New standards to tackle online child abuse content

Australians are being asked to have their say on a new code that would protect online users against harmful content, including on dating and gaming platforms. 

Draft industry standards that would cover big tech companies aim to regulate online child sex abuse material and terrorism content. 

The standards will cover online and messaging platforms and address the distribution and storage of fake child sexual abuse content created through the use of artificial intelligence. 

Platforms will need to act proactively to take down such content and stop it from being uploaded in the first place.

Adequate complaints processes also need to be in place, as well as giving users access to information that can help keep them safe and reduce the risk of the harmful content surfacing and being shared. 

Previous codes drafted by the industry lacked a strong commitment to identify and remove known child sexual abuse material, eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said.

“eSafety, and indeed the wider community, expect that all online services should be taking all reasonable steps to prevent their services from being used to store, share and distribute this horrific content," she said.

The new standards would not require messaging platforms to break end-to-end encryption or create back doors to their systems, so data would be kept safe, the commissioner said. 

But companies could not use data privacy protection as a "free pass to do nothing about these criminal acts".

“Our focus is on ensuring industry take meaningful steps to prevent the proliferation of seriously harmful content like child sexual abuse material," Ms Inman Grant said.

"Many in industry, including encrypted services, are already taking such steps achieve these important outcomes."

This includes WhatsApp scanning the non-encrypted parts of its service - including profiles, chat names and pictures - that indicate accounts are sharing child abuse material. 

The eSafety commissioner would use enforcement powers when necessary, Ms Inman Grant said. 

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

Lifeline 13 11 14

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)

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