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31 May 2023

UNICEF Australia has welcomed the announcement of strengthened protections for children online, in the form of industry codes and standards, which have been released today by Australia’s online watchdog, the eSafety Commissioner.            

 “Australian children are spending more time online than ever, and both they and their parents are rightly concerned about the risk of experiencing online harms and abuse, or being exposed to inappropriate content,” says John Livingstone, Online Policy Manager at UNICEF Australia. 

 “The industry codes and standards announced today by the eSafety Commissioner provide stronger rules which the tech industry must comply with - and gives better protections to keep our children safer online.

In particular, UNICEF Australia welcomes strengthened measures which will ultimately require services to better detect and act on child sexual abuse material.”

 As part of the consultation on the codes, UNICEF Australia called for greater ambition in protecting children’s safety in online environments including social media services, instant messaging and the like, and this announcement goes some way to making this a reality. 

 “We want Australia to be the safest place in the world for children to go online. We are grateful for the work of Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, which has put the interests of children first, by working with industry to develop this suite of codes, and where they were not strong enough – committing to developing standards which industry must reach instead,” says Mr Livingstone. 

 UNICEF Australia believes that the approach to children’s safety online should always be one seeking the highest level of protection, but without unduly limiting their right to be online, which has valuable benefits.

 “Australia is in many ways leading the world when it comes to online safety, establishing the world’s first government agency committed to keeping its citizens safer online - the eSafety Commissioner - and introducing world-first powers which gave the legal authority to compel tech companies to give answers to questions about how they are keeping people safe online. We should continue to lead by being at the forefront of creating safe digital environments for children.”

 UNICEF Australia welcomes the announcement of these strengthened protections, and looks forward to working through the detail of the revised codes, as well as participating in the public consultation on the eSafety drafted standards. 

 “We acknowledge the hard work that has gone into these codes from industry groups, from those who have responded to the consultations, and from the eSafety Commissioner. These codes are just the beginning, dealing with the most severe content, and there will be more work needed along the way to further protect children online – especially on social media sites, where children spend so much time. We are eager to work collaboratively with all involved on forthcoming codes and standards for other types of content, to help make Australia the safest place in the world for children to engage with digital environments.”