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Report on performance

This section reports on eSafety’s performance as set out in the Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS):

Outcome 1: A communications and media environment that balances the needs of industry and the Australian community through regulation, education and advice.

Program 1.3: Support positive online experiences through national leadership and administration of statutory schemes and educational and awareness activities that promote online safety for all Australians.

I, Julie Inman Grant, eSafety Commissioner, present the following information in relation to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. In my opinion, this information accurately reflects the performance of the Office of the eSafety Commissioner in the 2019–20 financial year.

Julie Inman Grant
eSafety Commissioner

Assistance and investigations

Cyberbullying

Performance criteria:

Operation of a complaints scheme to deal with serious cyberbullying affecting Australian children.

Target:

Effectively and efficiently administer a complaints-based scheme to deal with serious cyberbullying by providing a safety net, high quality advice, support pathways and targeted evidence-based educational resources.

Results:

Met

The cyberbullying complaints scheme allows the reporting of material targeting an Australian child that is likely to seriously threaten, humiliate, harass or intimidate. It also encompasses:

  • formal cooperation with key social media services as part of eSafety’s social media service tier scheme
  • referrals to key support services, including Kids Helpline
  • memorandums of understanding with state education departments, and the independent and Catholic school sectors
  • a range of educational and informative resources to support young people and their carers in dealing with the effects of cyberbullying.
Complaints scheme data

eSafety received 690 complaints about cyberbullying during the reporting period, an increase of 30 per cent from 2018–19. Young Australians aged between 13 and 17 were the primary targets of reported cyberbullying material, accounting for approximately 76 per cent of the complaints received (see Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2 Complaints of cyberbullying material by age, 2019–20  8 0% 9 1% 10 3% 11 4% 12 9% 13 16% 14 18% 15 16% 16 15% 17 11% 18 6%

Of the complaints received, 61.3 per cent related to cyberbullying material targeting females (see Figure 2.3).

Figure 2.3 Complaints of cyberbullying material by gender, 2019–20  Female 61.3% Male 36.3% Unspecified 2.4%

The majority of cyberbullying complaints made to eSafety in 2019–20 were made by children (see Figure 2.4).

Figure 2.4 Complaint by group  Child 49% Parent/Guardian 36% Other 15%

The cyberbullying material referred to in these complaints can be broken into eight general categories. A complaint may relate to one or more of these categories. Figure 2.5 details the percentage of complaints that relate to each of the categories.

Figure 2.5 Percentage of complaints identifying general categories of cyberbullying, 2019–20

Note: A complaint may have multiple categories, so cumulative figures will exceed 100 per cent.

eSafety received complaints from across Australia (see Figure 2.6). Just over half (54 per cent) of complaints originated from New South Wales and Queensland.

Figure 2.6 Location of cyberbullying target, 2019–20  Tasmania 1.9% Northern Territory 2.2% Australian Capital Territory 3.0% South Australia 5.7% Western Australia 11.7% Victoria 21.1% Queensland 21.8% New South Wales 32.6%

Tier scheme social media partners

The EOS Act provides a two-tiered scheme for the fast removal from social media services of cyberbullying material targeted at an Australian child. Tier 1 social media services participate in the scheme on a voluntary basis, whereas the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts declares a social media service to be a Tier 2 service following a recommendation from the Commissioner. During 2019–20, WeChat was added to Tier 1 of the scheme.

Referrals to key support services

eSafety aims to resolve cyberbullying complaints in a holistic and empowering manner. Most complainants are directed to support services, such as Kids Helpline, Parentline and eHeadspace. eSafety’s website provides a variety of practical resources, including clear instructions on how to block, delete and report unwanted material on popular social media services.

During the reporting period, there were over 2,900 website click-throughs from eSafety’s website to the Kids Helpline website.

Where appropriate, eSafety works with schools to resolve complaints, ensure cyberbullying policies are followed, and provide advice. During the report period, 16 complaints were brought to the attention of schools.

Cyber abuse

As part of its role to promote online safety for all Australians, eSafety provides general guidance and support for adults who are dealing with cyber abuse. In 2019–20, eSafety received requests for assistance from 1,064 adults, an increase of 12 per cent from 2018–19. The majority of cyber abuse complainants were women. Many of the complaints reflected both the same behaviours and platforms observed in child cyberbullying matters. eSafety does not have formal powers to investigate adult cyber abuse.

