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Consultation process begins for the Morrison government’s new Online Safety Act

The Morrison Government has begun the consultation process for its new Online Safety Act.

The minister for communications, cyber safety and the arts, Paul Fletcher, said the purpose of the Act was to allow Australians to access everything the online world has to offer, in a safe capacity.

Fletcher says the reforms will make it easier for Australians to interact online

“Keeping Australians safe online is a top priority for the Morrison government. The internet offers significant economic and social benefits, but these benefits will only be fully realised if Australians can engage confidently and safely in the online world.

“Australia has been at the forefront of online safety policy over the past two decades and the proposed reforms address the risk of evolving harms and build on our strong foundations.”

The new Act takes specific aim at platforms, seeking to decrease the time within which they must take down harmful content, dropping it from 48 to 24 hours.

The Act follows the appointment of a Children’s eSafety Commissioner in 2015 and the expansion of that role in 2017 to include all Australians.

“The new Act will establish a new take-down scheme to tackle the cyber abuse of Australian adults. While children are particularly vulnerable to online bullying, we know that adults in the Australian community are also subject to online abuse and hate,” Fletcher said.

Under the new Act, there will be a higher threshold for what constitutes adult cyber-bullying compared with that against a child. It will also extend the application of cyber-bullying to cover all the services they use, including gaming chat services, messaging apps and social connection sites.

The Act will also seek to work with ancillary services providers, like search engines, to de-rank offensive and harmful material. The eSafety commissioner will also be granted the powers to report the digital platforms.

The reforms follow promises made during the election earlier this year.

Earlier this month the Morrison Government restructured the public service departments, doing away with the ‘arts’ aspect of the Department of Communications and the Arts.

The media industry is still waiting for the government’s response to the ACCC digital platform inquiry, which is due today.

Factsheets and information about how to make a submission on the proposed reforms can be found here.

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