eSafety Commissioner’s new powers come into force next year

By Melissa Coade

November 23, 2021

Julie Inman Grant
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant says 1 in 10 Australians are affected by image-based abuse. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Australia’s new Online Safety Act, which aims to better protect victims of image-based abuse, will come into effect from the end of January 2022.

Under the act, the commissioner’s new powers relating to Image-Based Abuse Scheme rules have been introduced with the goal of better protecting victims whose intimate images (including deep fakes) have been published to an online platform without their consent. 

Once the powers come into effect on January 23, the office of the eSafety Commissioner will be able to issue removal notices to online platforms with a 24-hour action period. The notice periods are currently 48 hours.

According to eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant, 1 in 10 Australians are affected by image-based abuse. Younger women from the ages of 18 to 25 years are further disproportionately harmed, with 1 in 5 people in this group affected.

“Under the new rules, eSafety can also name and shame platforms that allow publication of non-consensually shared intimate images on two or more occasions in a 12-month period and are in breach of their own terms of service,” Inman Grant said.

“This is a way to call out platforms that aren’t doing enough to combat image-based abuse.”

Perpetrators who threaten to share (in an act coined as ‘sextortion’) or actually share images that include sexual images and images of victims without religious or cultural attire will face penalties of up to $11,000 under the new rules. This is on top of the risk of charges for these crimes.

The same goes for those who use new types of technologies against victims. 

“The changes will also cover image-based abuse via new types of technologies as they become more popular in the future, such as deep fakes and immersive technologies – all tech trends and challenges we have previously identified,” Inman Grant said.

The commission handled 2,687 complaints concerning intimate images that had been shared without consent in the 2019/20 financial year and has achieved an 85% success rate in seeing that the content is removed.

“The new changes mean victims of image-based abuse can be further assured that both perpetrators and platforms will face severe consequences,” Inman Grant added. 

A series of new regulatory guidance documents will be released by eSafety before the end of the year, including a paper on the updated Image-Based Abuse Scheme. The document is intended to give industry clarity into how the office of the commissioner will administer its protective schemes and when and where it will wield its strengthened enforcement powers.


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