By Sue Lannin
Published online at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-03/government-plans-cyber-bullying-crackdown/5935560
Social media sites will be targeted under plans by the Abbott Government to crack down on the cyber bullying of children.
The Government will this morning introduce a bill into Parliament to appoint a commissioner with the power to order large social media services and individuals to remove offensive material posted online.
A Children’s E-Safety Commissioner office will be set up to crack down on online bullying under the Enhancing Online Safety for Children Bill 2014.
Technology companies face fines of $17,000 per day if material targeting a child is not removed and individuals face legal action under existing criminal laws.
Researchers from the University of New South Wales said about one in five older children in Australia have been bullied online.
Parliamentary secretary to the Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the introduction of the bill was part of an election promise.
“The Children’s E-Safety Commissioner issues a notice requiring a large social media service to take down this cyber bullying material targeted at an Australian child,” Mr Fletcher said.
“Obviously the service has a very strong incentive to do so because it is exposed to this fine for each day that it does not respond to that notice.”
Mr Fletcher said the children’s commissioner would receive complaints from parents and be able to force individuals to take down offensive posts or apologise.
Individuals could be reported to police by the commissioner for material posted online.
We are conscious of not imposing any more additional regulatory burden than is necessary to keep Australian children safe online. Paul Fletcher, parliamentary secretary to the Communications Minister
Internet companies like Google and Microsoft said existing state and territory laws already prohibit cyber bullying and they are opposed to the forced removal of material.
But Mr Fletcher denied there would be over regulation.
“We’ve had vigorous and continuing engagement with certainly Microsoft, Yahoo7, Facebook, Google, Twitter and other players,” he said.
“We are conscious of not imposing any more additional regulatory burden than is necessary to keep Australian children safe online.”
Organisations such as the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Law Council have also raised freedom of speech concerns about the draft law, concerned the definition of cyber bullying material could be too broad.
Mr Fletcher said the Government had listened to feedback about the draft law.
“We’ve certainly worked through very carefully what the definition of cyber bullying material targeted at an Australian child is,” he said.
“It is important we strike the right balance.”