GPD contributes to consultation on Australia’s proposed Online Safety Act

18 Feb 2020

GPD has contributed to a consultation by the Australian government on a new legislative approach to online safety.

The consultation invited stakeholders to respond to a discussion paper, setting out a series of questions on the proposed new law, the Online Safety Act. 

In our submission, GPD acknowledges the legitimate desire of the Australian government to tackle unlawful and harmful content online, and finds the majority of the proposals put forward to be reasonable and sensible. 

However, we believe that certain aspects of the proposals—if taken forward in their current form—pose risks to individuals’ right to freedom of expression or privacy online and could be inconsistent with Australia’s international human rights obligations.

In the submission, we make thirteen specific recommendations on how the proposals in the discussion paper should be refined and revised, as well as guidance on building in specific safeguards for freedom of expression and privacy.

Across the submission, our key recommendations include:

  • Giving the eSafety Commissioner a clear responsibility to consider freedom of expression in its decisions, and the power to seek external expertise when making decisions about content takedowns;
  • Instituting adequate appeals mechanisms, so that individuals and companies ordered to remove content can challenge decisions;
  • Not obliging companies to filter content at the point of upload using artificial intelligence or other forms of automated decision making; and
  • Ensuring that any subsequent expansion of the scope of “seriously harmful content” is done through primary legislation, to allow comprehensive democratic oversight.

 

Next Steps:

This consultation process—which closes tomorrow—will inform the government’s development of the Online Safety Act. No timeline has yet been outlined for when the government will respond to the results of the consultation. 

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