Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Australian Government

New powers to remove harmful online content beyond Australia

The Australian Government has released details of the new laws that will provide the eSafety Commissioner with strengthened powers to enforce removal of seriously harmful and illegal content.

The Australian Government has released details of the new powers for the eSafety Commissioner to seek removal of seriously harmful and illegal content—including child sexual exploitation material and terrorist content—no matter where in the world it is hosted.

The Online Content Scheme and Abhorrent Violent Conduct Material powers are a core part of the Online Safety Act 2021, which will commence on 23 January 2022 and expand the powers of the eSafety Commissioner to address a wide range of online harms.

Under these new laws, if websites or apps systematically ignore take down notices from eSafety for this type of content, they could see their sites delinked from search engines or their apps removed from app stores.

The updated schemes will provide the eSafety Commissioner with new powers to require the removal of seriously harmful online content hosted overseas that can be accessed by Australians.

If individuals and organisations don't act swiftly in response to a take-down notice from the eSafety Commissioner, they may face significant financial penalties—up to $111,000 per offence for individuals and $555,000 for corporations.

The Act will also create a new website blocking power so that, in the event of a live-streamed terrorist attack, the eSafety Commissioner will have the power to move quickly to require internet service providers to block access to websites hosting this abhorrent material to stop its viral spread.

The release of the Online Content Scheme guidance follows the recently announced Adult Cyber Abuse scheme guidance, a statutory complaint and take-down scheme to be administered by the eSafety Commissioner, along with the recently announced updates to the child cyber-bullying and image-based abuse schemes.

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