The Online Safety Act 2021 commenced on 23 January 2022 and delivers new and strengthened schemes to keep Australians safe online, including mechanisms to remove seriously abusive and harmful content.
Key elements of the new laws are included on this page. For more information or to report serious online abuse, visit the eSafety website.
The Online Safety Act 2021 allows eSafety to investigate complaints about seriously harmful online abuse directed at an Australian adult. This new scheme mirrors the protections in the existing cyberbullying scheme, however with a higher threshold of 'serious harm', because adults are more resilient than children.
Online services that do not comply with a notice to remove adult cyber-abuse material may be subject to a civil penalty of up to 500 penalty units.
Find out more about serious online abuse, or make a report.
Since 2018, the eSafety Commissioner has administered an image-based abuse scheme, which provides a mechanism for Australians to seek the removal of intimate images that have been shared without consent. Victims of this type of abuse are able to contact eSafety directly to seek help.
Online Content Scheme
Illegal and offensive online content is regulated by the Online Safety Act 2021, through a complaints-based mechanism. The scheme is designed to protect consumers, particularly children, from exposure to harmful material.
The regulation of prohibited and potentially prohibited online content in Australia is based on the National Classification Scheme.
Content is assessed on the basis of public complaints to eSafety.
Where content is hosted in Australia and is found by eSafety to be prohibited, eSafety may require the relevant platforms or service provider to remove the content from their service. For content hosted overseas that is found to be prohibited, the URL to the material is added to eSafety's prohibited URLs list.
The Online Safety Act 2021 also helps eSafety to get the 'worst of the worst' content removed, no matter where it's hosted. This may include:
- child sexual abuse material
- detailed instruction or promotion of crime or violence
- gratuitous, exploitative and offensive depictions of violence or sexual violence
- material that advocates carrying out a terrorist act.
In addition, regardless of where the content is hosted, if eSafety considers the content to be of a sufficiently serious nature, it must notify an Australian police force.
eSafety administers a complaints service for Australian children who experience serious cyberbullying. Under the scheme, eSafety can investigate complaints about serious cyberbullying material targeting an Australian child and request its removal. eSafety can request content be taken down from the full range of online services, for example social media platforms, games, websites and messaging services.
Rapid website blocking arrangements
The Online Safety Act 2021 also introduced rapid website-blocking arrangements to protect Australians from exposure to extremely harmful material such as live-streaming of terrorist attacks.
The rapid website-blocking power allows eSafety to respond to online crisis events by requiring internet service providers block access to material depicting, promoting, inciting or instructing in abhorrent violent conduct.
Programs, prevention, education and awareness
eSafety has a wide range of functions to promote online safety for Australians, playing a national coordination role in online safety education, programs, and research about online safety.
For more information, visit the eSafety website.