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Revenge porn, online abuse targeted in new laws

New online safety laws have come into force in Australia from today, providing extra protections for people targeted on the internet.

The Online Safety Act, which has been in development for the past year, will expand online protections in a number of areas.

The new Adult Cyber Abuse Scheme will allow eSafety to fine or otherwise penalise people who post serious online abuse targeting adults.

New laws will provide extra penalties for illicit online activity. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The service provider could also be punished if they fail to remove it.

“Under the law, to reach the threshold the abuse must be both ‘intended to cause serious harm’, and ‘menacing, harassing or offensive in all the circumstances’,” eSafety said in a release.

“Serious harm could include material which sets out realistic threats, places people in real danger, is excessively malicious or is unrelenting.

“If a matter does not meet the threshold, we will still be able to offer support, information and advice.”

Threatening behaviour is being targeted. (Louise Kennerly)

The Cyberbullying Scheme for Australian children has also been bolstered, with eSafety now allowed to order service providers to remove offending content not just from social media sites, but also from online services where a lot of children spend their time, including online game chats, websites, and direct messaging platforms.

The time for providers to take down revenge porn or other “intimate images” has now been halved.

Web services will now have just 24 hours to take action after being notified by eSafety.

Providers that fail to do so repeatedly can now also be named and shamed by the commission.

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Web providers can also be ordered to block access to anything that “promotes, incites, instructs in or depicts abhorrent violent conduct, such as rape, torture, murder, attempted murder and terrorist acts”.

This would mean horrific attacks like the 2019 Christchurch mosque massacre, which saw video stream on Facebook, could be blocked more quickly.

Providers who don’t comply with orders to take down illegal or restricted content could be penalised up to $111,000 for individuals and $555,000 for corporations.

The eSafety commission, as a “last resort”, can also now apply for a court order to block a provider or social media service that poses a “serious threat” to public safety.

The Online Safety Act has now come into force and makes Australia’s existing laws for online safety more expansive and much stronger,” eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said.

“These new laws cement eSafety’s role as a world leader in online safety. They place Australia at the international forefront in the fight against online abuse and harm – providing additional protections for Australians in the fight against online harms through our approach of prevention, protection, and proactive change in the online space.”

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