‘New era’ of transparency as eSafety demands more information from tech firms

eSafety Commissioner Social media

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner has announced it will require detailed information from service providers, such as Meta, WhatsApp, Apple, Microsoft, Skype, Snap and Omegle, listing steps these companies are taking to meet eSafety’s Basic Online Safety Expectations, in a move to strengthen transparency for the digital industry.

The legal notices, which have been issued by the eSafety Commissioner to the said companies, will require each organisation to explain what they are doing to meet the Australian Government’s expectations set out in the Online Safety Act 2021 and supporting legislative instrument. The first round of reports focus on how the companies were addressing child sexual exploitation material.

The Basic Online Safety Expectations are a key element of the Online Safety Act 2021 and aim to ensure that social media, messaging, gaming and app services and website providers take reasonable steps to keep the citizens safe online.

Under the Act, eSafety is equipped with powers to demand reporting from providers to improve their transparency and accountability.

Following the decision to issue legal notices, the said tech companies will be required to report to the eSafety Commissioner within 28 days. Failure to report may result in fines of up to $555,000 a day.

Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, has welcomed the requests issued by the eSafety Commissioner and said it marked a key step in the implementation of the Basic Online Safety Expectations.

“The reporting from industry will help inform future government decisions around what needs to be done to protect Australians online, and improve transparency to the public,” Rowland said.

“We urge service providers to comply with notices from the eSafety Commissioner and report on the steps they are taking to keep Australians safe online.”