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Search engines will need to take steps to tackle child sexual abuse material and AI misuse under new code

eSafety Commissioner 2 mins read

Search engines, including Google and Bing, will now be required to take important steps to prevent child sexual abuse material being returned in search results and ensure AI incorporated into the search engines is not misused to create deep faked versions of this harmful content under a new industry code commencing today.  

Australia’s registered Online Safety codes cover multiple sections of the online industry, are enforceable and require participants to take appropriate measures to address the risk of class 1 material, including child sexual abuse material on their services in Australia. 

The Search code will take its place alongside five other industry codes already in operation covering social media, app stores, internet service providers, hosting providers, device manufacturers and suppliers.  

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the commencement of the search code was another significant step in the protection of children online and places more responsibility on the tech industry to play their part in restricting the growing global trade in the, “worst-of-the-worst” online content.  

“The commencement of the search code is really significant as it helps ensure one of the key gateways to accessing this material, through online search engines, is closed” Ms Inman Grant said. “It will target illegal content and I will be able to seek  significant enforceable penalties if search engines fail to comply with a direction to comply with the code.  

Creating this code has not been entirely smooth sailing. The sudden and rapid rise of generative AI and subsequent announcements by Google and Bing that they would incorporate AI functionality into their search engine services meant the original code would have been out of date before it commenced.  

But I want to give thanks to the industry associations and the key search engine providers for their hard work and willingness to go back and redraft the code to make it fit for purpose What we’ve ended up with is a robust code that delivers broad protections for Australians. 

eSafety is currently preparing draft industry standards for two further industry sectors, Relevant Electronic Services, which includes a range of private messaging and other communication services. Designated Internet Services, which includes websites and apps not falling within other categories, as well as file and photo storage services. These standards will also address the risk associated with generative AI.  

eSafety is drafting standards for these two sectors because the draft codes submitted by industry did not provide the appropriate community safeguards required under the Act.  

eSafety is currently considering feedback received during the public consultation on the draft standards held late last year. Final versions of the standards will be tabled for consideration by Parliament later this year. 

To view the regulatory guidance of the industry codes or to find out more information about the codes and standards, go to www.esafety.gov.au/industry/codes.  

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

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