A reminder that submissions on the Government's draft Online Safety Bill (Bill) close on 14 February.
On 23 December 2020, the Australian Government's Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications began a consultation on the draft Bill. The Bill is designed to consolidate and supplement the range of existing regimes covering online content, most notably the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 (Cth) (EOSA) and Schedules 5 and 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth) (BSA).
The Bill introduces an expanded take-down scheme for cyber-bullying and image-based abuse, a new take-down scheme for adult cyber-abuse, a set of basic online safety expectations (BOSE) for online services, a revised online content scheme and a blocking scheme for abhorrent violent material. It also reduces the time for responding to removal notices from 48 hours to 24 hours and incorporates civil penalties for non-compliance in certain circumstances.
If implemented, these proposed changes would increase the imperative for online services to take a pro-active approach and to have in place efficient mechanisms for responding to removal notices.
The most significant proposed changes to the existing regimes include:
The Bill reflects a significant overhaul of the existing online content regimes. It requires online service providers to take on a greater role in preventing access to certain kinds of online content, and increases the cost for service providers of a failure to do so.
The key proposals have the following practical effect on service providers:
In parallel to the development of the Bill, a review of the National Classification Scheme (Classification Review) is also ongoing, following delays as a consequence of COVID-19. In earlier reviews, including the Australian Law Reform Commission's National Classification Scheme Review in March 2012, concerns were raised about the overlap between the online content scheme under the BSA and the National Classification Scheme including significant uncertainty about the treatment of online content between the two regimes. Given that the proposed Bill replaces the relevant portion of the BSA, the outcome of the Classification Review will also be important to provide a clearer picture of the future regulation of online content in Australia. Read our alert on the Classification Review here.
Please contact us if you require more information.
Thank you to Sarah Lee for their assistance in preparing this alert.
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