eSafety Commissioner begins consultation on plan to protect kids from pornography

By Shannon Jenkins

Monday August 16, 2021

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The Australian eSafety Commissioner has this week commenced a consultation process on a system that would protect children from online pornography by confirming their age.

The consultation with industry, stakeholder groups and experts will inform a roadmap for the implementation of a mandatory age verification regime for online pornographic material.

The roadmap, which is due to be presented to the government next year, was recommended by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs in February 2020.

The eSafety Commissioner’s work will align with a separate consultation process on updates to Australia’s restricted access system (RAS) declaration, which aims to protect children from exposure to inappropriate content.

The RAS changes will focus on technological developments since 2007 and will apply to services provided from Australia, and services hosting material in Australia. For example, services could be required to place R18+ material behind a restricted access system so it can’t be accessed by viewers under the age of 18.

Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the two initiatives would help shield kids from online content that they were not mentally, emotionally, or developmentally ready for.

“Inappropriate content like violent or extreme pornography that young children may encounter by accident can be distressing and even harmful, while for older children who may seek out this material, the risk is that it will give them unrealistic and potentially damaging ideas about what intimate relationships should look like,” she said.

“Age verification, as overseas experience has shown, is a complex issue, so it is important that all sections of the community are able to be heard. We will take a considered, evidence-based approach that takes into account feedback from industry, stakeholders, experts and the public, to find workable solutions.”

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