​Children's eSafety Commissioner conducted 7,400 child abuse investigations in first year

The release of a 12-month report card by the department tasked to deal with underage content posted on social media sites in the country has shown it conducted over 7,400 investigations into online child sexual abuse content.

In its first 12 months of operation, the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner reported it conducted in excess of 7,400 investigations into child sexual abuse content found online.

The eSafety office also said in its yearly report card that 186 serious cyberbullying complaints were received, with 71 percent of the claims relating to young women. Predominantly, those complaints involved harmful comments, name-calling, and the posting of offensive or upsetting images or videos online.

In the 12-month period, the report card showed the office had educated more than 59,000 students across Australia through its virtual classrooms, which includes video presentations delivered online by eSafety office trainers. It also conducted face-to-face presentations to 71,000 Australians.

The eSafety website also received over 2.9 million page views, the office said.

The Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner was set up as part of the Australian Communications and Media Authority in July 2015 by the federal government to appropriately deal with content that has been posted on social media sites in the country after research it conducted found that over a 12-month period, as many as one in five Australian children aged eight to 17 have experienced cyberbullying.

The office has the role of removing online content that is deemed to be cyberbullying and developing a "cyberbullying civil notice regime", as well as dealing with complaints about offensive and illegal content. Parents, guardians, and children can lodge complaints to the office, which then investigates the content.

The department has the authority to force social media companies, such as Twitter and Facebook, to remove content deemed to be of a bullying, offensive, or illegal nature. Those that do not comply face fines of AU$17,000 per day.

In its six-month report card, the eSafety office said it resolved 92 cyberbullying complaints with the related content removed in less than eight hours and that more than 2,500 children were referred to the Kids Helpline counselling service as a result of its involvement.

5,561 investigations were carried out online by the office, and the department also worked with 50 international partners to remove over 4,000 URLs that contained child sexual abuse material.

"These accounts may not only damage the reputation of the child who has had their identity misused, but also harms others who are targeted by the cyberbullying coming from the account," former eSafety Commissioner Alastair MacGibbon said.

"As an office we will continue to provide support for young people and the community, to enable them to have positive experiences online. We look to the next six months for bigger challenges, as online risks and threats evolve."