Submission to The Australian Government Consultation on a New Online Safety Act
IGEA recently made a submission to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications consultation on proposals for a new Online Safety Act.
We have responded to a consultation paper outlining some high level proposals for reforming the current online safety framework. Key points from our submission include:
- Video games are the part of the digital sector that have arguably implemented the most significant range of safety features to provide a safe and fun online environment, all industry-led, comprising safety features across both consoles and devices as well as in-game.
- We support well-designed and evidence-based online safety reforms. We think further consultation is needed to understand why such significant and broadly-scoped reforms are needed and the impact they will have.
- The proposed reforms take a “one size fits all” approach that treats video games sector like an extension of social media and messaging services, despite being completely different sectors. The reforms also impose the same regulatory burden on small businesses (such as an indie studio making its first game) as it does on major multinationals.
- Our views on some of the specific proposals include:
- There is potential for confusion and regulatory overlap between the Online Safety Charter, the Safety by Design framework and the proposed new Basic Online Safety Expectations.
- There is a lack of clarity around the expectation that games marketed to children default to the most restrictive privacy and safety settings, which sounds uncontroversial in principle but may result in some negative unintended consequences.
- The cyberbullying framework and particularly the takedown scheme is not well-suited to video games, for reasons including that communications on gaming platforms tend to be highly restricted, ephemeral, automatically filtered, easily reportable, based on pseudonyms and able to be deleted and even turned off entirely.
- The proposed reform of the online content scheme retains some of the double-regulation of the current framework where games need to comply with both the classification and online content schemes for the same content, potentially causing confusion for industry and consumers.
- There is a strong focus on increasing the eSafety Commissioner’s powers, despite the fact that some existing powers like those under the cyberbullying Scheme have never been used. As per the findings of the Briggs review, we believe there should also be a reform focus on prioritising and strengthening the eSafety Commissioner’s education and awareness-raising functions.
Given the high-level nature of the discussion paper and the significant scale of the proposed reforms, we expect further discussions will be needed following this consultation process, including on precise legislative design.
Our full submission can be downloaded here.
Further details on the review and copies of the Department’s consultation paper and fact sheets can be found here.