Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has been reappointed for a further five years as new laws granting her new internet takedown powers come into effect.
Ms Inman Grant, a former Microsoft, Twitter and Adobe executive, has been eSaftey Commissioner since 2017. On Sunday, communications minister Paul Fletcher announced she will remain in the job until 2027 with another maximum appointment term.
The reappointment comes as the controversial Online Safety Act comes into force, giving Ms Inman Grant new powers to issue take-down notices to a range of online services in relation to online content deemed to be harmful.
“The Online Safety Act commences operation today and Ms Inman Grant’s reappointment provides certainty, particularly to community organisations and industry who have been working with the office of the eSafety Commissioner for some time,” Mr Fletcher said in a statement on Sunday.
“Today’s reappointment, and the simultaneous commencement of the Online Safety Act, will enhance Australia’s position as a world leader in online safety.”
Ms Inman Grant was appointed eSaftey commissioner in 2017 when the government agency responsible for children’s online safety expanded its remit to all Australians’ online safety and was renamed to the eSafety Commissioner.
The Commissioner is an independent statutory office holder, supported by around 67 staff, contractors and the national media regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The office has an annual budget of around $25 million but will receive more this year to support its new powers.
It has traditionally focused on complaints schemes for cyber bullying and image-based abuse, awareness and research of online safety, and administered a content removal scheme for prohibited and abhorrent or violent material.
With the enforcement of the Online Safety Act from Sunday, the eSaftey Commissioner will be in charge of a “world-first adult cyber abuse scheme”, enhanced powers for dealing with image-based abuse and the cyberbullying of children, and an updated scheme for dealing with illegal and harmful content.
The new law includes stronger information-gathering powers for the Commissioner and a framework to create basic online safety expectations for the technology industry, and a regime for the development of industry codes and standards.
But critics of the new law say it hands too much power to the unelected official to interpret and arbitrate online content, will hurt the adult entertainment industry and undermine encryption, while doing little to improve online safety.
A Senate Committee gave the greenlight to the legislation early last year after a contracted consultation process, while the Opposition called for amendments to clarify its scope and “strengthen due process, appeals, oversight and transparency requirements”.
The Greens called for the legislation to be redrafted but it eventually passed Parliament in June last year.
Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.