26 September 2023

eSafety strategy faces tech future head on

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eSafety is to evolve with the times under a new four-year strategy that combats online hazards, risks and threats.

eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant said the eSafety Strategy 2022-25 outlined how eSafety is to prioritise its activities over the next four years to help Australians of all ages enjoy safer and more positive experiences online.

“Over our short history, we’ve gone from the most important Government regulator you’ve never heard of to one of the most important Government regulators we hope you’ll hear much more from,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“Achieving better online safety outcomes for Australians, by working across Government, is our primary goal.”

She said the Strategy was accompanied by a future tech-focused strategic outlook which examined some of the key regulatory challenges facing all online safety regulators, such as end-to end encryption, the growing influence of AI and algorithms, the potential for a range of new forms of abuse in the metaverse, and what regulation might look like in a decentralised Web 3.0 world.

Ms Inman Grant said eSafety’s regulatory powers under the new Online Safety Act, while unique and world leading, were only one part of a larger mission to reduce the harms experienced by Australians online.

“In fact, we want to stop the harms from happening in the first place, and to achieve this we also have a big focus on prevention through research, evidence gathering and education programs, as well as proactive and systemic change through our Safety By Design tools which encourage industry to make their products safer,” the Commissioner said.

“But we also must keep an eye on the horizon for new regulatory challenges heading our way and the potential harms they may bring,” she said.

“When it comes to the metaverse, the future is already upon us and we need to start thinking about how we build in safety from the ground up.”

Ms Inman Grant said that for the first time, eSafety would also have strong new regulatory tools to target systemic safety failures endemic in the technology ecosystem and process weaknesses from industry.

She said new mandatory industry codes would regulate the availability and accessibility of a range of illegal and harmful online content.

“Tech companies can also be compelled to provide transparency reports on how they are meeting their obligations to protect users under the government’s Basic Online Safety Expectations,” she said.

The eSafety Commissioner’s 22-page Strategy can be accessed at this PS News link.

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