Reporting illegal and offensive content

The ACMA administers a national regulatory scheme that includes the investigation of complaints about prohibited online content, including internet and mobile phone content.

If you have found material on the internet or your mobile phone that you believe may be prohibited under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA) you can report it to the ACMA.

Who can make a complaint?

To make a complaint about online content, you must be:

  • an Australian resident or
  • a body corporate that carries on activities in Australia or
  • the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory.

What is online content?

Online content includes content available on:

  • the World Wide Web 
  • mobile phones 
  • ‘peer to peer’ file sharing networks and 
  • newsgroups and bulletin boards.

What types of content are prohibited?

Under the BSA the following categories of online content are prohibited:

  • Any online content that is classified RC* by the Classification Board (formerly the Office of Film and Literature Classification). This includes child abuse and child sexual abuse material, depictions of bestiality, material containing excessive violence or sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use, and/or material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act.
  • Any online content that is classified X 18+*. Content classified X 18+ contains real depictions of actual sexual activity between consenting adults.
  • Content which is classified R 18+* and not subject to a restricted access system that prevents access by children. This includes depictions of simulated sexual activity, material containing strong, realistic violence and other material dealing with intense adult themes.
  • Content which is classified MA 15+*, provided by a mobile premium service or a service that provides audio or video content upon payment of a fee and that is not subject to a restricted access system. This includes material containing strong depictions of nudity, implied sexual activity, drug use or violence, very frequent or very strong coarse language, and other material that is strong in impact. *

Classifications are based on criteria outlined in the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2005.

What types of online content can the ACMA investigate?

The ACMA can only investigate content provided by:

  • Hosting services – content provided by hosting services includes stored internet content, such as material on the internet, postings made to newsgroups and bulletin boards, files accessible from peer-to-peer applications and content delivered to mobile phones.
  • Live content services – content provided by live content services includes ‘live’ streamed video or audio content available on the internet or mobile phones.
  • Links services – content provided by links services includes links on websites that provide access to other websites that contain prohibited or potentially prohibited content.

Internet gambling complaints

The ACMA accepts formal complaints about internet content prohibited under the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. Find out more about internet gambling complaints.

Spam complaints and reports

The ACMA accepts complaints and reports about unsolicited commercial electronic messages sent by email, SMS/MMS and instant message. Further information is available on the ACMA spam and e-security pages.

If you see content which is offensive or illegal you can make a report to the ACMA.

What can't I complain about?

 The ACMA can only take action about material that is prohibited, or potentially prohibited, under the BSA. However, you may be able to seek assistance elsewhere about:

  • business practices of companies or scams
  • defamatory content
  • intellectual property infringements
  • email, instant messages, SMS and MMS
  • privacy violations.

Find out more about other online content complaints.

What will the ACMA do?

If content is hosted in, or provided from Australia and is prohibited, the ACMA will direct the content service provider to remove or prevent access to the content from their service.

If content is not hosted in Australia and is prohibited, the ACMA will notify the content to suppliers of internet filters approved by the Internet Industry Association in accordance with the Internet Industry Codes of Practice.

If the content is also sufficiently serious, for example child sexual abuse material, the ACMA will refer to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Ready to make a complaint?

First, you should review the complaint checklist:

  • I am an Australian resident or a company that carries on activities in Australia
  • I can provide an internet address and/or sufficient access details to enable the ACMA to access the online content
  • I can provide reasons as to why I believe the online content is prohibited.

If you can answer yes to each item in the checklist, you are ready to make a complaint.

The ACMA’s online complaint form is the most efficient way of lodging your complaint. However, you can email, post, or fax your complaint to the ACMA.

Online: www.acma.gov.au/hotline

Email: online@acma.gov.au

Post: The Content Assessment Hotline Manager, Australian Communications and Media Authority, GPO Box Q500, Queen Victoria Building, NSW 1230

Fax: (02) 9334 7799

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