Online safety bill passes the Australian senate

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Online safety bill passes the Australian senate

After being introduced in February.

A controversial online safety bill passed the Australian senate on Tuesday night, moving the rules closer to becoming law.

The Online Safety Bill 2021 establishes schemes to protect cyber abuse victims by forcing social media companies, internet and hosting providers to remove harmful material within 24 hours.

The eSafety commissioner will also be granted stronger powers to block access to domains and URLs where material is hosted.

Communications minister Paul Fletcher, who introduced the bill to the federal government in February, said “the Act represents a step-change for eSafety”.

“[The rules] tighten [the eSafety Commissioner's] powers in existing areas, and create a new reporting scheme that will allow the eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, to take action to remove toxic cyber-abuse, when online platforms fail to do so,” Fletcher said.

A senate committee gave the bill the green light after delivering recommendations in March.

The committee said the aims of the legislation were “strongly supported” however, expressed concerns over the commissioner's future powers.  

Similar concerns were raised by Google Australia, which worried about the fast rate the legislation was moving.

Google Australia added it was “often impossible for a cloud provider to remove individual pieces of content”, which the internet giant said the bill fails to address.

The Online Safety Bill is expected to shortly pass through the House and take effect six months later.

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