Legislation banning deepfake pornography, a fast-tracked doxxing crackdown and a renewed attempt at online age verification have emerged as key government efforts to address the national crisis of gender-based violence.

National Cabinet met virtually on Wednesday morning to discuss efforts to address violence against women, with tech-based reforms a key priority.

Included in the suite of announcements made by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese following the meeting was the introduction of new legislation making it a criminal offence to create or share pornographic content created by AI, the fast-tracking of separate legislation outlawing the practice of doxxing, funding for a pilot of online age verification and a campaign to counter the online popularity of misogynistic influencers.

“These important initiatives will tackle emerging threats to women and girls’ safety and participation online and will support young people, particularly young men, to have healthier and more positive relationships, attitudes and behaviours,” Minister for Women Katy Gallagher said.

The new policies include a “suite of interventions aimed at curbing easy access to damaging material by children and young people, and tackling extreme misogyny online”, the government said.

Deepfake crackdown

The federal government will be developing legislation to ban deepfake pornography, making it a criminal offence to create and share non-consensual explicit images and videos created using artificial intelligence tools.

“Digitally created and altered sexually explicit material is a deeply distressing form of abuse against women and girls and can cause long-lasting harm,” Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said.

The use of technology to create pornography rose to prominence earlier this year when explicit deepfake images of pop star Taylor Swift spread widely online, with one such image viewed 47 million times before it was taken down.

Previously announced legislation to criminalise the malicious release of personal information online, known as doxxing, will also be brought forward and introduced to Parliament in August, accompanied by wider reforms to the Privacy Act, Dreyfus said.

“These reforms will make clear that those who seek to abuse or degrade women through doxxing, deepfakes or by abusing their privacy online, will be subject to serious criminal penalties,” he said.

Another go at age verification

Efforts to introduce age verification to access certain online content will also be rehashed by the federal government, with funding to be provided in the May budget for a pilot of “age assurance technology” to block children from accessing pornography and other age-restricted online services.

The eSafety Commissioner has been mulling such a service for several years, and provided an Age Verification Roadmap to the federal government last year after first calling for evidence two years earlier.

It found that existing age assurance technologies were “immature but developing”, and there were significant issues surrounding privacy and security.

In response to the roadmap, the federal government last year said that it showed “age assurance technologies cannot yet meet all these requirements” and that it “makes it clear that a decision to mandate age assurance is not ready to be taken”.

Despite this, the new pilot will identify existing age verification tools and test their efficacy.

The ‘Stop it at the Start’ advertising campaign will be extended by the government in a new phase, running from mid-June to May next year that will be a “counter-influencing campaign in online spaces where violent and misogynistic content thrives, to directly challenge the material in the spaces it’s being viewed”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also said that tech giants need to do more to address the spread of this content on their platforms.

“Young adults should not be coached in disrespect or misogyny by online influencers,” Albanese said.

“I understand parents want to protect their kids from harmful material online.

“Social platforms have important social responsibilities and we need them to step up.

“Taken together, these reforms will give Australian families some of the tools they need to navigate the complexity of the digital world.”