Albanese Government takes major steps forward to improve online safety

The Albanese Government will strengthen its online safety expectations and review the effectiveness of existing laws regulating digital service providers, to ensure these protections are fit-for-purpose in a rapidly evolving online environment.
 
The Online Safety Act empowers the online safety regulator, the eSafety Commissioner, to keep Australians safe online. The Act includes the Basic Online Safety Expectations (BOSE) which sets out the Government’s expectations of industry with regard to user safety, and improves transparency and accountability through mandatory reporting.
 
The Government will publicly consult on amendments to the existing BOSE Determination to ensure it remains relevant in response to new and emerging harms.
 
The expanded BOSE Determination will include – among other things:

  • Ensuring the best interests of the child is a primary consideration for all services used by children, and that services should implement measures to prevent children accessing age-inappropriate content;
  • An express focus on minimising the creation and amplification of unlawful or harmful material through generative artificial intelligence;
  • Developing processes for detecting and addressing hate speech which breaches a service’s terms of use; and
  • That service providers publish regular transparency reports to explain steps being taken to keep Australians safe online.

The aim is to better protect Australians – including vulnerable groups – from harmful content, while ensuring industry plays its role to keep Australians safe.
 
The consultation on the BOSE Determination complements the Government’s broader work into Safe and Responsible AI, led by Minister Ed Husic. Earlier this month, Australia – alongside 27 countries – signed the Bletchley Declaration affirming that AI should be designed and developed in a manner that is safe, human-centric, trustworthy and responsible.
 
The Government will also bring forward the legislated review of the Online Safety Act as part of a holistic assessment of the framework, with public consultation to commence in early 2024.
 
The Government has appointed Ms Delia Rickard PSM to lead the review. Ms Rickard was Deputy Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for more than a decade and has extensive experience in regulating consumer harms.
 
Government invites individuals, civil society groups and industry to have their say on the effectiveness of Australia’s online safety laws through these processes.
 
Public consultation on amendments to the BOSE Determination open today and conclude on 16 February 2024.  To make a submission, visit www.infrastructure.gov.au/have-your-say/online-safety-basic-online-safety-expectations-amendment-determination-2023
 
Quotes attributable to Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP:
 
"The Albanese Government is committed to improving the safety of Australians online.

“Australia’s online safety laws are world-leading, but that doesn’t mean they are a set-and-forget. We need to continually reassess the tools available to the Government and the eSafety Commissioner to respond to new and emerging harms.

“That’s why the Albanese Government will amend the Basic Online Safety Expectations Determination to put industry on notice about the steps we think need to be taken to keep Australians safe. That includes enshrining protections for children, and minimising harms caused by generative artificial intelligence.
 
“Our appointment of Ms Rickard to lead the broad-ranging and holistic review of the Online Safety Act will provide the Government with evidence on how we can best improve this important regulatory framework.
 
“Ms Rickard has in-depth knowledge of the changing digital landscape and how harmful behaviour has evolved online, which will prove invaluable in the review of the Online Safety Act”.