Image-based abuse

Performance criteria:

Operation of a complaints scheme to address image-based abuse affecting Australians.

Target:

Effectively and efficiently administer a scheme to address image-based abuse complaints including the provision of high-quality advice, support pathways and targeted evidence-based educational resources.

Results:

Met

In recognition of the serious and harmful nature of image-based abuse, the civil penalties scheme for the non-consensual sharing of intimate images offers victims relief by facilitating the rapid removal of intimate images that have been posted online. The civil penalties scheme also enables eSafety to hold perpetrators of image-based abuse accountable through a range of remedies. These include formal warnings, infringement notices, and seeking an injunction or civil penalty order from a court.

During the reporting period, eSafety continued to raise public awareness of image-based abuse and its role in addressing it. This included producing a series of animations explaining image-based abuse and providing advice about reporting to eSafety. The animations are available from the eSafety website.

Reports data

During the reporting period, eSafety:

  • handled 2,702 reports of image-based abuse (see Figure 2.7). This represented a significant increase (184 per cent) over the 950 reports of image-based abuse received in the previous reporting period
  • responded to 326 enquiries about image-based abuse
  • gave seven removal notices to websites and hosting services providers, all based overseas. Five of the notices were complied with. Where eSafety is unable to effect removal of intimate content, it takes steps to limit the discoverability of the content, typically by removing the content from search engine results
  • issued four formal warnings to persons responsible for image-based abuse
  • sent one informal warning to a person responsible for image-based abuse, in a case where it was appropriate to adopt an educative approach to enforcement.

Figure 2.7 Number of image-based abuse reports by month 2019–20  Jul-19 Aug-19 Sep-19 Oct-19 Nov-19 Dec-19 Jan-20 Feb-20 Mar-20 Apr-20 May-20 Jun-20 139 141 153 146 165 172 180 183 224 543 319 337
Excluding reports received that involved ‘sextortion’, victims of image-based abuse were predominately female (see Figure 2.8). Sextortion is a form of blackmail where a person threatens to reveal intimate images of the victim unless their demands, typically for money, are met. Victims of sextortion are overwhelmingly male.

eSafety experienced a significant spike in reports following the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions. In particular, eSafety received over 1,000 reports of image-based abuse between March and May 2020, many of which concerned a sextortion email scam. In this scam, victims were threatened with the release of ‘hacked’ compromising footage unless an amount was paid in bitcoin. In an attempt to add legitimacy, the scam emails include an old password of the victim, seemingly sourced from previous data leaks.

Figure 2.8 Victims by gender, 2019–20 (excluding sextortion)  Female 68% Male 27% Other * 5%

*Other includes not provided or reporter preferred not to disclose.

eSafety helps victims of image-based abuse, whatever their age. The majority of reports of image-based abuse concerned adult victims—accounting for 75 per cent of reports received, with
37 per cent from victims aged 18–24 years. (see Figure 2.9).

Figure 2.9 Victims by age, 2019–20 Victims by age, 2019–20. 25 and over 38% 18–24 37% 16–17 12% 13–15 12% Under 13 1%

While not mandatory for people who make a report to tell us their state or territory, 51 per cent of reports included this information (see Figure 2.10). eSafety received reports from every state and territory in Australia, with the greatest number from New South Wales, followed by Victoria.

Figure 2.10 Victims by state or territory, 2019–20 Victims by state or territory, 2019–20. NT 2% Tas. 2% ACT 3% SA 6% WA 11% Qld 20% Vic. 25% NSW 31%

Removal actions

During the reporting period, eSafety sought removal of image-based abuse material from over 4,000 locations (generally URLs) where the material was available across 248 different platforms. eSafety was successful in having image-based abuse material removed in 82 per cent of cases where removal was requested, despite the material invariably being hosted overseas. The majority of the material was posted on exposé or pornography sites—only a small portion of reports concerned material posted on social media sites.

eSafety also alerted social media services to almost 970 accounts that were being misused to share or threaten to share intimate content, or to elicit intimate content from minors (sexual exploitation). Typically, this resulted in deletion of the accounts that had been misused in this way.

