Australia protects its citizens with new Online Safety Act
The Australian Parliament has just passed the new Online Safety Act, providing the country’s netizens with better online protection than before.
The new Online Safety Act provides the eSafety Commissioner stronger powers to crack down on cyberbullying of children, toxic online abuse, harmful content and the non-consensual sharing of intimate images.
It also provides the eSafety Commissioner with stronger information gathering and investigative powers to unmask anonymous accounts.
The Act is said to bolster Australia’s world-leading online safety framework by introducing new and strengthened schemes to assist Australian netizens when things go wrong.
Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts Paul Fletcher MP said online safety was a priority for the Australian Government and passing this new Act was a key commitment at the 2019 election.
“When we established the office of the eSafety Commissioner in 2015, it was the first agency in the world dedicated to protecting citizens from online dangers such as image-based abuse and cyberbullying,” Minister Fletcher said.
“In addition to managing those threats, eSafety has played a key role, along with its international partners, in fighting the scourge of online child sexual abuse material.”
Minister Fletcher stated that it was a step-change for the eSafety Commissioner as the Act tightens the office’s powers in existing areas.
The new Online Safety Act will also create a new reporting scheme that will allow eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant to remove toxic cyber abuse when online platforms fail to do so.
Aside from passing this Act, the Australian Government has delivered its election commitment to strengthen penalties for online abuse and harassment by increasing the maximum penalties in the Criminal Code. This includes 3-to-5 years imprisonment for those using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence.
An additional $24.7 million has also been provided to the eSafety Commissioner over four years in the May 2021 Budget, bringing the Government’s total commitment to keeping Australians safe online over the next four years to more than $125 million.
The Act is expected to pass through the House shortly and will commence six months after receiving Royal Assent.