Devices hacked, women and girls blackmailed as cyber abuse grows20th July 2021
“This has the ability to impact all facets of victims’ lives,” she said. “They don’t feel safe at home, work, study or in social situations.”
Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the country was at a “critical turning point” in the treatment of technology-facilitated abuse. The commissioner will have a raft of new powers that come into force early next year as part of the Online Safety Bill passed by Parliament last month.
The commissioner will have the power to issue takedown orders to websites hosting non-consensual or abusive images and content, including to Google if images are still appearing on the search engine. She can also ask companies to build in safety measures to their apps or equipment.
Ms Inman Grant said she would also have the power to compel companies to comply with safety standards.
The powers come in response to reports to the commissioner of technology being used to perpetuate violence. The reports detail tracking devices being hidden in handbags and prams; women and children receiving abusive messages when logging into Netflix; and the hacking of thermostats in houses to raise the heating, in one case to 45 degrees.
“The burden is on [companies] to up their game and lift their online safety standards,” Ms Inman Grant said. “They have the way, they need the will.”
Ms Martin said the key was holding perpetrators to account through fines and criminal charges, and enforcement beyond national borders.
“There has to be a collaborative response, between government, between law enforcement, to actually hold people accountable so there is some access to justice,” she said.
“For me, because I don’t know who is responsible, even with the law, even with a government regulator, there’s still no prospect of justice for me.”
Jill Maxwell, chief executive of Tasmanian-based Sexual Assault Support Service, said her clinical team had reported more young women seeking help after they had been pressured or forced into sending sexual and nude photos.
She said young women often reported that one “harmless” photo would then be used by mostly young men to blackmail victims for more images. Ms Maxwell said behind the conduct were harmful sexual behaviours in perpetrators and links to child sexual exploitation.
“It’s becoming an increasing problem,” she said.
Services also reported that victims who were from culturally diverse and LGBTIQ backgrounds faced further barriers to reporting technology-facilitated abuse.
For help, call national domestic violence helpline1800 RESPECT. In case of emergency, call 000. Report abuse to the e-Safety Commissioner here.
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