Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
Office of the eSafety Commissioner

Office of the eSafety Commissioner


CHAIR: Welcome, Ms Inman Grant and colleagues. Is there an opening statement you would like to make?

Ms Inman Grant : Thank you, Chair, and committee members for the opportunity to make an opening statement tonight. I want to start by saying that we welcomed the announcement of further funding in this year's budget, particularly in this budget environment, for the esafety office as we continue to undertake operations to improve online safety for all Australians. We're pleased that the government continues to recognise the important role we play in helping keep Australians safer online, particularly vulnerable segments of the population, such as children, older Australians and women experiencing domestic violence.

As you know, last year, the role of the esafety office was expanded from focusing specifically on children to promoting online safety for all Australians. Part of this last round of funding will enable us to undertake new functions following the expansion of our role, including the administration of a civil penalties regime designed to combat the non-consensual sharing of intimate images. Since October last year, we have successfully operated a world-first government-led initiative to provide resources, support and tangible action for Australians who have had their images shared online without their consent, a practice we refer to as image based abuse. The enabling legislation for the civil penalties regime is currently before the House. We look forward to its enactment as it will bolster our ability to counter this insidious practice of image based abuse.

In the year to date, we have experienced an increase in demand for our services, including almost a 36 per cent rise in cyberbullying complaints and a steeper rise still in the number of adults seeking assistance for cyber abuse matters. In response to this demand, we will be using some of our new funding to develop targeted resources for vulnerable Australians experiencing online abuse. Given the increasing demand for our services and the highly sensitive nature of the material we're dealing with, including intimate images and child sexual exploitation material, some of this new funding will also be used to strengthen our ICT infrastructure investigative tools and citizen facing services. It is critical that as an office we continue to work safely and securely.

Since I last appeared before this committee, our office has continued to deliver on its commitment to help all Australians have a safer, more positive experience online. We've continued to coordinate and lead efforts to combat cyberbullying, which we know has a devastating impact on far too many young Australians. We welcomed two new social media services in becoming tier 1 partners as part of our cyberbullying scheme, including Roblox and Yubo, formerly known as Yellow. In March, we supported the national day of action against bullying and violence, a really important event in raising awareness about issues such as cyberbullying and promoting the resources and support services available to young Australians. We've also strengthened our evidence base by releasing two new pieces of research, one examining the state of play of young people engaged in online gaming and the second revealing insights into how 3,000 young Australians and adults deal with the challenges they face online. I now look forward to any questions you might have.

CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Inman Grant.

Senator O'NEILL: It would be great if we could get a copy of your opening statement, if possible.

Ms Inman Grant : Of course.

Senator O'NEILL: The secretary might print it off for us. Minister, would you please provide an update on the progress of the bill to outlaw the non-consensual sharing of intimate images?

Senator Fifield: Yes. As you know, Senator, it went through the Senate with some amendments, which were not supported by the government. It is in the House of Representatives.

Senator O'NEILL: Is it listed for debate there?

Senator Fifield: It's not listed for today in the House. The amendment in the Senate went to the issue of criminal penalties. The government has no in-principle objection to criminal penalties. There are already criminal penalties available. Notwithstanding that, the government has never said that if there is the need to look at additional criminal penalties or to enhance them, the criminal penalties are there but we have an objection to that. What we stated in the debate was that this piece of legislation had a particular purpose—the civil penalties regime. There are a number of practical difficulties with the Centre Alliance amendment, so that is being examined at the moment.

Senator O'NEILL: Given your comments there, when do you anticipate the bill will be listed for debate in the House of Representatives? I noticed you checked the papers today, so it must be imminent.

Senator Fifield: As you know, the House set their own program separate to the Senate. Because we had that amendment in the Senate, that has delayed the progress of this bill. We need to examine what the Senate has done to the bill.

Senator O'NEILL: So is it fair to say that you've considered the amendment and you've advanced a copy of the bill now to be considered by the House for listing at some time pretty soon?

Senator Fifield: We still have to examine what the Senate has done to the bill. Sometimes these things are listed for second reading debate given House colleagues; there are more of them and they often want to make contributions on bills. This was a Senate initiated bill, from memory.

