Government announces crackdown on ‘toxic’ adult content online

Nowadays, the internet has become an indispensable tool, shaping nearly every aspect of our lives. From communication and information access to entertainment and commerce, its influence is pervasive.

That’s why in a recent move, the government is taking significant steps to ensure the online space is safer for all, particularly women and children.

With the rise of 'deepfake' technology and the ongoing concerns around harmful pornography, the government is introducing new legislation aimed at combating these issues and the broader problem of violence against women.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced a substantial investment of $925 million over five years, dedicated to supporting women escaping violent relationships and addressing the proliferation of 'toxic male extremist views about women online'.

This move comes as a response to the public's demand for more action against the increasing violence towards women, which has been a growing concern across the nation.

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Prime Minister Albanese announced a $925 million investment to combat the rise in violence against women. Image source: Freepik

Deepfake pornography, a disturbing trend where artificial intelligence (AI) is used to create realistic images or videos of individuals without their consent, often in compromising situations, is at the forefront of this legislative crackdown.

The new laws will make it illegal to create and distribute deepfake porn non-consensually, as well as to share sexually explicit material using AI and other technologies.

The urgency of these measures was underscored by a recent tragic event in North Bondi, where the body of 19-year-old Yolonda Mumbulla was discovered.

Federal Communications Minister Michelle Rowland also announced a $6.5 million allocation in the upcoming federal budget for a pilot of 'age-assurance technologies'.

These technologies aim to reduce children's exposure to harmful content online, a concern that many parents share as they struggle to navigate the digital environment with their children.

‘Reducing this exposure to harmful and degrading pornography will better protect the women and children of Australia and we will have more to say about our plans to strengthen online safety,’ she said.

It has been brought to attention that deepfake distribution has been affecting Australian schools recently.

On Wednesday, May 1, Ms Rowland was asked about ways to limit access to deepfakes, considering most of it is posted from outside Australia. She suggested implementing new laws that would function similarly to the current legislation governing the sharing of intimate images.

‘We perceive that this will be part of that ongoing piece of work to ensure that that kind of material is not made available, and it has the appropriate records to be taken down because (in) many of these cases, what the affected person wants to see is the material taken down,’ she explained.

‘We are confident that, based on existing precedent that we have in relation to this type of content that forms deepfakes, that we can have meaningful and impactful change in this area,’ Ms Rowland added.

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AI technology is being used to create harmful deepfake videos. Image source: Freepik

Meanwhile, Federal Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth emphasised that parents need more ‘support and resources’ when talking to their children about online material.

‘We know that to end violence against women, we do need generational change and we need positive role models for young boys to ensure that those negative stereotypes are countered,’ she stated.

‘And that influencers that promote damaging attitudes towards women are also countered.’

Anuska Bandara, Founder of Elegant Media and an AI expert based in Melbourne, warned of the far-reaching consequences of deepfake pornography.

‘The peril lies in the fact that the real individuals have no control over what deepfakes, created using advanced AI techniques, might communicate,’ he said.

‘Exploiting this technology, scammers are leveraging deepfakes to influence unsuspecting individuals, leading them into dangerous situations or even engaging in the distribution of explicit content,’ he added.

The alarming statistic that one woman in Australia has been killed every four days since the beginning of the year underscores the gravity of the situation. As of the time of publishing, 28 women have allegedly died at the hands of men in 2024.

Prime Minister Albanese acknowledged that there is no overnight solution to violence against women and children but remains committed to making progress through the National Plan to end family, domestic, and sexual violence within one generation.

‘I am satisfied it is a further step forward. Can we be satisfied when a woman is losing her life on average every four days? Of course not,’ he said.

You can watch Prime Minister Albaenese’s announcement here:

Source: 9 News Australia/YouTube​

As these new laws come into effect, it's crucial for all Australians to stay informed and understand the implications of online content access.

The government's efforts to create a safer online environment are commendable, but it's also a reminder of the collective responsibility we share in fostering a respectful and secure digital world.

You may check this article written by member @Joy Straw, a retired psychologist, on how to help someone who has experienced domestic violence.

You can also ask Joy a question here.
Key Takeaways
  • Australia is introducing new laws to tackle the creation and distribution of deepfake pornography and misogynist content online.
  • The government is allocating $925 million over five years to support women escaping violent relationships and to address toxic views online.
  • The legislation will focus on making the non-consensual distribution of sexually explicit AI-generated material illegal.
  • The government is also investing in 'age-assurance technologies' to protect children from harmful content and aims to create generational change to end violence against women.
If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual abuse or family violence, please reach out for help by contacting 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

You may also visit this list of mental health helplines for immediate support.

What are your thoughts on this new government initiative, members? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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