There is often confusion about what online content is reportable, but what is very clear is the type of content that may be considered ‘prohibited’ under Australian law [Broadcasting Services Act 1992].
According to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner violent, explicit or criminal content is classified as prohibited and can be reported to and investigated by the Office. It includes:
- footage of real or simulated violence, criminal activity or accidents from video clips, games or films
- sexually explicit content
- images of child sexual abuse
- content that advocates the doing of a terrorist act
- content instructing or promoting crime, paedophilia or violence
Offensive content is defined by the Collins Dictionary as any published or broadcast content (such as articles, photographs, films, or websites) that is likely to be upsetting, insulting, or objectionable to some or most people.
Offensive or illegal content can be distressing for anyone to witness, but it can be particularly problematic for children. While many parents adopt safeguards such as monitoring their child’s device or utilising parental controls, these measures are not always guaranteed to prevent children from witnessing inappropriate or potentially harmful material.
If you or your child encounter offensive or illegal content online, it’s important to know that there are certain actions you can take, including:
- Utilising the ‘report abuse’ function on the app/website the bullying took place on
- Blocking the user
- Collecting evidence by taking screenshots of the abusive content
- Making an official complaint to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner
- Requesting for the content to be removed
- Notifying the police
Reporting Offensive and Illegal Content
The cyberReport team, headed by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, investigates complaints from Australian residents and law enforcement agencies about offensive and illegal online content.
The team advises that if a child is in immediate danger to call Triple Zero  and if a child’s personal safety is at risk to contact your local police.
What Can & Can’t Be Investigated
In accordance with their guidelines, prohibited material can include content that is or appears to be:
- Child sexual abuse / child abuse
- Advocating a terrorist act
- Promoting incitement or instruction in crime
- Sexually explicit adult material
- Extreme or offensive content
- Inappropriate contact with child / suspected grooming
- Racism / discrimination
- Fraud / scam
- A privacy breach or identity theft
- Copyright infringement / intellectual property
- Defamation, cyberbullying, or harassment
- A computer virus
- Inciting self-harm
The cyberReport team is only able to investigate complaints about offensive and illegal online activity. “Priority is given to serious content such as child sexual abuse material, pro-terrorist content and content that promotes, incites or instructs in crime or violence. This type of material is known as Refused Classification (RC) content and is prohibited online.”
Cyberbullying and Harassment
If an Australian child is a victim of cyberbullying you can submit a complaint directly to the Office. Adult victims of serious cyberbullying and online harassment, stalking or threats can make a report to ACORN.
If the bullying and harassment is occurring on social media, it’s worth reporting the inappropriate activity on the site as well.
Image Based Abuse
If you have experienced image-based abuse, there are a number of actions you can take, including reporting the material on the applicable social media service or website, making a report to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, and in some instances, you may also need to contact the police.
If you have concerns about defamation, it’s recommended that you seek independent legal advice. You should also contact the website administrators to request that the content be removed.
Complaints about the mishandling of personal details by a Commonwealth or ACT government agency, or a private sector organisation can be made to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
The Australian Human Rights Commission investigates complaints of discrimination, harassment and bullying based on a person’s sex, disability, race or age.
If your personal safety is at risk, please contact your local police. If you are in immediate danger call Triple Zero (000). You may also wish to seek independent legal advice to determine other avenues of action.
To lodge a complaint or for more information, please visit www.esafety.gov.au
If you encounter child sexual abuse material online, please report it via our online content complaint form. If you are concerned about criminal activity — including online paedophile activity — please contact your local police or call Crime Stoppers toll free on 1800 333 000. Reports to Crime Stoppers can be made anonymously.