Senator O'NEILL: The budget allocates resources for this function. I'm assuming that you have sufficient capacity to get this bill on its way, Minister?

Senator Fifield: Sorry? Say again.

Senator O'NEILL: I'm assuming that the budget allocation for this function of preparing the legislation will be on its way soon?

Senator Fifield: The bill will be on its way soon?

Senator O'NEILL: Yes.

Senator Fifield: We need to address what the Senate has done. We need to determine what we will do in the House in relation to that, because we don't believe that the amendment moved in the Senate is workable.

Senator O'NEILL: Right. Commissioner, of the $11.7 million in additional funding for the esafety office announced in this year's budget, how much will be allocated to, firstly, administering the new civil penalties regime to address the non-consensual sharing of intimate images?

Ms Inman Grant : Four million dollars will be administered for that purpose.

Senator O'NEILL: And how much for providing guidance and support to Australians of all ages who experience online abuse?

Ms Inman Grant : So $1.7 million will be allocated to developing new cyber abuse materials, or did you say image based? Did I mishear you?

Senator O'NEILL: Guidance and support. That's what you're calling cyber materials?

Ms Inman Grant : Yes. Guidance and support.

Senator O'NEILL: Of the $11.7 million, how much will be used to implement the civil penalties regime?

Ms Inman Grant : Four million dollars.

Senator O'NEILL: Are administering and implementation the same thing?

Ms Inman Grant : Yes. Four million dollars for implementation. We currently have staff of about five that have been working under informal powers. Thus far, we've dealt with 200 matters and have had an 80 per cent success rate in taking down intimate images. Most of these have multiple URLs. We've worked across 116 different platforms to get this content taken down.

Senator O'NEILL: So implementation and administering, you would say, are the same thing?

Ms Inman Grant : Yes.

Senator O'NEILL: So there's $4 million for both of those elements?

Ms Inman Grant : Yes. We hope that the bill will be enacted, but when we have those new powers, there will be a range of different implementation options that will be much more labour intensive than the current processes that we're undertaking with just the informal powers.

Senator O'NEILL: And that will be a significant part of that $4 million spend?

Ms Inman Grant : Yes.

Senator O'NEILL: Right. How much is budgeted for the implementation of the criminal non-consensual sharing of intimate images, if this were to come into effect?

Ms Inman Grant : To my knowledge, we will not have carriage of criminal matters. This is simply for the civil penalty regime, as I understand it.

Senator O'NEILL: So if criminal powers were to come in, they would be with the minister?

Ms Inman Grant : The minister via a law enforcement agency, I would assume. I will defer to the department on that.

Mr Eccles : Principally with the AFP.

Senator O'NEILL: The A-G?

Mr Eccles : Yes. It would be their portfolio.

Senator Fifield: AFP is now in the home affairs portfolio.

Senator O'NEILL: So you are doing a bit of work on this, by the looks of things?

Ms Inman Grant : Yes. But we would go to many of the state law enforcement agencies. As you know, there are criminal provisions in a number of states around Australia.

Senator O'NEILL: But not all the states, which was part of the debate in the Senate. How much funding for the image based abuse portal has been received to date?

Ms Inman Grant : I think we are in our second year of funding. Stuart might know how much we've actually received in the coffers.

Mr Wise : We've received $4.8 million to date for image based abuse.

Senator O'NEILL: And what, when and where has this been spent?

Mr Wise : We received the money over the last three years to implement the program that we have at the moment.

Ms Inman Grant : We have built a portal that we launched in October with a full range of resources that are tailored for different vulnerable communities. We are building a new reporting tool and new infrastructure. Obviously we're dealing with the most sensitive of data and images and we want to ensure that it's very secure. We've got a staff of five that is administering the program and dealing with victims.

Senator O'NEILL: So that three-year funding of $4.8 million is allocated to those three core elements?

Ms Inman Grant : That's right.

Senator O'NEILL: What enhancements have been made to the portal since its launch?

Ms Inman Grant : Well, the portal is still in pilot mode. We're still getting feedback from it. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, including one academic in the US saying it's the most comprehensive portal of information on the subject matter anywhere in the world. The updates would have been minor—nothing significant in terms of additional content.

