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How can the Government improve online safety?

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It’s released an “issues paper” including proposals to safeguard Australians from the threats of technologies like deepfakes and AI.
The Federal Government is calling for public feedback on ways to improve online safety.

The Federal Government is calling for public feedback on ways to improve online safety.

It’s released an “issues paper” including proposals to safeguard Australians from the threats of technologies like deepfakes and AI.

The paper is part of a review of the Online Safety Act, due in October.

It comes amid escalating tensions between X owner Elon Musk and the Australian Government about the responsibility of platforms to limit harmful material.

Online Safety Act

The Online Safety Act came into effect in January 2022. It’s meant to protect Australians on the internet.

A review of the act was due by 2025. However, last year the Government announced it would bring the review forward to address concerns that the laws were becoming outdated.

This week, it published several proposals to update the legislation, including safeguards for users from threats of AI, deepfakes, and the non-consensual sharing of intimate images.

Proposals

The review said Australia had “low” penalties for online safety breaches by companies compared to fines for other kinds of illegal corporate behaviour.

It suggested that the Online Safety Act could be modified to better address “online hate” and occasions where individuals incite a “pile-on attack” on a social media user.

The review also noted state laws banning ‘posting and boasting’ about criminal activity online.

Generative AI

The review said the rise of generative AI tools like ChatGPT were a “prime example” of the need for new powers to limit online harm.

It called the technology “widely used at a scale far beyond what was possible” when the law passed in 2021.

The review noted potential harms from chatbot responses, biased algorithms, and “hyper realistic” deepfakes.

Tech giants

The review said Australia has fallen behind other countries in holding social media platforms to account.

It described a potential new model where companies could be penalised based on a percentage of their global revenue.

It noted “practical challenges” in enforcing measures on overseas-based platforms. However, the review suggested banning Australian companies from working with certain platforms as a potential solution in “exceptional circumstances”.

What happens next?

Public feedback on the potential reforms will be accepted until 21 June. Most submissions will be published online.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the Government wants to know “what the Australian public expects our online safety framework to accomplish”.

Public submissions are expected to influence the review’s final findings, due to the Government by 31 October.

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