A new cybersecurity bill that extends the cyber removal function to adults and cuts half of the removal responses has entered the Australian Parliament.
As detailed in Online Security Bill 2021, the new scheme, based on the existing cyberbullying scheme for children, provides a mechanism for those experiencing the most serious harmful abuse on the internet to remove this material from the internet. It empowers the Australian eSafety Commissioner to order the removal of such material when websites, social media and other online services do not do so after a complaint has been lodged.
The eSafety Commissioner will have the power to issue notices of direct removal of services, as well as end users responsible for abusive content.
“Sharing intimate images without consent is a terrible thing to do and causes great concern for victims,” Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said, introducing Bill on Wednesday.
The bill also expands the cyberbullying scheme for children, enabling eSafety to order the removal of material from further online services such as games, websites, messaging and hosting services – not just social media platforms.
Online platforms will also see the amount of time it takes them to retrieve content after taking halfway through an eSafety security – from 48 hours to 24 hours.
If a website or app systematically ignores removal notices for Class I material under the Internet Content Scheme, such as child sexual abuse material, the eSafety Commissioner may request that search engines and app stores remove access to that service.
These protections will be backed by civil penalties – up to AU $ 550,000 for companies and AU $ 111,000 for individuals.
The bill also sets out basic Internet security expectations for digital platforms, Fletcher said. These expectations will apply to service providers including social media, messaging apps and games and designated internet services, such as websites, he explained.
The draft law allows the responsible minister to determine the details of these expectations through the legislative instrument. The Minister may also specify that the expectations apply to specific services.
“We expect service providers to take reasonable steps to ensure that Australians are able to use their service in a safe manner,” Fletcher said. “We expect the services not to be able to be used to mistreat or humiliate Australians and we expect service providers to provide clear and easily identifiable mechanisms for users to report and file complaints about unacceptable use.” .
See also: Australian senators want digital giants “restrained” beyond the Code of Media Agreements
eSafety also gets the power to publish statements about the performance of digital platforms in meeting government expectations.
“The goal is to bring an improvement to the digital security practices of digital platforms, where they no longer reach,” Fletcher continued.
“The Australian Government believes that the digital industry needs to grow and do more to keep their users safe.”
As a result, the Bill would require the development of new and updated industry codes, such as those that prevent children from setting up online accounts without the consent of an adult, providing access to a filtered Internet service if desired a user, and the provision of information regarding Internet security and procedures for dealing with prohibited and illegal Internet content.
“We expected that every section of the online industry would produce updated and strengthened industry codes within six months of the start of this law,” the minister said.
The bill reforms the online content scheme so that a Class I material or material that is so disgusting that the classification is rejected will no longer need to be reviewed and classified by the classification board before eSafety orders its removal .
It also gives the commissioner the power to issue notices of the removal of particularly wildly illegal content providers, such as child sexual exploitation material organized outside of Australia, and which may be accessed by end users in Australia.
The commissioner will also take on the ability to prevent search engines from being the channel of illegal content on the internet, giving it the power to issue a link deletion notice by asking the search engine to stop providing a link to the material within 24 hours.
Further, Bill allows eSafety to issue removal notices that give app stores one day to remove applications that facilitate the posting of first-class material.
Following the eSafety commissioner in September 2019 issuing an instruction to the country’s ISPs to continue blocking websites holding video of the Christchurch terrorist attack and agreeing to new protocols with the ISP in March to block such content, the new law offers further action.
It introduces a specific and targeted power for the eSafety Commissioner to direct ISPs to block certain areas containing terrorist or extremely violent material, for limited periods of time, in the event of an online crisis event.
“The Commissioner will need to consider the nature and potential scope of the material describing, promoting, inciting or instigating disgusting violent behavior and be convinced that this will cause significant harm to the Australian community and that a urgent response, “said Fletcher.
When anonymous accounts are used to share disturbing or illegal content, or to attack abuses, the Law clarifies and strengthens the collection of information and eSafety investigative powers to unmask their identities.
This allows the commissioner to request that social media services, relevant electronic services and certain internet services provide identity and contact information regarding end-users in relation to cyberbullying, cyberbullying, image-based harassment or banned content online.
Civil penalties will apply to services that fail to comply with a written notice from the commissioner.
“We all enjoy standards of conduct and civilization in the town square that keep us safe and there are appropriate mechanisms and sanctions for those who break those rules; the Australian government believes the digital town square should also be a safe place and that there must be consequences for those who use the internet to cause harm to others, “Fletcher said. “This bill contains a comprehensive set of measures designed in accordance with this belief.”
Introduced simultaneously was Internet Security (Transitional Provisions and Subsequent Changes) Bill 2021 [PDF], which repeals Enhancing the Online Security Act 2015 with the launch of the new Law on Online Security.
“The Online Safety Bill will become the new possible legislation for the Security Commissioner in Australia and will strengthen and expand the Commissioner’s powers to keep Australians safe online,” Fletcher said, noting that many factions will pass in the new Act to create a single Law.
Among other things, the Law increases the maximum sentences from three years imprisonment to five years. Making changes to parts of Act of the Criminal Code 1995, The Act seeks to punish offenders who continue to offend with higher sentences.
“These changes reflect the expectations of the Australian public that the punishment for this type of behavior is commensurate with the seriousness of the offense,” Fletcher said.
The draft consultation on the Draft Law received 370 submissions.
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