The types of image-based abuse behaviours most often observed from reports during the reporting period are summarised in Figure 2.11.

Figure 2.11 Percentage of reports by type 2019–20  Sextortion (including email campaigns where no actual content exists) 58% Sexual exploitation 11% Posted online without consent 9% Threaten sharing (other than sextortion) 5% Shared via private means 5% Other* 12%

*Other can include impersonation accounts and digitally altered images.

Cyber Report

Performance criteria:

Operation of a complaints scheme for the removal of online content that breaches legislative standards.

Target:

Effectively and efficiently deliver a complaints scheme to take down illegal online content including referral to Australian and international enforcement mechanisms.

Results:

Met

Cyber Report is the eSafety section responsible for overseeing the operation of the Online Content Scheme established under schedules 5 and 7 of the BSA. The section prioritises reports about online child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and works closely with law enforcement and other bodies in Australia and overseas to achieve the rapid takedown of such material.

Online Content Scheme

The scheme is a reporting mechanism for Australians to complain about prohibited online content. Cyber Report investigates these reports and acts on material found to be ‘prohibited or potentially prohibited’. These categories are defined in terms of classification guidelines issued by the Classification Board that also apply to offline content such as film and video.

They include:

  • offensive depictions of children, such as CSAM
  • content advocating terrorism
  • instruction, incitement or promotion of crime or violence
  • sexually explicit content.

Responsibilities under the scheme include:

  • investigating complaints made under schedules 5 and 7 to the BSA into prohibited online content
  • directing take-down of prohibited content if it is hosted in Australia
  • notifying all sufficiently serious Australian-hosted content to law enforcement
  • notifying all overseas-hosted CSAM to the International Association of Internet Hotlines (INHOPE) or the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for rapid police action and take-down in the host country
  • notifying overseas hosted potentially prohibited URLs to optional end-user filters.
Online content complaints data

eSafety focuses on reports about online CSAM and is a longstanding member of the INHOPE network. INHOPE is a global organisation whose member hotlines work together with the goal of fighting to free the world of CSAM. For more information, refer to ‘The INHOPE network’ section of this report.

A single complaint to eSafety may lead to multiple regulatory investigations. During 2019–20, eSafety finalised investigations into 13,484 items of prohibited and potentially prohibited content, of which 99 per cent met the definition of CSAM.

None of these items were found to be hosted in Australia, and so no take-down notices were issued to Australian content hosts during the reporting period.

Over 99 per cent of investigations into CSAM items were completed within two business days and notified to the INHOPE network or the AFP. Of all online content complaints received, 98 per cent were actioned within two business days. Over 99 per cent of all investigations about online content were completed within 20 business days.

All overseas-hosted potentially prohibited items of internet content were referred to vendors of optional end-user internet software filters under relevant internet industry codes of practice.

Under the BSA, prohibited content is defined with reference to the classification categories set out in the National Classification Scheme. Table 2.1 shows the breakdown by content type of items actioned as a result of completed investigations into sufficiently serious potentially prohibited content.

Table 2.1 Sufficiently serious internet content 2019–20, items actioned

Actual or likely classification and description of online content

Online content hosted in or provided from Australia

Internet content items hosted overseas

RC 1(b)

(Refused Classification content for offensive depictions/descriptions of children)

0

13,359

RC 1(c)

(Refused Classification content for instruction, incitement or promotion of crime or violence)

0

16

RC9A

(Refused Classification for films that advocate terrorist acts)

0

18

Total

0

13,393

Abhorrent violent material

Under the recently introduced Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Act 2019 (the AVM Act), the eSafety Commissioner may issue a notice to content services or hosting services in relation to abhorrent violent material (AVM) provided via their service.

AVM includes content recorded by a perpetrator or their accomplice of conduct including terrorism leading to serious injury or death, murder and attempted murder, rape, torture and kidnapping.

A notice issued by eSafety (AVM notice) serves to bring the AVM to the attention of the service. A failure by the service to expeditiously remove the material may be a Commonwealth criminal offence.

During the reporting period, eSafety has issued 16 AVM notices.

The INHOPE network

Comprising 46 hotlines from countries around the world, INHOPE plays a unique role in global efforts to eradicate online CSAM. Content referred to an INHOPE hotline is passed on to local police or service providers for follow-up action. In around 75 per cent of cases, content is removed in four to six days.

