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MEDIA RELEASE: World-first Online Safety Codes Welcomed by IJM Australia

Friday 2 June 2023

International Justice Mission (IJM) Australia welcomes the eSafety Commissioner’s decision in the establishment of world-first, enforceable online safety industry codes – and supports her refusal to register draft safety codes not deemed tough enough to deter illegal online content. 

New mandatory codes will cover five sections of the online industry and operate under Australia’s Online Safety Act 2021. The codes require industry to take adequate steps to reduce the availability of seriously harmful online content, such as child sexual abuse and pro-terror material. They are enforceable, and under the Act, eSafety has powers to investigate and ensure compliance through measures including injunctions and fines of almost $700,000 per day for continuing breaches. 

But Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, also decided not to register two of eight online safety codes drafted by the online industry as they fail to provide appropriate community safeguards to deal with illegal and harmful content online.

eSafety’s decision not to register the Designated Internet Services (DIS) code, covering apps, websites, and file and photo storage services like Apple iCloud and Microsoft One Drive; and the Relevant Electronic Services (RES) code, covering dating sites, online games and instant messaging, is due to the failure of the codes to provide appropriate community safeguards, which is a requirement for registration.  

The Commissioner confirmed she will now move to develop mandatory and enforceable industry standards to cover these two sections of the online industry, as is within her powers under the Online Safety Act. 

IJM Australia CEO, Steve Baird, said:

“IJM commends the eSafety Commissioner and her team on their proactive approach to online safety,”

“We look forward to continuing to provide input as the Commissioner consults with the public around the RES and DIS industry standards. Drawing on our experience working with law enforcement and child victims in the Philippines, we have previously flagged concern about the draft RES and DIS codes. So we are pleased to see the eSafety Commissioner insist that these two sections of the online industry do more to protect the community. 

“Australians are among the worst offenders when it comes to purchasing the live-streamed abuse of young children in the Philippines. It’s important that eSafety as the regulator, together with law enforcement, leads the way in shutting down this abhorrent, growing crime.” 

IJM echoes the concerns that the Commissioner has expressed on the two draft codes, noting that: 

  • The draft DIS code did not require online storage platform to remove known CSAM or take action and invest in detection or disruption of known and unknown CSAM on platforms like iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive. IJM knows from its casework in the Philippines that Australians and other foreigners are using these very platforms to store and share abuse material. 
  • The draft RES code exempted encrypted services from a requirement to proactively detect for known CSAM. Technological tools that are capable of doing this without compromising user privacy are widely available and frequently used, such as client-side hashing technology (eg. Apple’s NeuralHash).

Mr Baird said:

“It is absolutely critical that we maintain the focus on online safety to protect children across the world, and it is important we maintain and adapt our approach to ensure that we meet the current and emerging challenges in this space.”

The eSafety Commissioner is the regulatory body tasked with safeguarding Australians from online harms and to promote safer, more positive online experiences. Under the Online Safety Act 2021 (“OSA”), the eSafety Commissioner has a range of regulatory functions and powers.

The OSA provides for industry bodies to develop Industry Codes of Conduct to regulate harmful material online, such as online sexual abuse of children and material promoting terrorism. These codes, if they meet the statutory requirements and provide appropriate community safeguards, will be registered with the eSafety Commissioner and will be enforceable. The codes would apply to the participants of eight key sections of the online industry, including providers of social media, messaging, search engine and app distribution services, as well as internet and hosting service providers, manufacturers and suppliers of equipment used to access online services, and those that install and maintain the equipment. 

MEDIA:   Isabelle Colla | 0432 970 548 | [email protected]  

For more information on IJM Australia, visit: 

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