Internet age limits and online harm targeted in budget

Millions of dollars will be spent protecting children from harmful online content, fighting evolving online threats, and warning about gambling features hidden inside video games.

The federal budget measures come in addition to investments in traditional media and a funding boost for the eSafety Commissioner to support use of a law challenged by billionaire social network owner Elon Musk.

The announcements follow growing concerns about harmful and violent content on social media in Australia, and a South Australian proposal to ban children under the age of 14 from joining popular online platforms.

The measures include a $6.5 million to create a technology pilot to test “age assurance technologies” that could prevent children from accessing inappropriate and harmful online content.

The program, budget papers said, would also test the privacy and security requirements needed to demand age verification across websites.

Funding from a $43.2 million communications package would also be used to respond to “emerging and evolving online harms” and another $1.4 million would be given to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner over two years to support legal and compliance issues associated with the Online Safety Act.

The law, introduced in 2022, was recently tested in the Federal Court by the social network X, formerly known as Twitter and owned by Mr Musk, which challenged its power to demand the removal of a stabbing video.

The court refused to extend the eSafety Commissioner’s injunction against X under the law.

The government will also spend $1 million over two years on an education campaign about upcoming changes to video game ratings due to begin in September.

Under the changes, games with built-in purchases linked to chance, such as loot boxes, will automatically receive an M rating, while titles with simulated gambling elements will attract an R18+ rating.

In traditional media, the government will commit $22.6 million over five years to reforming media laws, including anti-siphoning regulations that govern where sports can be broadcast.

The budget papers also contained $12 million in continued funding for independent newswire Australian Associated Press.

“AAP is vital for media diversity and we are grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve Australians with accurate, impartial news and fact-checking,” AAP chief executive Lisa Davies said.


Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
(Australian Associated Press)


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