Everyone should be able to feel confident and happy when uploading content or scrolling through social media platforms/providers, without the fear of abuse or being subject to harmful comments or messages. Traditionally the protection of individuals from harassment online has been focused on the youth, with all previous legislation only covering children.

In a world first, Australia has introduced a bill that targets cyber abuse against adults in the hope to stop internet trollers who hide behind their anonymity and device. A key component will be the role played by the e-Safety Commission itself, which is the world’s first government agency established to keep citizens safer in an online forum.

These laws will give the e-Safety Commissioner (the independent statutory office established under the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015) the power to order a removal notice to a provider for seriously harmful content, only after the complainant has made an initial complaint to the provider and they have done nothing to remove the harmful content. Once the notice is received the provider will have 24 hours to remove the harmful content.

In circumstances when the content is not removed within 24 hours the E-Safety Commissioner will have the power to:

  • Fine individuals up to $110,000 and corporations up to $550,000;
  • Reveal the identities behind fake profiles used to spread the harmful content; and
  • Require search engines (such as google and app store) to remove access to the service provider completely.

The government is currently seeking submissions by the public for their opinions on this topic. If you have something you may want to say about these new laws the submission form can be found here. Submissions close on 14 February 2021.

This is a huge step forward for Australia in ensuring the safety of all internet users. It will be interesting to see if this bill will be passed into law, watch this space.

However, don’t expect possible legislation such as this to be a safety net that will protect all your needs online. Ensure you take steps to protect your online privacy where appropriate in the first place.

Snedden Hall & Gallop have experience in regulatory law matters, contact the team by email or call us on (02) 6285 8000 if you have any questions.