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AI, hate speech under scrutiny in online safety review

The Online Safety Act is being independently examined to see if it's adequate.

The Online Safety Act is being independently examined to see if it's adequate. Photo: AAP

Australians’ opinions on generative artificial intelligence and internet hate speech are being considered by the government as tensions flare between the online safety watchdog, federal politicians and social media giant X.

The Online Safety Act, which is aimed at protecting Australians from internet-related harm, is being independently examined by former deputy chair of the consumer watchdog Delia Rickard to determine whether it is effective in its current state or if its reach should be extended to address new and emerging risks.

Questions over penalties, the powers of the eSafety Commissioner, whether digital platforms have a duty of care to their users and further steps required to act in the best interest of children will also fall under the microscope.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland announced that the laws would be open to public consultation on Monday after the government brought forward the start of the review from 2025 to 2024.

“Our laws may be world-leading, but they are not set-and-forget,” she said.

“This is an opportunity for the community and civil society to have a role in reforms to strengthen our online safety laws, so they are fit for purpose in an ever-changing online environment.”

This comes as the eSafety Commissioner forges on with its legal battle against the social media site formerly known as Twitter.

The site, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, is arguing that it should be able to show graphic content of a Sydney bishop being stabbed during a sermon after the watchdog issued a takedown order in mid-April.

X has temporarily geoblocked videos of the incident from Australian users as the case moves through the courts, but lawyers for the social media company maintain the content doesn’t “encourage or provoke violence” and that the Australian agency doesn’t have the jurisdiction to dictate what overseas users saw.

The issue has ignited a war of words between Australia’s top politicians and Mr Musk with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese deriding him as “arrogant” while the eccentric billionaire called independent senator Jacqui Lambie an “enemy of the people”.

A final report of the review into Australia’s online safety laws will be provided to the government by October 31.

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