eSafety commissioner to organise uniform penalties for revenge porn

Australia's new eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant will work towards bringing forth consistent penalties for revenge porn across Australia, and oversee the development of an online reporting platform.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced the appointment of online safety expert Julie Inman Grant as Australia's new eSafety commissioner.

Inman Grant, who has worked at the intersection of the digital world, public safety, and public policy, will help bring the states and territories together to deliver consistent penalties for the distribution of non-consensual intimate images and videos -- commonly referred to as "revenge porn".

The new eSafety commissioner will also oversee the development of an online reporting platform that the government dedicated AU$4.8 million to in October. The platform, which is slated to be launched next year, will allow people to report cases where a photo or video of a sexual nature or one which depicts nudity has been shared or distributed without consent, as well as access immediate support.

While criminal penalties exist at a federal level, they are often time-consuming for victims to pursue.

"The civil penalty regime is more attractive in terms of getting a more prompt response for those involved," Minister for Women Michaelia Cash said on Wednesday.

In October, stricter punishments were announced for perpetrators of revenge porn in South Australia. Anyone who sends, or threatens to send, an "indecent" or "invasive" image of anyone under the age of 17 can land a jail sentence of up to two years or a AU$100,000 fine.

Threats against adults now have a maximum penalty of one year in jail or a AU$5,000 fine in South Australia.

At the Council of Australian Governments meeting in December, the federal government will consult on a penalties regime targeted at both perpetrators and sites that host images and videos shared without a person's content.

The government said there are more than 3,000 websites hosting revenge porn around the world, with women making up 90 percent of the images.

Inman Grant said the key to combating revenge porn is an online safety tool and education.

"These education efforts need to start as early as in the nursery and be reinforced in the classroom, lounge room, bedroom, and ultimately the boardroom, to have the kind of societal and systemic impact we need to make," she said.

The eSafety commissioner admitted that getting international websites to take down images is an ongoing challenge.

"There is no great Australian firewall," Inman Grant said, pointing to the need for cooperation between law-enforcement bodies.

Moving forward, Inman Grant will be working closely with Turnbull's cybersecurity adviser Alastair MacGibbon.

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner was established as part of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in July 2015 and has the power to fine social media companies for not removing content deemed to be of a bullying, offensive, or illegal nature.

In July, the office commented on its first 12 months in operation, reporting that it conducted more than 7,400 investigations into child sexual abuse content found online.

In the three months to September 2016, it responded to 70 serious cyberbullying complaints, representing a 75 increase over the same period last year.

The eSafety Commissioner also manages the existing eSafetyWomen website, which offers resources to help women manage technology risks and abuse. The eSafetyWomen website was established with a AU$2.1 million funding commitment from the Turnbull government's Women's Safety Package announced in September 2015.

Earlier in November, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security Dan Tehan announced the appointment of Dr Tobias Feakin as Australia's first ambassador for cyber affairs.

With AAP

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