Senator O'NEILL: Could you give me an indication of how frequently the portal is used and how it's measured?

Ms Inman Grant : We have had almost 70,000 visits to the portal thus far. Attached to the portal, of course, is the reporting tool. We have had 200 reports and I believe another 200 inquiries as part of the image based abuse portal.

Senator O'NEILL: So you have had 200 reports and 200 inquiries?

Ms Inman Grant : Inquiries.

Senator O'NEILL: How many complaints have been made to the portal and how is this measured? Are they your reports?

Ms Inman Grant : The official report would be a complaint. Somebody actually fills out the form. We take a case management approach. That would be a report that was actioned in some way, shape or form or if the victim was spoken to or communicated with and an action has been taken on their behalf.

Senator O'NEILL: And they are the two criteria that you use to delineate what comes into the site? There are reports and there are inquiries?

Ms Inman Grant : And there are views of the website and downloads of the different resources available.

Senator O'NEILL: How do you keep track of your portal? What are the measurements that you undertake?

Ms Inman Grant : In terms of analytics, I will put that on notice.

Senator O'NEILL: Great. I have a pretty good sense from what you have said, but a bit more detail would be great.

Ms Inman Grant : Sure. I'm happy to.

Senator O'NEILL: How many complaints have been resolved? How do you keep track of that measurement?

Ms Inman Grant : Well, we have had an 80 per cent success rate out of the almost 200. That was 160. The 20 per cent that we haven't been successful getting images taken down on are largely on what we call rogue porn sites. They are all overseas. There are very few—something like 0.05 per cent—that are Australian hosted. These are all overseas sites. Forty per cent of the reports that we're getting in are of images of people under the age of 18, which makes it child sexual abuse material. So we work with our cyberReport team to get that down. That content is illegal here. It's illegal in most countries. For the other 60 per cent that we're dealing with, we are working basically with the different platforms terms of service. We will send a letter requesting takedown based on violations of the terms of service. With the 116 platforms that we have worked with, we have had an 80 per cent success rate. That even includes some of the commercial porn sites. But some of the rogue porn sites are those that are set up purely for the purpose of humiliating a victim, such as There has been resistance to take down.

Senator O'NEILL: How complex are these matters that you have to resolve?

Ms Inman Grant : Extremely complex. As you can imagine, the victims that come in to us are incredibly distressed. Sometimes they know who posted the image. Sometimes they don't. They often don't know how far it has spread—if it's only on one site or on multiple. There is no cookie cutter approach. We've seen a number of different trends. Sextortion has been one that has really surprised us.

Senator O'NEILL: Really?

Ms Inman Grant : But we're seeing fairly similar scenarios. People are reached out to on a social media site like Facebook or a dating site. They are asked to go offline and either share a sexy video over Facetime or share an image. The minute that happens, blackmail or requests for cash, more explicit pictures or other sexual favours come forward. What has also been interesting is that 60 per cent of those sextortion cases have been targeting young men. The victims have been young men, mostly internationally male students.

Senator O'NEILL: Really? That's a very interesting trend. You are capturing quite a degree of data there. How are you actually managing your distressed victims? Apart from the data retention and resolution of the problem, I'm just thinking of the trauma that they experience to report it first and then the trauma of the reporting process?

Ms Inman Grant : Well, we try and make the reporting process as seamless and ask as few questions as we need to get the information we need. We also take their temperature on their mental health. We ask them how they are feeling on a scale of one to five. We have a range of mental health resources and partnerships to whom we can refer victims. So we assess that.

Senator O'NEILL: How frequently do you do that?

Ms Vassiliadis : Every complaint will be assessed from that perspective through the triaging process. A large percentage—I couldn't be specific—is referred to mental health services.

Senator O'NEILL: Do you want to take that on notice and give me a sense of whether they are cold referrals—where people are just given a number—or if there is actual follow-up to make sure people connect with a service when you think that they might be at risk?

Ms Inman Grant : We do have a contractual arrangement with Kids Helpline, which we mostly use for the youth based cyberbullying. We have referred 6,000 Australians to Kids Helpline. We're in constant contact with Kids Helpline around the different trends that they are seeing and how we might be contributing to their volumes. We talk on a regular basis. I also mentioned to you, Senator O'Neill, that we decided to form an esafety and mental health working group because the nexus between these forms of online abuse and mental health and online wellbeing are so important. We felt that the two sectors needed to be aligned in our messaging, resources and response.

