eSafety Commissioner Cannot Be Trusted On Online Harm

Written by:
5 July 2024
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“Australians simply cannot trust the eSafety Commissioner to stick to online child protection, due to a history of politically charged censorship, as evidenced by the the eSafety Commission’s own data,” said John Storey, Director of Law and Policy at the Institute of Public Affairs.

In August 2023, eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, warned that in the lead up to the Voice to Parliament referendum, online abuse against Indigenous Australians was “likely to intensify” and that the number of complaints was “highly concerning”.

Data obtained under freedom of information (FOI) requests proves the eSafety Commissioner’s claims were highly misleading. Analysis by the IPA has found, despite the claims of Julie Inman Grant:

  • There were just two complaints made by Indigenous Australians relating to online abuse linked to the Voice referendum during the campaign.
  • There were no orders to take down any online content based on a complaint of abuse made by an Indigenous Australian to the eSafety Commissioner.
  • From 1 July to 30 September 2023, the crucial last full quarter before the referendum, the number of complaints made by Indigenous Australians increased by just 8 from the same period the year before, from 22 to 30, of which less than half related to racism.

“The narrative Julie Inman Grant has sort to establish, that there was a wave of racist cyber abuse during the referendum, is not supported by her own office’s data,” said Mr Storey.

“The fact that there were just two Voice-related complaints during the middle of a highly divisive national debate, when nearly one million Australians identify as Indigenous, shows that there was little material substance to the eSafety Commissioner’s claims.”

From 1 July 2023 to 30 September 2023, the last full quarter prior to the referendum day, there were 30 complaints in total made by indigenous Australians about cyber abuse, or just 0.4 of all complaints made to the eSafety Commissioner during that period.

As demonstrated via attempts to censor material worldwide on Twitter/X, the eSafety Commissioner risks becoming a law unto herself who wields immense power, with no meaningful democratic oversight, in order to silence online debate and opinion with which she disagrees.

“The eSafety Commissioner has demanded that social media companies censor the internet worldwide based on subjective and vague powers, which has allowed for dramatic overreach beyond focussed interventions on protecting children,” said Mr Storey.

“There is clearly a need for public policy to protect children from obscene and violent content, and for law enforcement purposes, but now the eSafety Commissioner has powers which enable the censorship of debate and opinion.”

“All Australians have the right to freedom of speech online. Governments and activist bureaucrats must never be given a platform to launch politically motivated interventions,” said Mr Storey.

To download the IPA’s research click here.

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