Ensuring our online safety laws keep Australians safe

The Albanese Government is reviewing Australia’s online safety laws to examine their effectiveness and ensure they can address new and emerging harms, with Terms of Reference for the Review released today.

The Review will be a broad-ranging examination of the effectiveness of the Online Safety Act 2021, and consider whether additional protections are needed for harmful online material such as hate speech and image-based abuse.

It will also consider the need for further protections to address online safety-related harms stemming from new and emerging technologies like generative artificial intelligence (including deepfakes), and algorithms, and whether the existing penalty regime works as an effective deterrent to industry non-compliance.

The Review will also consider international developments in online safety regulation, including whether the law should be amended to impose a new duty of care on platforms towards their users, and what further steps can be taken to ensure industry acts in the best interests of children on their services.

Ms Delia Rickard PSM has been appointed 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.

An Issues Paper is expected to be released for public consultation in the first half of 2024.

The Act provides broad powers to Australia’s world-leading online safety regulator, the eSafety Commissioner. The Government brought the Review forward by one year to 2024 to ensure that our online safety framework remains fit-for-purpose and that eSafety has the necessary powers to improve the safety of Australians online.

Interested individuals, civil society groups and industry members are encouraged to share their views as part of the Review process, with detail on the consultation to be shared in coming months. Feedback will help shape the outcomes of the Review and ensure any recommendations to Government are informed by what Australians expect when they are online.

The Final Report will be provided to the Government in the second half of 2024.

For more information on the Terms of Reference visit www.infrastructure.gov.au/department/media/publications/terms-reference-statutory-review-online-safety-act-2021

Quotes attributable to Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP:

“So much of modern life happens online which is why it is critical our online safety laws are robust and can respond to new and emerging harms.

“Our laws can never be a set-and-forget, particularly as issues like online hate and deepfakes pose serious risks to Australian users.

“That’s why the Albanese Government has brought forward our review of the Online Safety Act to ensure the eSafety Commissioner has the right powers to help keep Australians safe.

“The Terms of Reference will help guide this important review. I look forward to consultation commencing to hear from industry and the community on how we can improve the safety of Australians online".