Online Safety Act to help protect children and vulnerable adults

Heightened monitoring for social media giants, sexual predators and online bullies has come into effect with the passing in parliament of the Online Safety Act, last Sunday.

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant has been issued stronger “information gathering and investigative powers”  to police the internet.

Changes in the Act include a world first cyber abuse take-down scheme to better protect children and adults from online bullying.

The Act will require the industry to develop new codes with the aim of detecting and removing illegal content like child sexual abuse or acts of terrorism. They will also put greater onus on industry to shield children from age-inappropriate content like pornography. 

Archdiocesan Professional Standards and Safeguarding Manager, Maria Hicks welcomed the new laws saying it was “a step in the right direction” for the heightened safeguarding of Australian children.

“We know that one in five young people report being socially excluded, threatened, or abused online. Therefore, this Archdiocese supports any laws that protect our children and vulnerable adults from being bullied and being subjected to inappropriate content.

“Although we have protocols and policies to ensure the delivery of our online activities for children is safe, we can only do so much. Hence our support for any legislation which further protects our children is welcomed,” Mrs Hicks said.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the Act allow Australia’s eSafety Commissioner,  to compel platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to remove “cyber‑abuse material” within 24 hours, or face a hefty fine. 

“The internet has brought immense advantages, but also new risks, and Australians rightly expect the big tech companies to do more to make their products safer for users,” Mr Fletcher said.

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