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Australia’s search code will require removal of AI-generated child abuse material

eSafety decided to rework the search code with the help of industry associations in light of the steady growth of generative AI.

Under a new search code announced by Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and DuckDuckGo will have to take steps to reduce the risk of child abuse and similar material being returned in search results. They will also be required to ensure that integrated AI functions do not generate “synthetic” versions (deepfakes) of such material.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the organisation, which is Australia’s independent regulator for online safety, decided to rework the search code with the help of industry associations in light of the steady growth of generative AI.

“When the biggest players in the industry announced they would integrate generative AI into their search functions, we had a draft code that was clearly no longer fit for purpose and could not deliver the community protections we required and expected. We asked the industry to have another go at drafting the code to meet those expectations and I want to commend them for delivering a code that will protect the safety of all Australians who use their products,” said Grant.

The Search Code will come into effect six months from the date of registration.

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Why it matters: In December 2022, eSafety criticized leading tech companies for “not doing enough to tackle child sexual exploitation on their platforms.” Despite the general agreement that child abuse material is a problem, it is hard to reach a consensus on how to tackle this issue, considering privacy issues and the varied platforms on the internet. For this reason, it is good to see stakeholders and government entities working together and using generative AI to come up with the means to address these issues.

Australia also working with other industry sectors: eSafety is also working on industry standards for the Designated Internet Services, which includes file and photo storage services like iCloud and OneDrive, and for the Relevant Electronic Services, which includes private messaging services.

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“The finalisation of this set of industry codes and standards will be followed by work on a second set of industry codes which will focus on content which is inappropriate for children, such as online pornography,” said Grant.

Similarly, in June, eSafety registered industry codes for Social Media Services, Internet Carriage Services, App Distribution Services, Hosting Services, and Equipment providers.

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I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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