Our Reference: MC17-084024
Dear Mr Sonnemann
Thank you for your email of 21 April 2017 originally directed to the Prime Minister, concerning internet pornography. Your conespondence has been refened to Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications. I am responding his behalf.
I note your suggestion that initiatives similar to those adopted in the United Kingdom and Iceland to restrict access to such pornographic content be implemented in Australia.
While these countries have adopted a range of measures to address cyber safety matters, including online pornography, the Australian Government is committed to a range of its own policies to help protect Australian children online.
Australian children are immersing themselves in the online world through social networking sites, online games, smartphones and digital tablets. However, it is an unfmtunate consequence that this often leaves them vulnerable to harmful content such as online pornography.
The Australian Government recognises that online safety is an important area of responsibility, especially for parents and teachers, and support is required so they are better equipped to protect children online.
The Government is of the view that measures to filter, block or 'take down' content should only be used in circumstances relating to serious criminal activity, for example content that represents an incitement to violence, child exploitation and child sexual abuse material.
The Government encourages mobile phone and internet service providers to make software available which parents can choose to install on devices to protect their children from inappropriate material.
A number of telecommunications providers offer parental controls and filtering solutions for both home broadband services and mobile devices. For example, Telstra has a mobile network-based solution available- Smmt Controls - which allows account holders to set restrictions on calls, SMS, MMS and internet browsing for any mobile service included on the account. For home broadband, services such as the Telstra Broadband Protect Dashboard and Parental Controls can be used to limit which sites can be accessed. Similarly, Optus and Vodafone have developed their own applications for mobile devices: the Optus Mobile Security App, available for Apple and Android devices, allows parents to set restrictions on apps and install safe browsing; the Vodafone Guardian App (for Android) allows parents to set restrictions on calls, SMS, other apps, internet browsing, and time of day controls. Other retail service providers offer similar products.
You may be aware that the Senate Environment and Comniunications References Committee conducted an inquiry into the harm being done to Australian children though access to pornography on the Internet, which commenced on 2 December 2015. This inquiry looked into trends regarding online consumption of pornography by children and its impact on the development of healthy and respectful relationships, as well as investigating hmm minimisation methods in other jurisdictions and possible measures to be implemented in Australia.
The Committee's final report, Harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the Internet, (the Report) was tabled on 23 November 2016. The Report includes four recommendations that the Committee considered will help address the hmm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the Internet, including:
1. Commissioning dedicated research into the exposure and impact of pornography on children and young people;
2. Establishing an expert panel from a range of fields, including child protection agencies, education and law enforcement to investigate future policy measures and make recommendations to government; '
3. That state and territory governments consider the adequacy of their current policies in relation to child protection matters; and
4. Examining the adequacy of information currently available to parents, guardians and teachers on how to keep children safe online, and how to promote existing resources more effectively. ·
The full Government response to the Report can be found at: www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Environment_and_Communications/Onlineaccesstoporn45/Government_Response.
Additionally, the Parliament passed the Enhancing Online Safety for Children Act 2015 which established the office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner. The Commissioner helps to protect Australian children from online harm and takes a national leadership role in online safety for children. A key function of the Commissioner is to administer a complaints system, backed by legislation, to quickly remove harmful cyberbullying material targeted at an Australian child from social media sites. The Commissioner also accredits and evaluates online safety educational programs and administers the Online Content Scheme.
The Online Content Scheme set out in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 regulates prohibited and potentially prohibited online content in Australia based on the National Classification Scheme. Content is assessed on the basis of a public complaint to the Children's eSafety Commissioner. If the Commissioner finds content hosted in Australia to be prohibited content, the Commissioner will direct the content provider to remove or prevent access to the content. For prohibited content hosted overseas, the URL to the material must be added to the Commissioner's prohibited URLs list. Prohibited content includes child abuse images, pornography, and terrorist-related material.
Complaints about online content may be lodged by completing the online form at www.esafety.gov.au/complaints-and-reporting/offensive-and-illegal-content complaints.
The Commissioner's list of prohibited URLs is distributed to vendors of internet security products.accredited under an Industry Code of Practice. The Commissioner regularly reviews these URLs and provides revised lists to accredited vendors. Internet service providers (ISPs) offer these filters to their customers, however it is the customer's decision to purchase and use them.
In September 2016, the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner formally launched its iParent portal (www.esafety.gov.au/education-resources/iparent),' an election commitment to provide parents with advice on a range of online and digital content issues, such as the appropriateness of television programs, films, computer games, websites and social media services, balancing time online and parental control tools that can assist parents protect their children.
iParent is an online portal tailored to the needs of Australian parents. It provides guidance and strategies for parents to help keep their young people safe online. The iParent pmial houses a range of resources, advice and 'how to' videos to keep parents up to date with the latest technology used by their children. For ease of navigation, iParent is divided into four key thematic areas, allowing parents and other stakeholders to navigate to material quickly including:
- Online risks: covering cyberbullying; inappropriate, offensive or illegal content; sexting; trolling and unwanted contact;
- Staying safe online: covering online basics; balancing time online; digital reputation; online gaming; photos, videos and social media; protecting personal information and social networking;
- Multimedia reviews: movies, games and TV; and
- Online safeguards: filtering software, parental controls and safe-searching.
As part of the iParent launch, the Office also released information on ways to manage web-connected devices in the home
Further information is available at the Commissioner's website, www.esafety.gov.au.
All of us have a pati to play in ensuring Australian children and young people are as safe as possible from online dangers, and the above listed measures will assist with protecting children from harmful content and help them to have positive experiences, healthy relationships and to respect others as well as themselves.
Thank you for bringing your concerns to the Government's attention. I trust this information will be of assistance.
Director, Online Content
15 May 2017