Online safety expectations to boost transparency and accountability for digital platforms

Dept of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

The Albanese Government has today amended the Basic Online Safety Expectations (BOSE) Determination to better address new and emerging online safety issues and help keep industry more accountable to Australians.

The BOSE Determination sets out the Australian Government’s safety expectations of online service providers for protecting Australian users.

Under the BOSE, online service providers, including social media services, relevant electronic services and designated internet services, are expected to take steps to protect Australians from unlawful and harmful material and activity that falls within the remit of the Online Safety Act, or impedes the online safety of Australians.

The new Determination now includes additional expectations on online service providers, including:

  • Ensuring that the best interests of the child are a primary consideration in the design and operation of any service likely to be accessed by children;
  • Requiring companies to provide – on request of the eSafety Commissioner – a report on the number of active end-users of services in Australia, broken down according to the number of users who are children or adults;
  • Considering user safety in the design and operation of generative AI, and proactively minimising the extent to which online services are used to produce or facilitate unlawful or harmful material (including deepfake non-consensual intimate images); and
  • Incorporating user-safety in the design and operation of recommender systems, and proactively minimising the extent to which they amplify unlawful or harmful material.

Under the Online Safety Act, the eSafety Commissioner is empowered to seek information from online services to understand how they are complying with the BOSE Determination. The Commissioner has a graduated set of powers to enforce greater transparency, including formal warnings and fines.

These changes follow consultation in late 2023 to early 2024, with 51 submissions received. All non-confidential submissions have now been published.

The Determination also includes new examples of reasonable steps that could be taken to meet these expectations, including publishing regular transparency reports, establishing processes for detecting and addressing hate speech, and ensuring platforms have adequate staff and systems in place to action complains and detect unlawful or harmful material.

Updating the BOSE Determination is one part of the continued implementation of the Online Safety Act.

The BOSE Determination complements the obligations online service providers have under the current online safety industry code for social media services, as well as forthcoming industry standards which will soon be registered for relevant electronic services and designated internet services. These codes and standards represent the mandatory and enforceable measures that industry must meet in order to comply with legally binding obligations in relation to class 1 material – such as child sexual exploitation and pro-terror material.

The Government has also brought forward the independent statutory review of the Act – led by Ms Delia Rickard PSM. The review is a broad ranging examination of the operation and effectiveness of the Act and will consider what changes are needed to make sure Australia’s online safety laws remain fit for purpose.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP:

“Ensuring that digital platforms are more transparent and accountable to their Australian users is a key tool to improve safety online.

“What we know is that the online environment has changed and will continue to change – which is why we’re taking action now to ensure we address current and emerging harms.

“The amended BOSE Determination will provide eSafety with a clear and up to date remit in exercising its transparency powers and send a clear message to online platforms about their obligations to keep Australians safe online.

“I thank those who provided a submission and look forward to seeing the completion of the Review into the Online Safety Act in coming months to ensure our laws are fit for purpose to address new and emerging harms”.

/Public Release. View in full here.