July 16, 2024

Australia’s eSafety Commission has placed the online industry on notice, giving them a deadline to create a plan to protect children from viewing pornography. 

Key leaders will have to come up with enforceable codes to prevent young children from encountering graphic material – porn, suicide and serious illness – by October 3.

The rules will cover social media services, app stores and apps, websites, search engines, multi-player gaming and online dating services.

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eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said children at an average age of 13 are often exposed to porn by accident and at increasingly younger age.

“We know kids will always be curious and will likely seek out porn as they enter adolescence and explore their sexuality, so, many of these measures are really focused on preventing unintentional exposure to young children,” she said.

“And it’s not just porn sites we are talking about here, with 60 per cent of young people telling us they were exposed to pornography on social media.

“This exposure was often unintentional and happened on popular services including TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat.

“The last thing anyone wants is children seeing violent or extreme pornography without guidance, context or the appropriate maturity levels because they may think that a video showing a man aggressively choking a woman during sex on a porn site is what consent, sex and healthy relationships should look like.”

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The codes could include age restrictions, default safety measures and parental controls.

Industry bodies must present a draft of their codes by October 3 and then provide final codes by December 19.

They must also hold a public consultation.

“We want industry to succeed here and we will work with them to help them come up with codes that provide meaningful protections for children,” Grant said.

“However, if any code should fall short, under the Online Safety Act I have the power to set the rules for them by moving to standards.”

The deadline follows the federal government’s focus to protect children from inappropriate material online after it approved an online age verification trial in this year’s federal budget.

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