The actions of INHOPE members are key to ensuring illegal child sexual abuse content is actioned quickly and effectively for removal. eSafety is an active member, contributing 12,868 reports through the network in 2019–20.

Education and awareness

Performance criteria:

Promote online safety for all Australians.

Target:

Provide audience-specific and research-based advice, content and programs to raise awareness about key online safety issues and empower all Australians to have safer online experiences.

Results:

Met

Online safety programs and resources

eSafety focuses on meeting broad community needs by providing online safety education through various delivery platforms and resources—promoting, coordinating and leading online safety education for Australians nationally.

eSafety Early Years

Launched in 2019–20, the eSafety Early Years program provides a suite of online safety resources to meet the needs of young children (birth to five years), their families and their early childhood educators. The resources have been developed in consultation with early childhood educators and parents and carers from diverse backgrounds, as well as early childhood experts and peak bodies. The resources support young children’s safe use of technologies and help build their understanding of online safety through four key messages—Be safe, Be kind, Ask for help and Make good choices.

A staged rollout of the resources commenced in January 2020 and included:

  • the Family tech agreement—a suggested set of rules for technology use at home featuring well-known Play School characters
  • Kiya’s Excellent eBirthday episode—a special eSafety-themed Play School episode developed in collaboration with ABC KIDS
  • the Online safety for under 5s booklet—a comprehensive compilation of key advice for parents and carers
  • a series of four interactive online learning modules for early childhood educators and service managers developed in collaboration with Early Childhood Australia
  • a set of four posters with pictures that explore key online safety advice and provide discussion opportunities with children
  • Playing IT Safe— a set of play-based learning experiences developed in partnership with the AFP and the Alannah and Madeline Foundation that educators can use to help children learn and practice online safety skills.

There has been strong engagement with the resources. For example, since January 2020 there have been about 7,500 visits to the Family tech agreement page on the eSafety website and since its launch in February 2020, approximately 44,000 copies of the Online safety for under 5s booklet have been ordered and distributed across Australia. Early figures also indicate good engagement with the professional learning modules in light of workforce changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 28 April 2020, each module has been completed by several hundred users (between 300 and 700 users).

Further Early Years resources are in development, including an online safety themed picture book for children aged three to five years.

Online advice for young people during COVID-19

Young people (aged 13–18) have spent more time online due to the lockdown periods enforced across Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. To support young people through this period, eSafety released advice that reflected on the digital and educational landscape during the pandemic and provided helpful information to navigate the ‘new normal’.

The themes covered included staying connected with friends, managing mental health, cyberbullying, fake news, balancing time spent online and online relationships. Over 4,480 people viewed this advice between 4 June 2020 (release date) to 30 June 2020.

Educational leadership

Education and school community resources
Toolkit for Schools

eSafety launched the eSafety Toolkit for Schools at The Sydney Morning Herald Schools Summit on 20 February 2020. The toolkit is designed to support schools to create safe online environments for the whole community and was developed in consultation with government and non-government education sector representatives across each state and territory.

The toolkit was developed in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the Education Council’s work program to address bullying and cyberbullying. It consists of 26 resources categorised into four elements: prepare, engage, educate and respond. The resources facilitate a nationally consistent approach to preventing and responding to online safety issues and demonstrate eSafety’s role in providing educational leadership on online safety in Australia. The toolkit received 28,763 page views and was downloaded 11,938 times between 20 February 2020 (release date) and 30 June 2020.

Best Practice Framework for Online Safety Education

Research was undertaken in 2019 to review and understand what constitutes best practice in online safety education. This research reviewed online safety frameworks and initiatives within Australia and internationally.

As well as being used to inform the Toolkit for Schools and the Trusted eSafety Provider program, the findings were used to develop a draft Best Practice Framework for Online Safety Education, which proposes best practice principles and actions that assist educators and school leaders in undertaking comprehensive online safety education with their students.

The framework will be finalised in 2020–21.

Toolkit for Universities

eSafety partnered with Universities Australia to develop an online safety Toolkit for Universities, modelled on the Toolkit for Schools. Resources have been developed to support university students, teaching staff and non-academic staff to build their online safety knowledge and skills. They intend to support university communities to become well-informed about online safety risks, proactive about online safety measures and prepared to implement best practice responses to online safety incidents.

