This month we submitted our response to the open consultation regarding the Government of Australia’s Online Safety Bill.

You can read our full consultation response here.

There are several positive aspects worth highlighting in the Bill, such as the e-Safety Commissioner’s clear legal standing and the Government’s focus on improving the systems and processes that underpin content moderation, not only on content itself. We strongly support any work that helps raise tech sector standards and their capacity to take action against illegal content and activity. We see potential in the Bill to create legal mechanisms for action on terrorist operated websites (TOWs), sites which are run by terrorist groups in order to archive and store terrorist propaganda.

However, we are concerned that the Government has not paid full attention to the Bill’s potential effect on freedom of expression online and the capacity of smaller tech companies to meet these new regulatory standards. We also believe that in its current state, the Bill will not counter terrorist use of the internet effectively. 

Based on our reading of the draft Bill, we recommend that the Government of  Australia: 

  1. Avoids introducing measures that risk undermining the rule of law, for example by  removing legal content or contributing to extra-legal norm-setting.
  1. Clarifies what safeguards are or will be put in place to avoid removal of legal content.
  1. Clarifies what redress mechanisms are or will be put in place in cases of erroneous  removal, with particular regards to app removal and link deletion orders.
  1. Provides clear definitions of key terms such as ‘serious harm’ to avoid the risk of reliance of subjective interpretation.
  1. Introduces segmented and proportionate levels of responsibility for tech companies, in particular avoiding financial penalties for smaller or micro-platforms. 
  1. Provides evidence as to why a 24-hour content removal deadline is required.
  1. Provides assurances that the e-Safety Commissioner’s Office carries out its activities with the fullest respect for freedom of expression and  human rights.
  1. Continues to use existing legal instruments which have been proven to be effective against terrorist use of the internet, e.g. improving designation of  terrorist groups, particularly far-right groups. 

You can read our full consultation response here.