Online safety change on the cards to protect children

Internet platforms would have to consider the best interest of children when designing their services under new changes to online safety laws

Under the changes to the basic online safety expectations, platforms would also have to crack down on unlawful material created through AI, as well as lay out steps to detect hate speech.

The proposed amendments will be unveiled by Communications Minister Michelle Rowland in a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday.

Under the proposal being considered, platforms would need to develop mechanisms to ensure children don’t access inappropriate material while using the internet.

Ms Rowland said the changes would ensure Australians would remain safer online.

“It’s clear there is more industry can do on harms that are not explicitly set out in the current expectations,” she will say in the address.

“These changes seek to address recent developments relating to generative AI, the impacts of business decisions taken by major platform, and ensuring that the best interests of the child are front of mind in all actions taken by platforms.”

Ms Rowland said those in the industry needed to develop and invest in technology around protecting children online.

“We know children are particularly susceptible to some types of online harm, and it is critical that their best interests are treated as a priority,” she will say.

The minister will also use the speech to announce a review of online safety laws has been brought forward.

The review, to be headed up by former consumer watchdog deputy chair Delia Rickard, will begin public consultation in early 2024

The complaint system of the eSafety commission, how the laws address harm online, along with gaps in current laws, are expected to be the focus of the review.

Ms Rowland said while online safety laws provided protection for individuals targeted with harassment, there were no current provisions to address abuse on the basis of someone’s religion or background.

“There is deep concern across the community about the way hateful language spreads online and its impact on social media,” she will say.

“Australia needs our legislative framework to be strong, but also flexible enough to respond to an ever-evolving space.”


Andrew Brown
(Australian Associated Press)


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