Australian Adults Are Reporting an Alarming Number of Cyber Abuse Cases

Australian Adults Are Reporting an Alarming Number of Cyber Abuse Cases
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The Adult Cyber Abuse scheme came into force on January 23, 2022, and alarmingly, 200 reports have already been received by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

The Adult Cyber Abuse scheme comes thanks to the Online Safety Act, which came into force less than a month ago. It gives Australia’s eSafety Commissioner sweeping new powers to, among other things, order the removal of material that seriously harms adults.

Appearing before Senate Estimates on Tuesday, eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant revealed a staggering 200 complaints had been made since the scheme kicked off.

“We’ve already handled more than 200 complaints about serious abuse targeting Australian adults,” she said. “These include complaints about explicit instructions and encouragement to commit suicide, threats of murder and menacing publication of personal details online, or doxing.”

With the new Adult Cyber Abuse scheme, eSafety will be able to act as a safety net to give Australian adults who have been subjected to serious online abuse somewhere to turn if the online service providers have failed to act in removing the abusive content.

Your first point of call is the platform – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – but if a platform fails to take action, you can visit www.esafety.gov.au to make a report.

eSafety will then investigate and make a ruling.

“[The] adult cyber abuse scheme allows us to step in and support people who come to us because they are experiencing serious online harm,” Inman Grant added on Tuesday.

She said in response to these and other harmful content, eSafety has worked with the platforms to ensure the material is quickly removed. Inman Grant said some posts have been taken down in less than an hour as a result of its intervention.

The 200 cases, however, is “quite elevated with respect to the same time of last year”. Mostly because eSafety was taking these type of complaints on an informal basis up until three weeks ago.

In May last year, eSafety said it had received 3,600 adult cyber abuse-related requests since it began taking them informally in 2017.

Even still, head of investigations at eSafety, Toby Dagg, said the 200 figure was still an 85 per cent increase on adult cyber abuse reported year on year.

He agreed with senators who asked if this was because eSafety now has an official mechanism for reporting abuse.

“We believe these robust changes are helping to level the playing field by shifting the burden for online safety away from children, parents and vulnerable communities and making service providers more accountable for safety protections on their services,” Inman Grant added.

If you or someone you care about needs support, please call LifeLine Australia on 13 11 14, the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 737 732 or MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978. 

If life is in danger, call 000.