Articles > eCommerce

What is the Online Safety Act 2021?

November 23, 2022   Arnav GandhiPhilip Evangelou

On the 23rd of January 2022 , the Online Safety Act 2021 came into effect. The Act serves to bolster and expand existing online safety laws by providing a clear set of responsibilities for online services providers and users. It is enforced by the eSafety Commissioner who has powers to block access to violent or abhorrent material, monitor complaints and administer penalties.

The Act is significant as it  broadens the scope and nature of online regulations. It applies to:

  • Social Media Services 
  • Relevant electronic services
  • Designated internet services
  • Internet search engine services
  • App distribution services
  • Hosting services
  • Internet carriage services
  • End users of these services

Basic Online Safety Code

Social Media Services are subject to the most regulation under the Act, however there is legislative scope for other service providers to be regulated under additional codes . All providers are required to now comply with the Basic Online Safety Code which states that these providers should take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of harm of end users. 

Such steps include 

  • Making sure they are restrictions to children accessing the service if the service is adult in nature 
  • Creating a clear and accessible complaints service that allows users to report cyber bullying and any breach of the Terms of Service and respond to those complaints within 48 hours. 
  • Preventing anonymous accounts from using the service for unlawful or harmful purposes 

You read a detailed summary of the Basic Online Safety Code here.

The eSafety Commissioner

In addition, the eSafety Commissioner now can restrict access to content through 4 new notices. 

If the Commissioners finds content through their own investigation or via complaint that is harmful, abusive or abhorrent they can issue a

  1. Removal Notice: requiring  a provider to take all reasonable steps necessary  to remove the material. 
  2. Blocking Notice: Internet service providers can be required to block access to material that depicts, incites or instructs abhorrent violent conduct. This if the material is likely to cause significant harm to the community. 
  3. App Removal Notice: App distribution service providers may need to prevent users from downloading an app that permits the posting of certain material. 
  4. Link Deletion Notice: Internet search engine providers may be required to cease offering a link to certain material.

Providers have 24 hours to respond to these notices. If you fail to comply with these notices the Commissioner may impose  formal warnings, infringement notices, enforceable undertakings, injunctions and civil penalties. Civil penalties for corporations range between $111,000  and $555,000. 

What should I do as a Service Provider?

  • We recommend all services provides and platforms read up on the Basic Online Safety Code and implement any requirements 
  • Ensure you have an adequate and efficient complaints system  that allows you to respond to complaints within 48 hours. 
  • Develop policies addressing abuse and cyberbullying within your Terms and Services
  • Have procedures to respond to a notice from the eSafety Commissioner within 24 hours. 
  • Update your privacy policy to notify users you may be required to divulge personal information if required by the eSaftety Commissioner. 

We can review and edit your Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy to ensure you comply with this Act.

About Arnav Gandhi

Arnav is a 3rd year student studying Commerce and Law at Macquarie University. He is interested in Commercial Transactions in the Startup and Venture Capital space. In his spare time he likes to read and keep fit.

About Philip Evangelou

phillipPhil is a director at OpenLegal. He has over 16 years experience working in private practice and in-house counsel in Sydney and London, giving him expertise in employment law, IP, finance, leases, dispute resolution, insurance and contracts.