26 September 2023

eSafety takes giant platforms to Court

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The eSafety Commissioner has issued legal notices to some of the world’s most herculean tech companies, calling on them to report on the measures they’re taking to tackle the spread of child sexual exploitation material on their platforms and services.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the notices were issued to Apple, Meta (and WhatsApp), Microsoft (and Skype), Snap and Omegle under the new Basic Online Safety Expectations, a key part of the Online Safety Act 2021.

“The Expectations set out the minimum safety requirements expected of tech companies who wish to operate in Australia and the steps they should take to protect Australian users from harm,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“The Basic Online Safety Expectations are a world-leading tool designed to encourage fundamental online safety practices and drive transparency and accountability from tech companies,” she said.

“They will help us ‘lift the hood’ on what companies are doing – and are not doing – to protect their users from harm.”

Ms Inman Grant said that as more companies moved towards encrypted messaging services and deployed features like livestreaming, the fear was that this horrific material would spread unchecked.

She said the child sexual exploitation material that was reported now was just the tip of the iceberg – “online child sexual abuse that isn’t being detected and remediated continues to be a huge concern.”

“The decision to issue a notice is an information gathering process and may reflect a range of factors, including the number of complaints that eSafety has received, the reach of a service, or whether limited information is available on a company’s safety actions or interventions on their services,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“eSafety plans to issue further notices to additional providers in due course to build a comprehensive picture of online safety measures across a wide range of services,” she said.

“Industry must be upfront on the steps they are taking, so that we can get the full picture of online harms occurring and collectively focus on the real challenges before all of us,” the Commissioner said.

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