Senator O'NEILL: Great. That's going well?

Ms Inman Grant : That's going really well.

Senator O'NEILL: If you want to take that on notice, I would love some more information around that.

CHAIR: I would like to get a sense of time.

Senator O'NEILL: I have six questions.

CHAIR: I know Senator Patrick and Senator Steele-John have approximately 10 or 15 minutes questions each. Why don't we go to the dinner break. We'll break as planned and come back with the eSafety Commissioner. We'll suspend now and return at 7.35 pm with the eSafety Commissioner.

Proceedings suspended from 18:33 to 19:35

CHAIR: We might kick back off them. Welcome back. Senator Patrick.

Senator PATRICK: Just following on from Senator O'Neill, I wanted to talk to you about the work of the eSafety Commissioner and the mental health steering group. I seem to recall from the evidence you gave during the cyberbullying inquiry that drawing a direct link between suicide and cyberbullying was unproductive.

Ms Inman Grant : We, in the eSafety and mental health sectors, believe that drawing a direct causal link is dangerous. We don't want this leading to a contagion effect. The incidence of physical bullying is one in four; the incidence in Australia of youth based cyberbullying is one in five. Thankfully, the youth based suicide rate in Australia is much, much lower but, of course, we don't want any lives to be lost.

Senator PATRICK: But that was the purpose of the coming together of those two groups, wasn't it?

Ms Inman Grant : One of the primary purposes was to make sure that we were aligned, particularly when stories did become sensationalised. Particularly in vulnerable communities where a child has been lost, obviously, the families, the students and the broader community are very impacted and very vulnerable. Another example is: we've been sending out some cross-sectoral alerts when we know that stories are coming out and how we might respond to them constructively and consistently as a sector. And that happened just this Friday around 13 Reasons Why. We, as the regulator, reached out to Netflix, in August of last year, concerned that there weren't trigger warnings around that very edgy, risky content. We met with Netflix in November in Washington DC and asked that they put trigger warnings in and work with the mental health organisations here locally. And they did just that—partnered with headspace and Everymind.

Senator PATRICK: Is that the specific work of the two entities working together? What work are they actually doing together?

Ms Inman Grant : I'll cut to the chase. We all combined our efforts to promote the great work that headspace and Everymind had done in cooperation with Netflix and got the message out to Australian parents and young people that there was dangerous content. However, there are great resources out there; there is help. And that's what we are trying to encourage: rather than sensationalism around these tragedies, we want to encourage help seeking behaviours and we have tremendous resources here that we want parents, educators and young people to use.

Senator PATRICK: Do you think that message is permeating well?

Ms Inman Grant : I think we're starting to get traction. I think that, when you have a chorus or a choir, that resonates more than single voices in the wild.

Senator PATRICK: And how about amongst parliamentarians?

Ms Inman Grant : Is it resonating amongst parliamentarians?

Senator PATRICK: I wonder whether or not you're approaching parliamentarians about the message as well and getting through.

Ms Inman Grant : We did have the Safer Internet Day celebrations kick off in Parliament House. That was attended by people from across the range of parties with the message of respect. I think that did resonate, and we wrote to every member of parliament to echo those words. We will be working with members of parliament, because they have important voices into their electorates, into their constituents, and we want these voices to be consistent.

Senator PATRICK: Moving on to your budget, it appears you have an increase of $14 million.

Ms Inman Grant : That's correct.

Senator PATRICK: What will that funding be put towards? I did hear your opening statement. It wasn't clear to me—

Ms Inman Grant : The funding came along with the range of four or five NPPs. The first is $1.2 million for the eSafetyWomen program. That's where we provide assistance and guidance to frontline workers—we've reached 5,000 thus far—on technology-facilitated abuse that impacts victims of domestic violence and their families. We're also building what is called a learning management system so that we can scale more broadly. There is $1.2 million for the certified providers program, and we currently have 35 organisations and 141 certified providers that deliver online safety presentations into schools. This is a program to certify to the schools that they have a certain—

Senator PATRICK: That was the one that was going to end at the end of this year, wasn't it?

