When you upload content to your business’ website, your social media accounts or your personal blog, how often do you stop to consider the legal ramifications of your actions? Sometimes? Rarely? Never? To avoid legal action being taken against you it is important to understand the parameters that define illegal and prohibited content when placing this content online where it is made public and accessible.

Where is illegal and prohibited content found?

Illegal and prohibited content can be found almost anywhere online: newsgroups, forums, blogs, social media, peer-to-peer file sharing platforms, live visual and audio, and the list goes on. Illegal and prohibited content is sometimes hard to avoid, as it is sometimes accessed by accident. One of the major risks when uploading illegal and prohibited content is that it may reach children, for whom such content can be especially damaging.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) governs the rules surrounding illegal and prohibited content under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth). If ACMA find illegal and prohibited content on your website, for example, they are empowered to remove this from your site when it is hosted in Australia.

What defines illegal content?

Illegal content is, as you might expect, content which breaks Australian laws. It is extremely offensive material that is placed online, and can include things like:

  • Child pornography or child abuse;
  • Content that shows extreme sexual violence or materials that are overly violent;
  • Materials that provoke the viewer into committing crimes and carrying out violent acts. This might be material that instructs, promotes or incites violent acts;
  • Content that promotes terrorism or encourages terrorist acts.

The laws relating to illegal online content can vary from state to state. It is advisable not to look up illegal content online even if you’re doing so with the intention of reporting/ removing it. If you come across something by accident, of course, you should report it to ACMA.

What defines prohibited content?

Prohibited content is defined as content that is ‘refused classification’ (RC) or that the Australian Classification board rates as X18+. Prohibited content might include any of the following:

  • Any materials which encourages violence, criminal behaviour, or dangerous behaviour, such as creating weapons, taking or making drugs, or carrying out fraudulent/terrorist acts;
  • Highly graphic sexual acts that would be likely to offend a ‘reasonable adult’; or
  • Footage that shows violence or crimes that are real or simulated.


If you’re running a website that may feature illegal or prohibited content, it is advisable to speak with an online lawyer about your concerns. If you wish to consult one of our online lawyers to determine the legality of any of your online content, contact LegalVision on 1300 544 755.

Lachlan McKnight
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