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Big tech must take Australia’s online safety laws much more seriously

Shadow Communications Minister, Sarah Henderson, is calling on the global tech giants to take Australia’s online safety laws, put in place by the Coalition, much more seriously or face very serious consequences.

“I welcome the eSafety Commissioner’s decision to issue legal notices against some of the world’s largest tech companies about how they are combating child sexual exploitation and abuse.  This was made possible by the Online Safety Act 2021, a key online safety reform of the former Coalition government,” Senator Henderson said.

“Apple, Meta (Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram) Microsoft (and Skype), Snap and Omegle have 28 days to detail the steps they are taking to meet the Basic Online Safety Expectations (Expectations) or face fines of up to $555,000 a day. The first request requires these tech companies to detail what action they are taking to detect, report and prevent child sexual exploitation and abuse,” Senator Henderson said.

“The Expectations, a key part of the Online Safety Act, sets out the minimum online safety requirements of tech companies which wish to operate in Australia.  For far too long, these digital giants have failed to be transparent and accountable about how, if at all, they are protecting users from online harm and abuse.  They need to take their responsibilities under Australian law much more seriously.”

As reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, Apple reported to a US database last year only 160 instances of child exploitation, despite many of its 2 billion users having access to Facetime which can be used to livestream abuse.  

“Several weeks ago, I was very pleased to meet with the eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman-Grant, when we discussed the importance of the Expectations and the need to hold the big tech companies to account.  As the Commissioner has reiterated, there has been a surge in reports of this horrific child abuse material during the pandemic, particularly given the increasing ability for adults to contact children on a platform, as well as features such as livestreaming, anonymity, and end-to-end encryption.”

“I am very proud of the Coalition’s work to keep Australians safe online including delivering expanded powers under the Online Safety Act, mandatory industry codes and the Expectations.  The Albanese Government needs to do much more to protect Australians from online harm and abuse including legislating the Coalition’s online privacy bill and social media anti-trolling bill which it opposed when in opposition,” Senator Henderson concluded.

Media contact:
Senator Sarah Henderson
Stephanie Hunt | 0429 931 151
30 August 2022

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