Ms Inman Grant : It was a terminating program in terms of the grant program. However, with that $1.2 million, we're going to look at two prongs. One is: how do we directly provide preservice training for teachers going into the schools so they can better teach online safety education. We do think there's a lot of value and utility in being able to continue to give schools the certification program with a lot more rigour, including audits, and ensuring that the connect being delivered is very valuable and giving schools a feedback loop. That's valuable. Not just any Tom, Dick or Harry can say they're an expert in online safety and delivering a presentation into a school.

There is $1.7 million for cyberabuse materials. Of course, the key to prevention is education and awareness raising. We need to make sure the content is purpose built for different vulnerable populations, that it's not one size fits all, that it resonates. There is $4 million for the civil penalty regime that we hope will be enacted in the near future and then another $6 million over four years to strengthen the eSafety office. It says IT infrastructure, but we have the most sensitive data you can imagine for people. We need to make sure that it's secure, it's privacy protected and it's safe. This also goes to investigative tools. We need to look after the wellbeing of our investigators who are looking at child sexual abuse and proterrorist content on a daily basis. Technology has gone a long way to help mask some of the images and the classification work they have been doing manually, and we need to invest in these technologies so we can also share this intelligence with law enforcement and our INHOPE partners.

Senator PATRICK: Okay. I go back to the certified accredited providers. Pre 30 June, what was the quantum of the amount? You've got 1.2 for this year—or is that an increase?

Ms Inman Grant : No, it is 1.2 over four years.

Senator PATRICK: What was the quantum previously?

Ms Vassiliadis : The grant funding was $7.5 million—

Ms Inman Grant : Over three years, so 2.5 each year.

Senator PATRICK: Quite a bit of difference there.

Ms Inman Grant : The funding portion—the grant program—was a terminating program, so the funding provided, as we understand it, is for the preservice teacher training and for us to continue the certification program.

Senator PATRICK: So, you'll still be doing the certifying?

Ms Inman Grant : Yes.

Senator PATRICK: That's still part of your role. And it's possible for accredited providers to continue being certified post June 30?

Ms Inman Grant : Right. If I recall correctly, the licencing agreements that we've signed with each of the providers does expire at the end of the calendar year. I think we'll take that opportunity to restructure the program and relook at licencing agreements and requirements on certified providers. We need to make sure we're providing them value and that we're providing not just minimum standards of safety but ensuring that it's bringing value.

Senator PATRICK: So, just to confirm: after 31 December you will continue to offer certification?

Ms Inman Grant : Yes, correct.

Senator PATRICK: Okay. I have just a couple of quick questions in relation to your takedown capabilities. Senator O'Neill may have covered those. How are you going on the prevention side with reshaping people's thinking and behaviour in respect of uploading material?

Ms Inman Grant : In terms of non-consensual sharing of images?

Senator PATRICK: Yes.

Ms Inman Grant : Everything we do is based on research. I actually do think we have struck a chord. I'd say one of the biggest determinants of that is from when minister Fifield announced my position and the release of the revenge porn tool. The first thing I said we need to do is change the lexicon here. We started making sure that we referred to as image based abuse, because revenge for what? This is not porn for the prurient sharing for people's delight. And that terminology has taken off. I think that's an important step in stepping away from victim blaming. We still know that one in four people will not necessarily report to a social media site or to a government agency, because they don't think that anything can be done for them. We're trying very hard with our communications and education efforts to let people know that our services and our materials exist and that there is help.

Senator PATRICK: If you've got a school that's identified a problem and they've got a lot on their plate, what are you doing in those sorts of circumstances?

Ms Inman Grant : Particularly when there has been a very damaging or egregious case, whether it's image-based abuse or cyberbullying, we do take a case management approach. We know that most cyberbullying is an extension of social conflict that's happening within the school gates, so it tends to be peer to peer. What we try and do, when the situation lends itself to it, is work with the parents and work with the educators to get to the root of the social conflict, and we're told by schools that, once we get involved, the bullying dissipates. We also help with policy development—making sure they have the right kind of policies and that they're enforcing the policies—and we also will deliver presentations to schools where bullying has been rife.