The toolkit and individual resources were downloaded 1,761 times between 20 May 2020 (release date) and 30 June 2020 and have been accessed by users in 15 countries.

eSafety and Universities Australia are exploring further opportunities to collaborate on institutional capacity-building in online safety and supporting young adults to prevent and respond to online harms.

Outreach program and enquiries management

eSafety Outreach supports an extensive education program for school students, educators, pre-service teachers, university staff, chaplains, parents/carers, seniors, community organisations, mental health and social workers, sporting groups, law enforcement, welfare agencies and corporate groups (see Table 2.2).

Pre-service teacher program

eSafety’s education and training team provides free presentations to pre-service teachers (PST) in their final year of tertiary study, giving them the skills, knowledge, and confidence to educate their future students about online safety.

During 2019–20, the eSafety Commissioner wrote to 39 vice chancellors and staff engaged with Universities Australia to promote the program to all universities in Australia offering an education degree. This engagement has seen 20 universities receive a presentation, with 49 sessions delivered to 2,971 students, representing a 156 per cent growth in the number of students reached through this program compared to last financial year.

Corporate and community education

eSafety provides tailored presentations and workshops for corporate organisations and community groups wishing to build online safety knowledge and skills. Presentations are delivered face-to-face all over Australia and are also offered via live webinar. eSafety delivered 181 corporate and community presentations in 2019–20.

Chaplains
National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP)

eSafety’s professional learning program for NSCP chaplains commenced in July 2019. This program provides evidence-based, targeted advice on preventing and responding to cyberbullying. A total of 2,621 NSCP chaplains have completed eSafety’s professional learning.

Western Australian School Chaplaincy Program

In May 2020, eSafety commenced a professional learning program for state-funded chaplains working in WA schools. This program provides these chaplains with evidence-based, targeted advice on preventing and responding to cyberbullying.

Virtual Classrooms

The eSafety Outreach program reaches large school-based audiences via live webinars on key awareness days throughout the year—these are referred to as ‘Virtual Classrooms’. Virtual Classrooms are live and delivered by expert trainers with interactive elements including live chats and polling. In 2019–20, eSafety delivered three Virtual Classrooms for schools:

  • ‘Keeping safe in the game’ during Safer Internet Day 2020
  • ‘Respectful chat, I can do that!’ during National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence 2020
  • ‘Online friends and strangers’ during National Child Protection Week 2019

A total of 68,706 students participated in Virtual Classrooms in the reporting period.

Professional learning program

eSafety’s successful professional learning program (PLP) for teachers continued in 2019–20. Comprising three webinars for educators—‘Digital CPR’, ‘Empowering families and community’ and ‘Inclusion and digital wellbeing’—the program was updated in March 2020 to include a 90-minute live webinar followed by 30 minutes of readings and assessment. The program is accredited by the NSW Education Standards Authority and the ACT Teacher Quality Institute, allowing teachers to gain accredited professional development hours on completion of the course.

Outreach programs during COVID-19

As much of the eSafety Outreach program was offered via live webinar prior to COVID-19, eSafety was able to quickly pivot when the COVID-19 restrictions forced schools and organisations to move activities and learning online. During March to May 2020, eSafety developed and delivered six new publicly available webinars—’Child protection and online learning’, ‘Helping kids thrive online’, ‘Tech, teens and time online’, ‘Keeping safe and healthy online’, ‘Keeping your sanity and supporting your kids online’ and ‘My house, my rules’. The content delivered in this suite of webinars was designed to give parents/carers, children, educators, trainers/coaches, and those working with young people the tools to safely move their activities and interactions online. Each topic was made available over several weeks at various times to ensure it was accessible to as many Australians as possible.

Table 2.2 Total outreach activity, 2019–20

Type of outreach program

Attendees

Events

Virtual Classrooms

68,706

47

Pre-service teachers

2,971

49

Professional learning program (for teachers)

6,656

82

Community and other presentations

15,576

181

Chaplaincy programs

2,621

58

Total

96,530

417

Enquiries management

eSafety enquiries team receive large volumes of general enquires via the enquiries [at] esafety.gov.au mailbox and website ‘contact us’ form. eSafety has coordinated over 3,681 responses to general enquiries during 2019–20.

