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New research highlights urgent need for safer online dating services

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP
Media Release

New research by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) published today highlights how online dating platforms are being exploited by online predators to facilitate child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Child sexual abuse is a sickening crime against our most vulnerable, and is unacceptable in any form. The Albanese Government is committed to protecting children from abuse and exploitation wherever it occurs.

Dating apps are now the most common way to meet a partner in Australia, yet the level of harm experienced by users of these platforms, and children, is deeply concerning.

Important work is already being done by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) through the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) to protect children but these findings highlight the urgent need for industry to do more to help protect app users and children from online harm.

Following the Albanese Government’s Online Dating Safety roundtable convened last year, Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland requested online dating services operating in Australia develop a code of practice to better protect people who use their services.

The new code, to be in place by June, will require online dating services operating in Australia to better protect people who use their services.

The Government has made clear to the dating industry that if the code does not sufficiently improve safety for users of online dating services, we will consider legislative options.

The Government is also considering a range of other initiatives to improve online safety for children, including through the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse (2021-2030).

Under Commonwealth grooming laws it is already a criminal offence to seek to engage anyone under 16 years of age in sexual activity in any form with offenders facing up to 15 years imprisonment.

Any child exploitation content should be immediately reported to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation on 1800 333 000 or through their website. If a child is in immediate danger call 000.

For support on how to prevent and deal with harm caused by online abuse or illegal and restricted online content, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner can help. More information, including where people can report dating apps that fail to act on unacceptable behaviour can be found via the eSafety Commissioner.

The full report can be found on the AIC website.