- The controversial Online Safety Bill was passed in June 2021, delivering unprecedented new powers to the eSafety Commissioner with the aim of better protecting Australians online.
- The Bill is expected to come into effect in just under six months, and will have significant implications for many online service providers, introducing new measures designed to increase industry accountability for the online safety of end-users.
- Those businesses caught by the broad scope of the Bill, will need to take note of the reforms (including their impact on pre-existing laws), and update relevant services, policies and processes.
Online interactions are part of almost every aspect of our lives, with most of us using online services for work, social, entertainment, education, financial and other purposes. With the online world becoming more ingrained in our lives, Australians of all ages are increasingly exposed to harms that occur online.
On 24 February 2021, the Commonwealth Government introduced the Online Safety Bill into Parliament, which is aimed at improving online safety for Australians (the Bill). After consideration in the Senate, the Bill was passed by both Houses on 23 June 2021, with the addition of a schedule of amendments.
The Bill has significant implications for many online service providers, introducing new measures designed to increase industry accountability for the online safety of end-users, whilst also giving the eSafety Commissioner (‘Commissioner’) enhanced powers to enforce the Bill effectively. The Bill’s passage through Parliament has been controversial, with some expressing concerns about the significant powers being vested in one individual, namely the Commissioner, and the ‘rushed’ passage of the legislation.
The Bill aims to consolidate a patchwork of existing online safety legislation to create a more harmonised regulatory framework. As such, the Bill works alongside the Online Safety (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill 2021, which: repeals the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 (Cth) (‘EOSA’), and the existing cyber-bullying scheme targeted at children; amends the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth) (‘BSA’) (to essentially repeal schedule 5 and most of schedule 7); and amends the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) (as amended by the Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Act 2019 (‘Criminal Code Amendment’)).