Australia, UK Sign Pledge to Deal With Harmful Content Online

The deal will see both countries bolster efforts to monitor online content to ensure harmful material is curbed.
Australia, UK Sign Pledge to Deal With Harmful Content Online
An image of the TikTok phone app in front of a laptop featuring the front page to Australia's eSafety commissioner website, taken in Perth, Western Australia on Jan. 20, 2024. (Wade Zhong/The Epoch Times)
Alfred Bui

Australia has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United Kingdom to strengthen the cooperation between the two countries on online safety and security.

The MoU was the first arrangement of its kind and covered a broad range of online issues, including illegal content, child safety, age assurance, technology-facilitated gender-based violence, and harms caused by emerging technology (such as artificial intelligence).

The Australian government said the MoU would amplify online safety laws in both countries, and help develop a “global consensus” on how to deal with online harm.

“This historic Memorandum of Understanding will bring our two countries closer together, ensuring greater collaboration and engagement as we deal with online harms,” said Communications Minister Michelle Rowland.

“Working together, we will protect the privacy, safety, and security of our citizens without stifling the innovation that is vital for economic, social and individual progress.

While Ms. Rowland noted that online safety was a shared international responsibility, she said the two countries needed to be proactive in developing proper legislative frameworks to address emerging online risks.

“Both Australia and the United Kingdom are resolute in our commitment to keeping our citizens safe online,” she said.

“We are like-minded allies and key partners in the fight for safer and more positive online experiences.”

Meanwhile, Michelle Donelan, the UK Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, said the MoU signified a new chapter in the history of the two countries.

“The UK and Australia are at the forefront of online safety, and I am proud of our internationally pioneering approaches, which are already helping to create a safer and more secure digital world, protecting our citizens and holding platforms to account,” she said.

More cooperation will come in the form of in-person dialogues, coordinated bilateral and multilateral engagement, regulatory engagement, and shared research projects.

Australia has been subject to a series of serious cyber attacks that rocked the country since September 2022.

Hackers have breached the databases of many major corporations and government agencies, causing millions of people to have their data stolen and affecting the operation of many essential services.

Digital ID Reform

The new MoU comes as the federal Labor government is pushing for the adoption of digital ID, saying it will help improve online safety for internet users.

In December 2023, the government introduced the digital ID legislation to the federal parliament, which provides a formal legislative framework for Australians to verify their identity online via a single platform.

While the government claimed that participation in the digital ID program would be voluntary for Australians, the legislation would expand the digital ID system for use by state and territory governments, as well as the private sector.

Despite the government’s promise of enhanced online security, there have been concerns that digital ID could be used for mass surveillance and law enforcement.
Monica O’Shea contributed to this article.
Alfred Bui is an Australian reporter based in Melbourne and focuses on local and business news. He is a former small business owner and has two master’s degrees in business and business law. Contact him at [email protected].
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