Australia moves to crack down cyber bullying involving children

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The Australian government plans to crack down on online bullying that targets children with new legislation aimed at social media sites.

Introduced by Parliamentary Secretary for Communications Paul Fletcher, the Enhancing Online Safety for Children Bill 2014 aims to protect the 20 per cent of children between the ages of eight and 17 who have been victims of cyber bullying.

The bill will also see the appointment of a Children’s e-Safety Commissioner, who can order individuals and social media services to take down offensive material posted online.

Under the legislation, cyber bullying material refers to anything that is deemed “seriously threatening, seriously intimidating, seriously harassing or seriously humiliating” to Australians below 18 years of age on social media or via digital communication.

“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,” said Fletcher.

“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.”

Technology firms face a daily fine of AU$17,000 if they fail to remove offending material, whilst individuals can face legal action under criminal laws.

Meanwhile, internet firms such as Microsoft and Google said cyber bullying is already prohibited under current laws, and they are against the forced removal of material.

Denying that there would be overregulation, Fletcher said they had vigorous engagement with Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Google and other players.

He added that they are conscious of not imposing a higher regulatory burden than is needed to keep Australian kids safe online.


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