Victims from online harm could take legal action with tech companies if social media giants fail to reform.
Victims from online harm could take legal action with tech companies if social media giants fail to reform.

How new social media guidelines will save kids

SOCIAL media giants such as Facebook, Google and Twitter are under mounting pressure to stamp out harmful behaviour online as part of a government crackdown.

The tougher rules are part of a $17 million dollar package in Monday's Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) aimed at keeping kids safe online. The Morrison Government will create an online safety charter for big tech companies in an effort to lift standards when it comes to stopping cyber bullies.

The new guidelines won't be legally binding but are ­expected to include accountability measures to encourage social media companies to take stronger action against cyber-bullying and violent content.

 

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the guidelines will outline expectations for the industry to protect kids online. Picture: Kym Smith
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the guidelines will outline expectations for the industry to protect kids online. Picture: Kym Smith

 

Education Minister Dan Tehan believes the campaign will help parents make safe choices about their kids’ technology use. Picture: Gary Ramage
Education Minister Dan Tehan believes the campaign will help parents make safe choices about their kids’ technology use. Picture: Gary Ramage


 

If the social media giants fail to reform, the government could follow up with European-style laws which would make big tech companies liable for harm caused online and allow victims to take legal action.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the guidelines will outline expectations for the industry to ensure the safety of children online.

"Businesses who interact with children in the real world have to meet high standards of safety and digital businesses should be treated no differently," Mr Fifield said.

"Nothing can be more important than protecting our children and … this means defending them from dangers from the online ­environment."

 

The crackdown comes after a 2018 Senate inquiry into ­cyber-bullying laws recommended the federal government "maintain regulatory pressure" on social media companies and set-up duty of care laws targeting Facebook and Instagram.

"[The Committee] wishes to make it clear that it is up to social media platforms to make their platforms safe environments, reduce the incidences of cyber-bullying and promptly take down all offending material," the report said.

The inquiry heard that Kids Helpline received 3000 calls about cyber safety in 2017, including almost 1000 children concerned about cyber-bullying. Also, there was a 133 per cent spike in cyber-bullying reports in the first two weeks of February when children return to school.

The final recommendation urged the federal government to require social media platforms to publish data on user complaints and the platforms' responses, to motivate social networking sites to ­address cyber-bullying.

The Government will consult with the tech companies and parents over coming months to develop the online safety charter which will be unveiled before the election.

Preschool-aged children will also benefit from the online cash splash with a new education campaigned for parents of young children to help them learn online behaviour.

Education Minister Dan Tehan said the campaign would help parents make "sensible and safe choices" about their kids' technology use.

More than $3 million will also be spent over the next four years researching the effects cyber bullying has on vulnerable internet users, including indigenous communities.



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