Adult content and sex workers could be forced to go offline under a new code, industry insiders warn, despite assurances from the Online Safety Commissioner that powers would not be used to this end.
When the Australian government’s online security law was debated in parliament, it raised concerns that the powers of the Electronic Security Commissioner over online content would be significantly expanded and include a new censorship stance to remove or restrict adult content online under section 9 of the law.
The section covers Australian rating rules, on what is and is not allowed to be viewed in Australia, and states that what is considered adult content should be removed or only accessible through a verification system. ‘age.
ESafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant tried to allay concerns about how she would use her new powers, telling Guardian Australia at the time that she had no plans to search for consensual adult pornography in line.
“My role as a regulator is to protect all Australians from harm online, it is not to strangle the sex industry,” she said. âWhat happens between consenting adults does not concern me, as long as it does not harm others. “
However, Guardian Australia understands that since the legislation was passed, the Commissioner has consulted the tech industry on a new industry code, which may include requirements to force companies to overhaul their services and remove or restrict adult content.
A position paper on what the commissioner expects from the mandatory code will be published in the coming weeks. Based on the discussions, it is understood that the bureau’s thinking leaned towards including in the new code requirements restricting adult content online.
It is understood that sex worker organizations were not consulted during the drafting of the position paper.
A spokesperson for the Electronic Security Commissioner declined to comment on the content of the position paper, or which had been consulted, beyond stating that it would be published shortly. The spokesperson said that ultimately, tech industry bodies would be responsible for drafting the new code and the sex industry would consult with these groups.
Gala Vanting, national program manager for the Scarlet Alliance sex workers’ association, said it was a concern that was left to the industry to consult because it is unclear what the commissioner considers to be industry stakeholders.
âWe interpret that they are targeting this at technology. But verifying their accountability to the sex worker community is a problem, because the Online Safety Commissioner, who has such a solid background in working with big tech and social media platforms, knows they have to. repeatedly refused to engage with us, refused to understand our needs as users, refused to understand how we approach some kind of community standards and online safety, âshe said.
“So leaving this in the hands of tech companies only hurts sex workers’ access to digital citizenship, to our security tools, to our safe spaces.”
Vanting said the Scarlet Alliance would seek to meet with Inman-Grant on the code.
Although the tech industry will develop the code, the commissioner will ultimately decide whether it meets her expectations.
The proposed new code would apply not only to sites like Twitter, but also to private messaging services, search engines and app distribution services, suggesting that dating apps like Grindr could be covered by the code. offers.
Digi, the association of digital businesses in Australia including Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter, was involved in the discussions. Managing Director Sunita Bose said the new code would apply to a wide range of industries.
âIn nine months, every website in Australia, the entire tech industry and other industries such as retail will be subject to these mandatory codes, and they will affect Australian internet users,â she said.
“We will continue to work with the Office of the Electronic Security Commissioner and closely review their position paper for clear advice on how we are moving the development of the code forward, with other organizations and with the wide range of parties involved. “
It happened as Inman-Grant was interviewed recently by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, a religion-based anti-pornography organization in the United States, formerly known as Morality in the Media. The organization lobbied for banks to stop processing payments for sites like Pornhub.
Inman-Grant deleted a tweet highlighting his meeting with the group shortly after posting it. A spokesperson said deleting, muting and blocking were her recommended action when subjected to “inaccurate or offensive posts online,” and said providing an interview does not indicate endorsement organisation.
Much of the concern for sex workers and the tech industry is that the development of the code works in parallel with a review of Australia’s outdated classification system that decides what content is rated, as well as the development of a âroadmapâ for age. verifying adult content, developing basic online standards and developing restricted access systems for inappropriate content for people under the age of 18. While all are related, the outcome of the Australian Classification System review could have a very different impact on what is allowed online, if the system is updated.