New tools for tech companies to prioritise safety

Tech companies wanting to bolster online safety can now access free interactive assessment tools developed by Australia’s eSafety Commissioner.

“eSafety is releasing these world-first dynamic interactive tools that help to put safety firmly front and centre of product design and development,” said eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant.

“For tech companies developing platforms that enable social interaction, safety risks should be assessed upfront. Protective measures need to be put in at the start of the product design and development process. We call this ‘Safety by Design’.

“When we get into our cars, we almost take for granted that the brakes will work, the seatbelts will be effective, and the air bags will deploy when needed. We want similar safeguards to become standard in the online world.”

In a world first, eSafety have released two interactive assessment tools for both early-stage technology companies (Start-up edition) and one for mid-tier or enterprise companies (Enterprise edition). The tools provide guidance for companies of all sizes and structure – to help them along the way in developing safe products, assisting them to embed safety into the culture, ethos and operations of their business.

“Building in sound safety practices up front, rather than retrofitting safeguards after any damage has been done – after a ‘tech wreck’ moment – mitigates any further revenue, regulatory or reputational damage down the line.

“Prioritising the safety, rights and dignity of users will help create a culture of innovation, motivate workforces, and ultimately will positively impact on bottom-lines,” said Ms Inman Grant.

The tools and accompanying guidance materials steps participants through five core interactive and dynamic modules, each with a specific set of questions addressing core safety topics and issues:

  • Structure and leadership
  • Internal policies and procedures
  • Moderation, escalation and enforcement
  • User empowerment
  • Transparency and accountability

These free interactive assessment tools can be used by organisations anywhere in the world – a global effort in the fight to minimise online harms.

“A tailored report is available at the end of each module which acts as both a safety health check and a learning resource that can be drawn upon and used to help make refinements or innovations in the future. These reports also include good practice templates and proposed workflows,” says Ms Inman Grant.

The Safety by Design initiative has been developed with industry, for industry. Extensive stakeholder consultation has been undertaken for these resources, with a broad range of key industry members involved in the development process.

Companies who road-tested the beta version of the tool have provided positive feedback, with some indicating it had been used as an effective internal audit tool and a “safety impact assessment” for others.

All in all, it is about a seven-hour commitment to complete the full suite of assessment modules. No personal or corporate information or data is shared with the eSafety Commissioner – these tools have been developed to guide, assist and support industry so that the bar for online safety is continuously raised. Our end goal here is to help companies lift their safety standards for the benefits of their users, and society more broadly.

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