The Australian government announced a number of measures for enhancing online safety for all Australians and providing clarity for reporting online safety issues, following the passage of the Enhancing Online Safety for Children Amendment Bill 2017.
The bill renames the Children's eSafety Commissioner as the eSafety Commissioner, and the expanding the role to responsibility for the online safety of all Australians, not just children.
The eSafety Commissioner will be tasked with improving the digital confidence and skills of senior Australians, and establishing a national online complaints mechanism where victims can report cases of intimate photos or videos (revenge porn) being posted without consent and access support.
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.
Digital skills and knowledge for senior Australians
Though face-to-face contact remains an important form of engagement for seniors, technology can provide an important avenue to keep senior Australians connected, especially to family and friends and it can help them retain their independence. But only around 20 per cent of senior Australians own a smartphone. Lack of confidence and knowledge is often cited as one of the main reasons for not participating online.To rectify this situation, the government will invest AU$50 million on a digital inclusion and online safety strategy for senior Australians.
The digital literacy strategy will complement existing programmes and draw on the expertise and knowledge of the community sector. Senior Australians who have access to existing devices will be supported to learn how to take full advantage to keep in touch and stay connected.
Existing community infrastructure such as libraries, retirement villages, community centres, CWA (Country Women’s Association) halls, and aged care facilities will be leveraged for initiatives like smart device training, small technology grants for these institutions to purchase equipment like smart devices (modelled on the existing volunteer grants funded by the Department of Social Services).
Revenge porn and domestic violence
The government notes that while perpetrators can use the new mediums to subject victims to intimidation and harassment, the technologies also present innovative ways in which to educate and protect those who might be at risk of technology-facilitated abuse.
AU$10 million to support victims of revenge porn and domestic violence. The amount will be invested in initiatives to: 1) Establish a national online complaints mechanism where victims can report cases of intimate photos or videos being posted without consent (ie. “revenge porn”) and access immediate and tangible support; 2) Counter the impact of pornography in society with targeted information and educational resources to shift attitudes and behaviours in young people; 3) Identify gaps in, and impediments to, information sharing about victims and perpetrators of domestic, family and sexual violence between jurisdictions; and 4) Strengthen research and data collection around the forms of violence experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
The additional $10 million will be funded through the $100 million allocated in this year’s Budget to fund the Third Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.
In addition, the Government is currently seeking feedback on implementing civil penalties for the non-consensual sharing of intimate images. Submissions can be made through the Department of Communications and the Arts' ‘Have your say' website.