'Your business could be ruined in 24 hours': The Australian sex industry says a new law could force them off the internet

  • Australia’s adult industry peak body has criticised a proposed federal law that would force hosts and social media platforms to take down sexually explicit content.
  • Launched late last year, the government’s draft Online Safety Act was proposed to combat online harms including cyberbullying, image-based abuse and violent material.
  • The Eros Association said the inclusion of sexually explicit material in the Act could force sex workers offline.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australia’s peak body for the adult industry has slammed a proposed law that they claim would harm the livelihood of their workers and limit Australian’s sexual impression under the guise of protecting citizens.

The Eros Association has made a submission to the consultation for the government’s Online Safety Act, a law that expands the powers of the eSafety Commissioner to “protect Australians from online harms”.

Released in late 2020, the Act has been drafted to address cyberbullying, image-based abuse, terrorist material and other harmful imagery.

This includes an online content scheme that would force the takedown of content within statutory timeframes, removal of accounts and even delisting from search engines.

The Act’s online content scheme includes sexually explicit content from consenting adults in the online content scheme, according to Eros Association policy and campaigns advisor Jarryd Bartle, which could have devastating effects for anyone in the industry.

“You could have your business ruined in 24 hours if a complaint is made and a removal notice is issued, your content is taking down, accounts taken down and website taken down in the case of fetish content,” he told Business Insider Australia.

How the Online Safety Act’s online content scheme works

The online content scheme includes powers to take down sexuality explicit material in two categories: media that would be Refused Classification under Australia’s current classification guidelines, and material that would be X18+ or Category Two.

The former, called Class 1 material in the Act, includes depictions of fetishes — including bondage, spanking or fisting — and fictionalised incest fantasies.

The latter, deemed Class 2, would be any sexually explicit material.

Under the Act, individuals can complain about content and the eSafety Commissioner can issue a takedown notice to social media platforms and hosting services which gives them 24 hours to remove them.

In the case of Class 1 material, the Federal Court can order an account’s deletion if they do it repeatedly or even deleting an app off an app store.

For many major social media platforms, sexually explicit material is already against their rules (Twitter being the major exception). But these statutory timeframes and compulsory sanctions go a step further than the platform’s own rules.

Eros Association general manager Rachel Payne said that this could drastically curtail the industry’s work online as well as the personal freedoms of Australians.

“As drafted the online content scheme would provide for the removal of many forms of adult content impacting the livelihood of producers, sex workers, adult retailers and adult entertainment venues,” she wrote in the submission.

“The scheme is so broad reaching it would also limit the sexual expression of Australians online
whether or not they are posting sexually explicit content for profit.”

Payne compares the proposed legislation to US anti-sex trafficking legislation which forced legitimate sex workers off many online platforms.

Rather than passing the Online Safety Act as is, Payne’s submission suggests that any regulation should be opt-in.

“Eros is of the view that adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want,” she finished.

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