safety Act, which commenced in January, 2022, industry associations were to draft enforceable codes covering eight sectors of the online industry, to deal with illegal and restricted content. 

In June, the eSafety Commissioner found five codes provided appropriate community safeguards and were registered.  These five codes will commence operation tomorrow.

eSafety deferred its decision on a sixth code covering search engines as it failed to adequately account for the rapid integration of generative AI into online search. A re-drafted code was registered by eSafety in September and it will commence in March 2024.

The two remaining draft industry codes, namely Relevant Electronic Services, covering a range of messaging services as well as online dating and gaming; and Designated Internet Services covering those apps and websites which are neither a social media service nor a relevant electronic service as well as file and photo storage services, failed to provide appropriate community safeguards so eSafety announced it would draft industry standards.  

eSafety’s draft standards are currently out for public consultation.  eSafety continues to encourage industry, and all interested stakeholders to participate in the consultation process. 

To view the regulatory guidance for the five codes and access the industry codes complaint form go to Industry codes  eSafety Commissioner  

Both the registered codes and the draft standards cover class 1A and class 1B content,

including child sexual exploitation material and pro terror material.  A second set of codes and/or standards focusing on class 2 material such as online pornography will be developed following the determination  of the industry standards.

If you come across illegal content online such as child sexual abuse, report this to eSafety at esafety.gov.au/report.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please phone 0439 519 684 or email media@esafety.gov.au   

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