Report of the inquiry into age verification for online wagering and online pornography
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal
The Committee’s inquiry considered the potential role for online age verification in protecting children and young people in Australia from exposure to online wagering and
Evidence to the inquiry revealed widespread and genuine concern among the community about the serious impacts on the welfare of children and young people associated with exposure to certain online content,
The Committee heard that young people are increasingly accessing or being exposed to pornography on the internet, and that this is associated with a range of harms to young people’s health, education,
relationships, and wellbeing. Similarly, the Committee heard about the potential for exposure to online wagering at a young age to lead to problem gambling later in life.
Online age verification is not a new concept. However, the
Committee heard that as governments have sought to strengthen age restrictions on online content, the technology for online age verification has become more sophisticated, and there are now a range of age-verification services available which seek to
balance effectiveness and ease-of-use with privacy, safety, and security.
In considering these issues, the Committee was concerned to see that, in so much as possible, age restrictions that apply in the physical world are also
applied in the online world.
The Committee recognised that age verification is not a silver bullet, and that protecting children and young people from online harms requires government, industry, and the community to work together
across a range of fronts. However, the Committee also concluded that age verification can create a significant barrier to prevent young people—and particularly young children—from exposure to harmful online content.
Committee’s recommendations therefore seek to support the implementation of online age verification in Australia.
The Committee recommended that the Digital Transformation Agency lead the development of standards for online age
verification. These standards will help to ensure that online age verification is accurate and effective, and that the process for legitimate consumers is easy, safe, and secure.
The Committee also recommended that the Digital
Transformation Agency develop an age-verification exchange to support a competitive ecosystem for third-party age verification in Australia.
In relation to pornography, the Committee recommended that the eSafety Commissioner lead
the development of a roadmap for the implementation of a regime of mandatory age verification for online pornographic material, and that this be part of a broader, holistic approach to address the risks and harms associated with online pornography.
In relation to wagering, the Committee recommended that the Australian Government implement a regime of mandatory age verification, alongside the existing identity verification requirements. The Committee also recommended the
development of educational resources for parents, and consideration of options for restricting access to loot boxes in video games, including though the use of age verification.
The Committee hopes that together these
recommendations will contribute to a safer online environment for children and young people.
Lastly, the Committee acknowledges the strong public interest in the inquiry and expresses its appreciation to the individuals and
organisations that shared their views with the Committee.
Australian media companies and Facebook are scrambling to come to terms with a landmark ruling by an Australian judge that found publishers are legally responsible for pre-moderating comments on Facebook.
On Monday in the New South Wales supreme
court judge Stephen Rothman found that commercial entities, including media companies, could be regarded as the publishers of comments made on Facebook, and as such had a responsibility to ensure defamatory remarks were not posted in the first place.
News Corp Australia responded to the judgement in a statement:
This ruling shows how far out of step Australia's defamation laws are with other English-speaking democracies and highlights the urgent need for change.
It defies belief that media organisations are held responsible for comments made by other people on social media pages.
It is ridiculous that the media company is held responsible while Facebook, which gives us no ability to turn
off comments on its platform, bears no responsibility at all.
The ruling was made in a pre-trial hearing over a defamation case brought by Dylan Voller against a number of media outlets over comments made by readers on Facebook.
Paul Gordon, a social media lawyer at Wallmans lawyers in Adelaide explained the change to Guardian Australia:
Up until yesterday the general thread [was] if you knew or ought to have known a defamatory post was
there, you had to take it down.
What the judge yesterday found was a bit different, because it wasn't alleged by Voller that the media companies had been negligent in failing to the take down the comments. Instead, the judge found
the companies were responsible for putting them up in the first place.
That's really the key difference. You have a situation where now media companies are responsible not just for taking down comments when they see them, but for
preventing them going up in the first place. It places a significantly bigger burden on media companies from what was previously in place.
News Corp Australia said it is reviewing the decision with a view to an appeal.
only way for companies to abide by this understanding of the law is for them to take down their Facebook pages totally.