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​Australia's online safety legislation to be probed

The Australian government is reviewing existing online safety legislation to ensure the framework can still appropriately protect those moving through cyberspace.

The federal government will be looking into the state of online safety in Australia, announcing two independent reviews of existing legislation in a bid to ensure it remains "effective and relevant".

Former Australian Public Service Commissioner Lynelle Briggs will lead the pair of reviews that will specifically be probing the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015, which sets out the powers, functions, and governance arrangements for the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

A statement from Australian Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said Briggs will examine whether the provisions in the Online Safety Act remain fit-for-purpose, while she will also simultaneously review Schedules 5 and 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to look at the type of content covered and best practice approaches for regulating online content.

The Broadcasting Services Act regulates the internet and content services industries in relation to prohibited content.

"The reviews will ensure we continue to have the right controls and support systems in place to protect Australians against harmful online content and ensure people can confidently participate in the online environment," Fifield said.

"We are focused on ensuring we have the right measures in place to address illegal or offensive content, and that the Office of the eSafety Commissioner has the appropriate powers to help Australians if and when they need it."

As part of its review, the federal government is seeking submissions on Australia's online safety regulatory framework, including the operation and effectiveness of the Office of the eSafety Commissioner and the Online Content Scheme.

As a result of the consultation, it is expected the submissions will help inform the independent reviews to ensure there are proper legislative controls and support systems in place to protect Australians from harm online.

It is expected the reviews will be completed by the end of September 2018 and a report provided to Fifield shortly thereafter.

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner was established as part of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in July 2015.

The eSafety Commissioner, currently Julie Inman-Grant, works to promote online safety for all Australians, particularly children, by undertaking research; coordinating online safety activities of Australian government departments, authorities, and agencies; and acting as chair of the Government's Online Safety Consultative Working Group.

The eSafety Commissioner also administers a complaints system for cyberbullying material, and has the power to fine social media companies for not removing content deemed to be of a bullying, offensive, or illegal nature.

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