Trusted eSafety Providers Program

During 2019–20, eSafety implemented the Trusted eSafety Providers Program, replacing the previous Certified Training Providers scheme. The updated program builds on the previous model and focuses on ensuring providers meet high thresholds for content quality and are up-to-date with the latest online safety trends and research. All providers are part of a collaborative community of practice where they work closely with eSafety on best practice approaches to online safety education. The initial application round opened in December 2019 and 31 providers submitted applications, 28 of whom were endorsed in March 2020.

Online Safety Grants Program

The three-year Online Safety Grants Program enables non-government organisations (NGOs) to deliver practical online safety education and training projects. The program will distribute $9 million in grants as part of the Australian Government’s ‘Keeping our Children Safe Online’ package.

The first round of the Online Safety Grants Program opened on 16 April 2020 and closed on 21 May 2020. Successful applicants will be announced in the next reporting period.

Digital literacy for older Australians—Be Connected

Be Connected is an Australian Government initiative that aims to support and enable older Australians to develop their digital skills and confidence. Be Connected targets those with no, or very little digital confidence and employs interactive learning experiences to help users to engage safely and confidently online.

The broader Be Connected initiative has now engaged with over 582,597 individual learners in every state and territory. There are now over 316 interactive activities and over 6.5 million page views on the Be Connected learning site. The online resources average learner satisfaction ratings are 92 per cent. New content developed this year included targeted resources on myGov, online banking, and buying and selling online. Tip and fact sheets continue to be delivered in eight languages to support those from linguistically diverse communities.

eSafety has also seen more than 1,325 older Australians attend eSafety webinars with an additional 3,347 face-to-face attendees.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, eSafety developed targeted resources to support older Australians. Traffic to the learning site grew by 160 per cent, with the most popular learning topics relating to video calling and staying connected online.

eSafetyWomen

Since 2016, eSafetyWomen has successfully supported frontline workers and empowered Australian women to manage technology risks and abuse.

eSafetyWomen website

The esafety.gov.au/women website provides practical tools and information to help women protect themselves and their families against online abuse. The site features how-to videos on the privacy and security features of social media platforms and devices. Case studies illustrate technology challenges women can face and strategies for resolution. Popular topics relate to domestic and family violence guidance and include ‘COVID-19: advice for women experiencing domestic violence’ and ‘International advice for frontline workers supporting women’.

During 2019–20, the eSafetyWomen website received 35,321 unique visits, with 77,361 pages of content viewed.

Specialist training workshops

eSafety’s face-to-face workshops continued to deliver essential training to raise awareness of technology-facilitated abuse and what can be done in response. These workshops provide professionals working in the domestic and family violence field with the knowledge to support women and families experiencing or recovering from this type of abuse. A wide variety of sectors have benefited from the workshops, such as family services, crisis housing and welfare, law enforcement and the legal profession. In the reporting period, 149 workshops and webinars were held with over 2,907 participants.

E-learning modules offer an alternative access path for frontline workers who cannot attend in-person training, such as those in rural and remote areas. During the reporting period, more than 974 frontline workers registered to undertake this training.

eSafetyWomen COVID-19 response

Recognising the heightened risk of family and domestic violence posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, eSafetyWomen adapted its delivery of face-to-face training to a webinar format from April 2020. Since then, 41 sessions were delivered, attended by 471 participants.

eSafety also developed targeted safety help for domestic and family violence frontline workers and for women, to help address the increased prevalence of gendered online and technology-facilitated abuse in the context of COVID-19.

eSafety works collaboratively with governments and agencies around the world to help people navigate the online environment safely. As part of these efforts, eSafety developed an international resource, COVID-19 Global online safety advice for frontline workers supporting women. This booklet’s editable format allows localisation with relevant in-country contacts and supports.

Supporting diverse communities

With funding from the Women’s Safety Package—Technology Trials and from the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children (2010–2022)—we have focussed on developing programs to assist the online safety needs of women with intellectual and cognitive disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and communities and children impacted by technology-facilitated abuse in domestic and family violence situations.

