Scarlet Alliance submission on the draft Basic Online Safety Expectations on November 15, 2021.
“The lack of definition of ‘harm’ in the Online Safety Act 2021 allows for interpretation through discretionary frameworks informed by highly variable value systems. The framework for ‘harm’ adopted in the Act has been widely critiqued by stakeholders throughout its process. We take particular issue with the conflation of content addressing sexuality, whether explicit or suggested, as inherently ‘harmful’, and have provided substantive remarks on this issue in all of our feedback on online safety, including in a recent submission to the eSafety Commissions Restricted Access System Consultation Paper.4
While we support in principle the intention to improve online safety for Australians, we continue to draw attention to the framing of ‘harm’ and ‘safety’ within the implementation of the Act. In viewing all sexual content as potentially ‘harmful’, the legislation and its implementation has the potential to create real-world harm for sex workers who create such content, including deplatforming and loss of digital assets resulting in loss of income, peer networks and safety information. We continue to maintain that the Online Safety Act 2021 does not contain adequate provisions to protect sex worker safety, online and offline. This is in no small part because it constructs content relating to our work as harmful, and thus sex workers as potential perpetrators of harm. Several aspects of the Basic Online Safety Expectations reinforce this.”