Senator PATRICK: So, to summarise, you're helping with policy and helping with training, and then there is some threshold that is crossed when you become directly involved?

Ms Inman Grant : We've had 800 reports of cyberbullying where we've been successful in taking the harmful content down. We have a 100 per cent success rate working with the social media sites in doing so, serving as that safety net. So what we do in terms of the case management work, in terms of trying to get to the root of the social conflict, that's the remediation portion that I think is really important to making sure that that kind of bullying behaviour doesn't continue. I think we all—

Senator PATRICK: Are you taking down cyberbullying material for adults as well as children?

Ms Inman Grant : We have had some success in helping adult cyberabuse as well. The characteristics of adult cyberabuse are somewhat different. Of course, we have formal powers with the cyberbullying regime to help young people; that's where our priority lies.

Senator PATRICK: I seem to recall you don't use the stick, but it's there.

Ms Inman Grant : Yes, and the same is true for adult cyberabuse, which tends to be less peer to peer. Often it's trolls who may not be known to the person. So we've updated a lot of our guidance in terms of strategies, tools and information, including, just last week, we launched a new program called women influencing technology spaces, or WITS, which is for women who tend to be of stature, of opinions who are disproportionately trolled and have gendered, sexualised direct threats of harm issued towards them.

Senator PATRICK: In all cases where you've done a takedown, what are you doing in regard to support for the victims, if it extends to that?

Ms Inman Grant : We always assess mental health support, and we will refer them to mental health services if that's needed. But some of the adult cases do wander into the threshold of cyberstalking. What we try and do is help them collect evidence and package up a report or evidence for them and give them a warm referral to law enforcement when it's beyond our capabilities of handling.

Senator PATRICK: We took away the word 'children' from your name last year. How has that affected the way in which your office is approached and, in general, the operations of your organisation?

Ms Inman Grant : We consider children to still be a vulnerable population, and we know we need to cut the cloth to fit and work within the resources that we have. So we focus on the most vulnerable populations first. Where we can help the broader general public, as through adult cyberabuse, we do try the best that we can to provide assistance. We have definitely seen a spike on an interest in a broader cross-section of adults reaching out to us. That's why providing the cyberabuse, the information and the prevention materials is so important.

Senator PATRICK: Since the government's removed that, you would suggest there's been a positive effect in that regard?

Ms Inman Grant : I think so. I think there's been a much broader and greater awareness that the office exists. There's been interest from overseas in how Australia is approaching the issues and is supporting its citizens. So I would say, yes, it's been quite positive.

Senator PATRICK: Thank you. That was very, very helpful. I appreciate it.

Ms Inman Grant : Thank you.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: Commissioner, in February, you provided me with some figures of the number of complaints that you had received, showing a 34 per cent increase over the preceding year. I might have missed this in your opening statement, but, if not, would you be able to provide me with the trend in the number of complaints you are receiving and whether you are still currently keeping up with demand?

Ms Inman Grant : We are keeping up with demand. We, of course, ran the numbers before appearing here, and the increase over this year at this time is 35.7 per cent in terms of overall inquiries to the office. We—

Senator STEELE-JOHN: On this time last year?

Ms Inman Grant : This time last year. We did see a significant spike in early February. I think it was a 115 per cent increase in youth cyberbullying reports. And then, overall, we've had an increase from a very low number, of adult cyberabuse reports since our remit was expanded.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: What is that in actual numbers?

Ms Inman Grant : I think we've helped 200 adults to date since the remit has been expanded.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: I noticed in your exchange with Senator O'Neill, you seemed to allude to the fact that you—not allude, even—in relation to those 200 complaints, what type of data is gathered by your office in the process of those 200 complaints being dealt with?

