Complaints to the eSafety Commissioner
How to Make a Complaint
Complaints to the Australian eSafety Commissioner must be in writing and must include the following details:
- your name and contact details;
- internet address of the content and any other details required to access it (e.g. a password);
- description of the internet content; and
- the reason/s you feel the content is objectionable.
What Happens to Complaints?
Once the eSafety Commissioner receives a complaint it is obliged to investigate it. If the content is hosted in Australia and is prohibited or likely to be prohibited, the eSafety Commissioner will direct the Internet Content Host (ICH) to remove the content from their service. Prohibited content is that which is or would be classified RC or X by the Classification Board. As part of an investigation the eSafety Commissioner may request the Classification Board to classify the content according to its guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games.
If an Australian site hosts the RC or X material, the eSafety Commissioner will issue a “take-down notice”. If the ICH is aware of the content and does not comply, they will be fined. In serious cases (e.g. involving child pornography), state or territory police can also become involved. Depending on the state or territory, the content provider, the ICH and the Internet Service Provider (ISP), if they knew the content was illegal, may all be prosecuted and face a fine or a jail term.
If the RC or X content is hosted outside Australia, the Australian co-regulatory scheme does not apply to the off-shore ICH. However, Australian ISPs are subject to the scheme. When an ISP is issued an “access-prevention notice” by the eSafety Commissioner, it must comply with Internet Industry Codes of Practice or an industry standard, or take reasonable steps to block overseas-hosted material.
The Codes of Practice require an ISP to have an approved filter on its system for this purpose. The eSafety Commissioner will forward the content details to the filter makers or suppliers so that they can update the software. The eSafety Commissioner also regularly notifies ISPs about prohibited or potentially prohibited content. In serious cases the Australian Federal Police or the relevant overseas law enforcement agencies may become involved.
R content hosted without a restricted access system will be removed until the ICH installs an appropriate one. A restricted access system must have a registration process where applicants prove that they are at least 18. Subscribers have to input a special PIN number or password before they can access the R material. Depending on the state or territory and the particular situation, if children have accessed the material, police may prosecute the content provider, the ICH and the ISP.
What else can be done?
Besides the complaints system, the shared effort to regulate internet content includes Codes of Practice developed by the Internet Industry Association. While the Codes are largely voluntary and self-regulated, the eSafety Commissioner can direct particular ISPs and ICHs to comply with their responsibilities under the Codes. The eSafety Commissioner can also implement mandatory industry standards where there is no code or the code is inadequate. Compliant ISPs are registered with the eSafety Commissioner and entitled to display a “family-friendly” Ladybird seal.
Education and information are another aspect of the co-regulatory scheme. This is justified on the principle that industry and the community have their own responsibilities to comply with the codes and to help prevent inappropriate access by children.
It should be noted that the eSafety Commissioner and the Internet Industry Association regard parents and teachers as being in the best position to advise children and monitor their access, using the information resources available. Other information and advice sites are listed under “Further information”, below.