The Australian government has issued a call-out for public feedback on its Online Safety Act, releasing an issues paper as recent events have shone a spotlight on eSafety regulations across the country.

While the current Online Safety Act was not due for review until 2025, the widespread social media coverage of the stabbings at Westfield Bondi Junction and Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley has emphasised the need for change.

The review addresses ‘material that depicts abhorrent violent conduct’, stating online material depicting terrorism, murder, attempted murder or torture can have a ‘seriously harmful impact on the Australian community’.

Existing Australian laws allow the country’s eSafety Commissioner to request or require the blocking of such material.

This has been carried out in regards to footage of the stabbing in Wakeley, an issue that drew criticism from Elon Musk, owner of the social media platform X (formerly Twitter).

UOW Media and Communications lecturer Mohammad Makki said the Australian government has expressed valid concerns about the impact of these videos on social media users who have been exposed to the traumatic footage.

“It can have a bit of a negative impact for people’s wellbeing, especially… a large number of people in the young generation who are users of social media,” Dr Makki said.

“Australia, I think, is rightfully worried about the mental health of people who are exposed to such contents, especially in the wake of such horrific events.

“Along those lines, I think Australia is trying to curtail the level of such violence shown.”

Recent honours graduate from UOW’s Bachelor of Psychology Ella Pearson echoed the sentiments and outlined the ‘very concerning’ nature of how content is distributed on social media.

“It is ultimately a good thing to attempt, to some level, to restrict seeing traumatic images online,” Ms Pearson said.

“You have to remember that there are quite young people that are on those platforms, even if they’re not supposed to be.

“They often seem to be the ones that are served those things, which is very concerning.”

While the review of the Online Safety Act will help to define the grounds for filtering traumatic content within Australia, Dr Makki said the chances of this content being removed further around the globe, as the eSafety Commissioner had requested of X, were less likely.

“[These events are] relevant and newsworthy to an Australian audience,” Dr Makki said.

“At this stage, maybe not every other country is so sensitive towards these contents, because they don’t have that much news value for them to be sensitive toward.”

Public submissions to the review are due by 5pm on June 21, with a report of recommendations to be provided to the Minister for Communications by October 31.