The Enhancing Online Safety for Children Act 2015

The Commissioner has a wide range of functions and powers to enhance online safety for Australian children. Importantly, the Act provides a new safety net for Australian children who have been a victim of cyberbullying and are not satisfied with how a social media service has dealt with their complaint.

Under the Act, the Commissioner has the power to investigate complaints about serious cyberbullying material targeted at an Australian child. The Act establishes a two-tiered scheme for the removal of cyberbullying material from participating social media services. 

The two Tiers of the scheme are subject to different levels of regulatory oversight:
  • social media services that participate in Tier 1 of the scheme on a co-operative basis are regarded as our social media partners
  • large social media services that are declared Tier 2 services by the Minister for Communications may be subject to legally binding notices and civil penalties for non-compliance with requests from the Commissioner.

In addition, the Commissioner has powers to issue notices to the individuals who post cyberbullying material and request them to take it down, refrain from posting further cyberbullying material or apologise to the child who is the target.
Other functions include promoting and co-ordinating activities relating to online safety for children in Australia and conducting research.

The Online Content Scheme in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992

The Commissioner also administers the Online Content Scheme under Schedule 5  and Schedule 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. Under this Scheme, the Office may investigate valid complaints about online content, and take action on material found to be prohibited or potentially prohibited. The categories of content captured under this scheme are outlined on our Types of offensive or illegal content page. The Scheme is underpinned by the National Classification Scheme that also applies to films, computer games and publications.

The Online Content Scheme provides an important community safeguard, as well as dovetailing with the role of law enforcement and the international community of Internet Hotlines – INHOPE – set up to combat online child sexual abuse.

Criminal Law

While there are no laws which specifically deal with cyberbullying as a criminal offence in Australia, there are a number of more general criminal laws which could apply to instances of cyberbullying. Brodie’s Law in Victoria has also recently widened the scope of their stalking provisions to include behaviour that includes serious cyberbullying.

Below is a list of Federal, State and Territory legislation that could be used to prosecute cyberbullying as a criminal offence in Australia:

Telecommunications Act 1997

State and Federal police and Commonwealth authorities have power under section 313 of the Telecommunications Act which they may be able to use to help have material removed from some types of communications services, if having the material removed is for the purposes of enforcing the criminal law.

Lawstuff

Lawstuff provides legal information to children and young people in Australia. Please click on your state or territory below to get legal information related to cyberbullying in your area.

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