GPD has contributed to a new consultation by the Australian government on its proposed Online Safety Bill. The consultation invites stakeholders to provide feedback on a draft Online Safety Bill to improve Australia’s online safety legislation, and builds on an earlier consultation in 2020, which GPD also contributed to.
In our submission to the new consultation, GPD recognises the legitimate desire of the Australian government to tackle unlawful and harmful content online, and finds the majority of the proposals put forward in the draft Bill to be reasonable and sensible. We are also pleased that certain elements of this Bill appear to reflect, in part, the recommendations made in our 2020 submission.
However, we believe that particular aspects of the Bill, if taken forward in their current form, may still pose risks to individuals’ right to freedom of expression and privacy online, and could be inconsistent with Australia’s international human rights obligations.
In our submission, we relay our concerns and make a series of recommendations on how the proposals could be revised to mitigate these risks. We believe these considerations and recommendations, if incorporated into the final legislation, will help safeguard freedom of expression and privacy online.
Our recommendations include:
- Requiring the eSafety Commissioner, the country’s independent regulator for online safety, to consider Australia’s obligations under international human rights law, particularly freedom of expression and privacy, as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in its decisions
- Providing additional clarity on what measures are required for companies to comply with the core expectations under the Basic Online Safety Expectations (BOSE) framework, which would establish obligations and mandatory reporting requirements. For example, not obliging companies to use automated decision making to filter content at the point of upload, or requiring companies to weaken their use of encryption or other privacy-enhancing technologies
- Requiring that transparency reporting includes information on how companies are protecting freedom of expression and privacy on their services, as proposed in the UK Online Harms White Paper
- Instituting adequate appeals mechanisms so that individuals and companies ordered to remove or block content can challenge decisions before resorting to the court system
- Adopting a more flexible time frame for smaller companies or newer services should they be unable to comply with proposed the 24 hour take-down requirement, and enabling these companies to seek assistance from the Commissioner if they are unable to develop the necessary internal structures to be able to respond to notices
The submissions received will be used to inform changes to an exposure draft Online Safety Bill. We’ll be following the Bill’s progress closely—sign up to our monthly Digest for regular updates and analysis.