Ms Inman Grant : We collect as little data as we need to to be able to ascertain whether or not it reaches the threshold for which we need to engage directly. We do take a very citizen service approach where we pick up the phone. We don't have a specific tool that was developed for adult cyberabuse the way we do for our three other mandated and legislated tools, the cyber-report tool, the IBA tool and the youth cyberbullying tool. But we're very conscious of collection minimisation—only collecting the data that's necessary and making sure we safeguard it.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: In the handling of those 200 complaints, do you keep a record of individual stories? You're light touch, but—

Ms Inman Grant : We have case studies because we want to be able to predict trends, but we make sure that we anonymise and amalgamate case stories. We don't ever want to re-identify a victim through the process of building a case story or talking about a trend.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: In the response you gave to Senator O'Neill, I think you were able to provide her with some figures in relation to sexploitation cases that 20 per cent were from a particular background. Would you be able to repeat that figure to refresh my memory?

Ms Inman Grant : I was saying that 20 per cent of our cases were sextortion cases—blackmailing someone after they had met on a social media site or dating site, either asking them for nudes or getting nude videos of them. The ones that have come to our office have been male international students. And we know that organised crime has moved from just the traditional scams to these kinds of sextortion scams, and we have pretty solid evidence, based on talking with folks, that these are overseas-based scams.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: Where I'm going with that line of thinking, is that, at some point, you must have recorded the fact that they're overseas students.

Ms Inman Grant : And, usually, this is through conversations, through picking up the phone. We don't have any questions in our form that—and I'm happy to walk you through the form or show you the questions in the form. I remember personally going through and building the form, because we have compliance requirements, obviously, in terms of some of the information that we need to collect, but I wanted to make sure that we collect the minimal amount that we need to so that we're not personally identifying or collecting sensitive information we don't need to have.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: That would be useful. If could you walk me through some of the questions on the form, that would be fantastic.

Ms Inman Grant : Happy to. I'll take that on notice.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: Fantastic. How do you then go about securing the data? As far as I can tell from what you have told me, if I was to get in touch with the commission, you would have to take details such as my name. What kinds of things would be required—what kinds of pieces of information?

Ms Inman Grant : We don't necessarily need a person's name. Some people, particularly young people, who have reported to us prefer to do so anonymously. They haven't talked to any adults that they know. And we need to respect that need for anonymity. We don't necessarily need to know their name to be able to help them or to take down harmful content.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: In response to Senator Patrick's line of questioning around the allocation of your additional funding and where that was going, did I hear correctly that a portion of it is going to increased security assistance?

Ms Inman Grant : Yes. We're completely building new ICT infrastructure. When I came into the office, we had an outdated system called PACMAN that wasn't secure and failed on a regular basis. I wanted to make sure that we built something that was absolutely as secure as possible. We're dealing with the most sensitive data you can imagine, and the last thing we ever want to do is to revictimise the victim. We have a lot of intermingling of our different abuse types. To give you an example, 15 per cent of our cyberbullying reports are of sexting gone wrong. These are people under the age of 18, so it becomes child sexual abuse material. It's also a form of image based abuse. So we want to make sure that the investigative and triaging tools that we have on the back end can allow for secure sharing of information so that we can make sure that the right teams are triaging and dealing with the issues. This is important, too, if we get a particular surge in a particular abuse area; we want our teams to be able to work together to support each other to make sure that we can keep up with demand.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: You are currently, however, still using the PACMAN ICT framework?

Ms Inman Grant : We are. We're very close. We've just located a secure protected data centre. We're rebuilding. We have a stepped process. We need to focus more on the stability. We've been focused more on the security. And there's always a trade-off. But security is going to be the superordinate goal here.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: If you've already processed 200 complaints, it would seem that whatever data had been recorded in relation to those complaints would have been stored within the system you just characterised as insecure.

Ms Inman Grant : The child sexual abuse material is still within the PACMAN environment. We haven't transferred that over. But we've built a workaround. That's why we've called the image based abuse reporting tool and portal a pilot.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: Right. So that is not using the PACMAN ICT system.

Ms Inman Grant : No. I will take that on notice to make sure that's absolutely correct. But, when we first assessed building onto PACMAN, one of the reasons we decided to rebuild from scratch is that we felt the system was outdated and we needed to start from scratch if we wanted to make sure it was an ironclad system.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: Would you also be able to take on notice the number of times, since taking up your position, that the ICT system failed or became insecure?

Ms Inman Grant : I don't know that it's been insecure. But it hasn't been reliable.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: Yes.

Ms Inman Grant : Okay, sure.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: Numbers of down times, things like that.

