Albanese Government publishes eSafety's Roadmap for Age Verification
The Albanese Government has today published the eSafety Commissioner’s Roadmap for age verification and complementary measures to prevent and mitigate harms to children from online pornography, along with the Government’s response.
Delivered to Government for consideration in March 2023 following extensive consultation, the Roadmap is a key recommendation of the 2020 House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs Report, Protecting the Age of Innocence.
The Roadmap considers the feasibility of implementing a regime of mandatory age verification to address risks and harms associated with children’s encounters with online pornography.
The Roadmap does not recommend the Government legislate to mandate age assurance technology for access to online pornography and notes that technological developments in this space are still new and evolving. Stakeholders have also raised concerns about the effectiveness, privacy and security of these technologies.
The Roadmap details work to implement the Online Safety Act 2021 including the development of industry codes to deal with children’s access to online pornography. It also describes powers available to the Commissioner to require the online industry to report on their compliance with a set of Basic Online Safety Expectations, which include taking reasonable steps to make sure technological or other measures are in effect to prevent children accessing pornography.
The Government supports this approach, with the forthcoming industry codes requiring the digital sector to do more to protect children from exposure to online pornography.
The eSafety Commissioner is well placed to assist industry develop these codes and assess their codes, having already successfully registered new industry codes that deliver enhanced protections against child sexual exploitation and terrorism material.
The Government will seek further information on consideration of a pilot as recommended by the eSafety Commissioner – following the conclusion of the industry codes process, which is a critical step in keeping children safe online.
The Government is continuing its comprehensive approach to addressing the harms that can result from children’s exposure to pornography through the delivery of a variety of initiatives.
The Roadmap calls out the importance of respectful relationships education, and that the related topics of online safety, sexuality and consent are integral to addressing the harms associated with online pornography. The Government is delivering on these by providing:
- $83.5 million over 6 years to support the delivery of age-appropriate, evidence-based, and expert-developed respectful relationships education, aligned to the Australian Curriculum.
- $39.9 million under the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032 (the National Plan) to develop a prevention campaign on consent and respectful relationships.
- $100.4 million over 5 years to support Our Watch to deliver on priorities of the National Plan, and continue successful initiatives for the primary prevention of violence against women and children.
- $23.3 million over 5 years for the ANROWS National Priority Research Fund, which will continue to build the evidence base that supports ending violence against women and children in Australia.
The Albanese Government is committed to supporting eSafety to improve online safety for Australians. The 2023-24 Federal Budget quadrupled ongoing base funding to the regulator, addressing funding uncertainty resulting from a failure of the former Coalition Government to fund terminating measures into the future.
The eSafety Commissioner’s Age Verification Roadmap is available at: www.esafety.gov.au/about-us/consultation-cooperation/age-verification
The Government’s response is available at: www.infrastructure.gov.au/response-age-verification
Quotes attributable to Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP:
“The Albanese Government is committed to improving the safety of our online environment – particularly when it comes to children accessing inappropriate content on the internet.
“We thank eSafety for its extensive research and work on the Age Verification Roadmap.
“The Age Verification Roadmap underscores the important role the regulator plays in registering industry codes or developing standards to keep children safe.
“The Government supports this approach, and will work with the regulator to ensure the full and successful implementation of the Online Safety Act.
“While the Government awaits the outcome of this process, the digital industry is on notice that we will not hesitate to take further action should it fail to keep children safe."