This has included:

  • releasing two ‘Easy English’ guides to help women with intellectual and cognitive disabilities identify, manage and report technology-facilitated abuse and image-based abuse
  • commencing qualitative research projects on the experiences of technology-facilitated abuse among two groups—women with intellectual and cognitive disabilities, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women living in regional and remote areas. This research is expected to be concluded in late 2020 – early 2021
  • commencing the development of online resources to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders manage online conflict, including where technology is used as an extension of domestic and family violence
  • conducting a scoping study exploring the impact of technology-facilitated abuse on children in domestic and family violence situations
  • commencing a scoping study to identify accessible technology support services for women impacted by technology-facilitated abuse in domestic and family violence situations.
Women Influencing Tech Spaces (WITS)

Women who have a high public presence on social media often encounter gender-based online abuse. eSafety’s web-based resource, WITS offers support to protect and promote women’s voices online. The WITS website received over 1,200 visitors, with 2,400 page views during the reporting period.

Safety by Design

eSafety’s Safety by Design (SbD) initiative seeks to modify the way that technology is designed, developed and deployed by shifting the responsibility for safety back onto tech platforms and providers. It provides realistic, actionable and achievable measures to better protect and safeguard citizens online, highlighting good practice and tangible steps needed to make user safety considerations a routine element of product development cycles.

Following the development of the Safety by Design Principles in 2019, eSafety has been developing a suite of resources and guidance—including a set of SbD self-assessment tools—to help companies, from start-ups to more mature tech giants, understand potential harms, assess the risks to users on their platforms, and provide them with ideas and best practice innovations to build safety protections in at the front end. We also commenced work with the university sector to seed SbD into multi-disciplinary curricular, as well as consulting with the investment and venture capital sector on bespoke sector toolkits.

eSafety has continued to work with industry and global partners, collaboratively and constructively, throughout the year on phase 2 of the SbD initiative.

International

Long-term systemic change requires the coordinated efforts of the global community to achieve the best outcomes for all citizens online. eSafety has worked hard to strengthen its impact across borders through targeted information sharing, collaboration and capacity building, and to drive up standards of online safety. Strong international partnerships are essential to our ability to discharge our regulatory duties and perform our work.
Throughout this reporting period, eSafety has responded to requests for information and advice about its legislative functions and resources from across the globe. It has drawn on its extensive research and existing resources to develop online safety advice for global citizens, working with international partners to disseminate and translate these resources into different languages. These include:

  • COVID-19 Global online safety advice for frontline workers supporting women
  • COVID-19 Global online safety advice for parents and carers
  • Online safety advice for young children, parents and carers: International Edition and accompanying Early Years Story Puzzles: International Edition.

eSafety secured funding under DFAT’s Cyber Cooperation Program to build the online safety capacity of stakeholders in participating Indo-Pacific countries. It has also been involved in a number of global alliances and initiatives, and has regularly contributed to global debates, discussions and projects in order to create safer and more responsible digital environments.

To ensure its content and programs reflect the most current information, tech developments and global trends, eSafety scans for new research, policy, legislative and technical updates. eSafety has published a number of position statements to selected tech trends and challenges on its website on end-to-end encryption, deep fakes, doxing and sextortion. In addition, it has worked collaboratively across government on matters relating to both cyberspace and critical technologies.

Research

Under the EOS Act, eSafety has key roles in research about online safety, including to:

  • collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate information
  • support, encourage, conduct and evaluate research
  • publish reports and papers relating to online safety.

eSafety’s research program takes a leadership role in promoting, coordinating and undertaking research into digital participation and online safety issues. In developing the research program, eSafety continues to engage with leading research agencies and other stakeholders, in addition to undertaking an internal audit of research needs.
During 2019–20, eSafety released research including:

  • COVID-19 impact on Australian adults’ online activities and attitudes
  • Best Practice Framework for Online Safety Education (Stage 1)
  • Online hate speech—Findings from Australia, New Zealand and Europe
  • Online Safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women living in urban areas
  • Understanding the attitudes and motivations of adults who engage in image-based abuse.

During the reporting period, eSafety also commissioned a range of new research to understand the technology-facilitated abuse experiences and support needs of:

  • children and young people in domestic violence situations
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women living in regional, rural and remote communities
  • women living with an intellectual or cognitive disability.

eSafety also commissioned research to support the evaluation of its Early Years program resources.
eSafety also became a research partner in a number of ARC linkage grants including the:

  • Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child
  • Young Children in Digital Society.

