Nearly half of all Australian adults and children experience online harm, but barely any are reporting it to the organisation set up by the government to deal with it, according to “deeply disturbing” survey data released on Sunday.
It revealed almost 40 per cent of adults experienced online harm in the last 12 months. This increased for diverse groups experiencing serious discrimination (50 per cent) and children receiving online verbal abuse (45 per cent).
But few people report the online harm and even fewer identified Australia’s eSafety Commissioner as an organisation they’d turn to for help with online safety.
Just two per cent of parents surveyed in the 2022 National Online Safety Survey identified the Commissioner as a source of online safety help, despite the office existing since 2015 and wielding unprecedented intervention powers.
Julie Inman Grant has served as eSafety Commissioner since 2017 and will remain in the job until at least 2027. Under a controversial new Online Safety Act, her office now has the power to issue take-down notices to a range of online services in relation to online content deemed to be harmful.
The Act also requires service providers to meet government safety expectations and develop codes of conduct, while the eSafety Commissioner also serves an online safety awareness and support function.
But the efforts have had only limited impact on online safety, according to the survey.
Under four per cent of parents and twelve per cent of children surveyed said they report harm experienced online, like abuse or being sent violent or sexual content, to the eSafety Commissioner.
Communications minister Michelle Rowland said the results of the survey were “deeply disturbing”.
“I urge all Australian parents, carers and children to visit the eSafety Commissioner’s website to learn more about the support that is available,” she said in a statement.
Ms Inman Grant said her office is available to help every Australian.
“We help thousands of people every year who report online abuse and seriously harmful content to us, by getting content taken down quickly and providing compassionate advice and support,” she said in a statement.
“Over the past seven years we have investigated almost 100,000 reports about child cyberbullying, illegal and restricted content including child sexual exploitation material, image-based abuse, and serious adult cyber abuse.”
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