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Media and Internet Law and Practice Noticeboard November 2021 - The Online Safety Act 2021

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The new release of the Media and Internet Law and Practice online service provides a detailed summary of the new Online Safety Act 2021. Here we present an overview of what this new act entails. 

In keeping up with the ever-evolving and ever-dynamic field that is technology, the new Online Safety Act 2021 (Cth) and the Online Safety (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2021 (Cth) (together, the “Online Safety Law”) were introduced in the Parliament in February 2021 and received Royal Assent on 23 July 2021. Their provisions are due to commence on 23rd January 2022. 

While the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 (Cth) focused on keeping Australian children safe online, the consequent amendment to the Act in 2017 expanded its remit to include all Australians. The new 2021 Act builds on this strong foundation to “enhance the protections for Australians from online harms, improve industry accountability for the safety of users, and enable the eSafety Commissioner to operate as a strong and effective regulator”, according to the Explanatory Memorandum of the Online Safety Act 2021 (Cth). 

The Online Safety Law consolidates a number of laws applying to online safety in Australia, creating a new framework in which the role of the eSafety Commissioner has been strengthened. It encompasses:

• a new online content scheme to replace the scheme in Schedules 5 and 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA), modernising that scheme by updating the service providers regulated and broadening its territorial application;

• replication of provisions in the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 that protect Australians from non-consensual sharing of intimate images;

• a new complaints-based removal notice scheme for cyber-abuse against Australian adults in addition to that relating to children;

• protection against cyber-bullying beyond that which takes place on social media services;

• reduction in the timeframe for online service providers to respond to takedown notices from 48 to 24 hours;

• expansion of regulation to apply to the providers of app distribution services and internet search engine services; and

• establishment of a specific and targeted power for the eSafety Commissioner to direct ISPs to block domains containing abhorrent violent material.

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