Government expands eSafety Commissioner’s remit

Legislation broadens eSafety Commissioner’s responsibilities

Government legislation formally transforming the position of the Children's eSafety Commissioner into the eSafety Commissioner was yesterday passed by the Senate.          

The government in February introduced the bill expand the commissioner’s responsibilities.

“The expansion of the commissioner’s general functions...  will allow the commissioner to take on a broader online safety role and carry out important work on the government’s election commitments relating to women’s safety, and to online safety for older Australians,” urban infrastructure minister Paul Fletcher said in February when he introduced the bill in the lower house.

“The changes will make it easier for the public to identify where they can seek assistance and advice on a range of online safety issues, including additional guidance for vulnerable Australian communities,” said a statement issued today by communications minister Senator Mitch Fifield and minister for women Senator Michaelia Cash.

Julie Inman Grant was appointed to the commissioner role in November, replacing Alastair MacGibbon, who last year was appointed to the role of Prime Minister’s Special Advisor on Cyber Security.

The government has said the commissioner’s expanded remit will allow her to help tackle the non-consensual sharing of intimate images (so-called ‘revenge porn’).

The Department of Communications and the Arts is currently conducting a public consultation on the issue. A government discussion paper proposes introducing a new civil penalty regime at the federal level.

The government has argued that a specific ‘revenge porn’ criminal offence is primarily a matter for the states and territories, and in addition that it is already an offence to use a carriage service to “to menace, harass or cause offence”.

Last year a parliamentary inquiry recommended that the government consider empowering a federal agency to issue notices to service providers, such as social media sites, requiring them to remove intimate images that have been created and/or shared without consent.

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