Ms Inman Grant : Okay.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: That would be good. I would be very interested in knowing, both within those 200 complaints but also within the broader cyberbullying regime you administer, what kinds of demographic data you record. Do you record details to get an idea of the backgrounds of people, the demography of people experiencing these issues?

Ms Inman Grant : We capture what state they're from, we capture their age, their gender. There is some data that we need just to be able to identify trends. Much of the data we collect is through our in-house research capacity.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: Do you do things like ask whether they identify as living with a disability?

Ms Inman Grant : We do not ask that specific question. But often when we engage with the victim those kinds of details do become available. Really what we do is provide that safety net—and this is why I think what we do is so valuable—when a serious bullying case has been reported to a social media site, and some major detail about the cultural, context or situation is missed by the content moderator. We talked about this at the inquiry. This is why we often need to pick up the phone and get more details about the case, so that we can put the case to the social media sites as to why the content should be taken down.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: In my knowledge of this area, particularly in terms of image based abuse, the data and the research which exists points to an increased likelihood of experiencing this phenomenon if you are a disabled person.

Ms Inman Grant : Absolutely. That's true. That's what our research shows. One in three Australians with a disability has been a victim of image based abuse. It is much higher.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: If you are collecting gender and age data, do you think disability might also be a useful marker?

Ms Inman Grant : It is absolutely a marker. When we conduct our research, that is a marker we look at. We know that that's true for those with intellectual disabilities being cyberbullied as well—a much higher incidence than the general public.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: In terms of those 200 complaints you're gathering, do I understand correctly that you have a gender and age breakdown on those 200 complaints?

Ms Inman Grant : Yes. I don't know if we have on a regular basis, as we've taken complaints, noted if somebody is from the LGBTQI community, if they're Indigenous, if they're anything else.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: I'm just suggesting that that might be a useful practice in the future moving forward.

Ms Inman Grant : I think so. As we do the technology rebuild, I think there is some valuable data—even data on rural and remote. We know anecdotally and from desktop and qualitative research that those in remote communities not only do not have the same services available but also tend to fall victim to cyberbullying, for instance, more than their urban counterparts.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: I asked you this question as well in February: what would you say around the funding of your office and its adequacy given your increased responsibility? Would you now be comfortable in saying that you felt your funding was adequate to carry out the tasks?

Ms Inman Grant : I absolutely would.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: That is good to hear. I also in February pursued a line of questioning around a snapshot of the number of roles of staff that you employ—numbers and what roles they are in. Would you be able to provide me with an update on those figures?

Ms Inman Grant : Sure. I'm not sure that there's been significant change since February. Certainly if we have a new civil penalty regime. But I'm happy to do that.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: Minister, the non-consensual sharing of intimate images bill 2018—would you be able to provide me an update as to what the government's intentions are in relation to that piece of legislation?

Senator Fifield: Sure. We did cover that just before the dinner break, but I'm happy to revisit. The legislation was introduced into the Senate. It was amended by the Senate to introduce criminal provisions. I indicated at that time that the government had no issue and indeed supported criminal provisions because there are already some criminal provisions at Commonwealth level, and there are criminal provisions in most state jurisdictions, and the states are working to harmonise those. We saw the bill as being a vehicle for a civil penalties regime bill. But, in saying that, that's not to say that there isn't scope to do more on a criminal front. Nevertheless, the Senate amended the bill. It is now in the House. The way the bill was amended, we think there are practical difficulties with those amendments, so we are now examining that.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: Do you have a time frame by which the government will send it back to the Senate? You would be aware that there is a high degree of interest in this area and a real desire to see this legislation move forward, or move at all.

Senator Fifield: It would have already passed if it had not been amended in the Senate.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: I'm aware of that.

Senator Fifield: But it has been amended in the Senate, and therefore we have to deal with the practical reality of how it has been amended and make a judgement on that.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: Can you give me a time frame for your consideration? You've had it in the House for a while now.

Senator Fifield: We will be wanting to make a determination on that in the next few weeks.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: Potentially for the June sitting?

Senator Fifield: Potentially.

Senator STEELE-JOHN: Alright. That's encouraging to hear. Thank you very much. 222

CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Inman Grant and the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.