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Online Safety Act changes target child safety and AI | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey


Amendments to the Online Safety Act are incoming, as government begins consultation on proposed reforms to the Basic Online Safety Expectations which include new measures related to child safety, generative AI, recommender systems, and transparency, among other themes.

The Basic Online Safety Expectations (BOSE) set benchmarks for the online safety outcomes of social media, online messaging services, and other internet services like personal cloud storage services.

The expectations are agnostic regarding how particular safety outcomes must be met, meaning companies are free to determine their own regulation or technology-based processes. However, the BOSE Determination does include examples of what it says are reasonable steps service providers can take.

A legislated review of the Online Safety Act will also be brought forward, with public consultation to commence in early 2024 and expected to be completed in the second half of 2024.

The review will be led by former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Delia Rickard.

Communications minister Michelle Rowland at the National Press Club in November 2023. Image: X

In a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Ms Rowland said “the Basic Online Safety Expectations Determination sets out the government’s core expectations for the online industry and provide a clear message about our priorities, and the steps industry can take to address them”.

“The eSafety Commissioner can require online service providers to report on how they are meeting any or all of the Expectations,” Ms Rowland stated.

“Since last August, eSafety has issued three rounds of reporting notices to 12 companies, covering 27 different services – shining new light on what they are doing to counter child exploitation and abuse, and hateful conduct.”

To justify the introduction of the new BOSE, Ms Rowland said “it’s clear there is more industry can do on harms not explicitly set out in the current expectations”.

“That’s why today, I announce that the Albanese government will commence consultation to strengthen Australia’s Basic Online Safety Expectations – to address gaps, emerging harms, and further clarify the government’s expectations of industry.”

Among the expectations the government wants to add are the publication of transparency reports on at least an annual basis and ensuring providers of recommender services take steps to minimise the amplification of material or activity that is unlawful or harmful.

Annual transparency reports were previously a provision of the voluntary misinformation and disinformation codes developed by the Digital Industry Group industry body. However, X (formerly-Twitter) stopped publishing formal transparency reports in April.

The new transparency reporting expectation must include “information about the safety measures deployed on their service, the effectiveness of those measures, or how their service is enforcing its own terms of use, policies and procedures and standards of conduct”, according to the consultation paper.

Also new to the legislation is the introduction of the concept of the ‘best interest’ of a child, in addition to existing requirements around restrictive privacy and safety settings for services used by children.

Taking “reasonable steps to ensure that the best interests of the child are a primary consideration in the design and operation of any service” is among the new considerations.

This is accompanied by several other child safety expectations including that service providers are “continually seeking to develop, support or source, and implement improved technologies and processes for preventing access by children” to unlawful material and restricting access to age-inappropriate materials.

Other themes addressed in the government’s proposed additional expectations include hate speech, the safety impacts of business and resourcing decisions, and enforcement of terms of use.

The government is has also included “other clarification and improvements to the BOSE Determination”. Tech Council of Australia chief executive Kate Pounder welcomed the government’s approach to reforming the BOSE Determination.

“We think that the [reform] model, particularly for something like AI, of starting with existing laws and existing legal frameworks, identifying any gaps and trying to build on those is a good approach,” Ms Pounder told InnovationAus.com.

Public consultation on the proposed amendments will be open until February 16, 2024.

The release of these laws follow the launch of the eSafety Commissioner’s online safety standards which builds on her push to increase the use of scanning technologies to detect the child sexual abuse, pro-terror, and other harmful and unlawful material.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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