Communications and stakeholder engagement

eSafety’s communications and media efforts have continued to help raise the profile of its resources and reporting services for Australians. Joint stakeholder initiatives and partnerships have also assisted extending eSafety’s reach into more households, classrooms, and workplaces across the country.

National online safety hub

In October 2019, eSafety refreshed its website—esafety.gov.au—to provide Australians with a comprehensive suite of information, resources, and reporting tools to help them have safer experiences online.

The award-winning site is the agency’s primary digital platform for online safety information and resources for a range of audiences, including young people, parents and carers, educators, older Australians, and women experiencing technology-facilitated abuse. The website also provides access to eSafety’s complaints-based services, where the public can report serious cyberbullying, image-based abuse and illegal online content.

During 2019–20, the website received 1,546,938 visitors, with 5,484,506 pages of content viewed.

Media

eSafety uses a range of media channels to effectively communicate with stakeholders and the broader Australian community, including:

  • traditional media—eSafety regularly featured in media coverage across TV, radio, print and online, providing authoritative commentary on online safety issues and promoting the agency’s programs, services and expertise
  • social media—eSafety maintained active engagement across a range of social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. eSafety’s followers increased by 19 per cent during 2019–20
  • blogs—eSafety continued to utilise its public-facing blog to raise awareness, provide information and thought-leadership, and promote eSafety’s services in relation to a wide range of online safety issues. Thirty-five blogs were published during 2019–20
  • electronic direct mail—eSafety’s e-newsletters provided targeted information to subscribers including parents and educators. Over 29,000 subscribers received tailored news and advice, based on their specific online safety interests.
Partnerships

eSafety works cooperatively and productively with domestic and international organisations to increase education and awareness about online safety. Partners include government agencies, not-for-profit organisations, corporations and community-based groups, with work ranging from distributing educational material, supporting events and community awareness-raising weeks, to co-developing content.

During 2019–20, eSafety joined with and supported organisations to raise awareness of online safety issues:

  • SBS, The Hunting—joint SBS and eSafety education resources about image-based abuse
  • National Child Protection Week, 1–7 September 2019
  • National eSmart Week, 1–7 September 2019
  • eSafety19 conference with Netsafe NZ, 11–12 September 2019
  • Stay Smart Online Week, 7–13 October 2019
  • Day for Daniel, 26 October 2019
  • ACCC, OAIC and ACSC—joint initiative to help Australian shoppers to stay safe online over the holiday season
  • Safer Internet Day, 11 February 2020—eSafety’s biggest online safety awareness raising initiative
  • Crime Stoppers—joint national child protection campaign with resources for parents and young people
  • Privacy Awareness Week, 4–10 May 2020
  • SBS community service announcements to help the community stay safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • AFL—joint wellbeing tips to encourage positive online behaviour in the AFL community
  • Australian Human Rights Commissioner—collaboration to address online abuse
  • Australia’s Biggest Child Safety Lesson, 25 June 2020—Commissioner interviewed as part of the lesson.
eSafety Advisory Committee

The eSafety Advisory Committee (eAC) is eSafety’s advisory forum attended by key representatives from industry, government, civil society organisations and academia. eSafety formed the eAC in early 2020 to replace the Online Safety Consultative Working Group, which did not meet during 2019 while the Statutory Review of the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 was conducted. The eAC is tasked with providing technical and policy expertise, research data, coordination and other assistance to eSafety, to ensure Australia’s online safety response and support system is consultative, evidence-based, cross-sectoral and effective. In addition to the eAC, a technical working group was also formed in 2020 to focus on illegal and seriously harmful content.

During the reporting period, eAC meetings were held in February and June 2020.

eAC membership
  • eSafety Commissioner (Chair)
  • Alannah and Madeline Foundation
  • Communications Alliance
  • Department of Education, Skills and Employment
  • Department of Home Affairs
  • Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications
  • Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • Department of Social Services
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Macquarie University
  • RMIT University
  • Telstra
  • headspace
  • Twitter
  • University of New South Wales
  • Western Sydney University
  • yourtown.