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Australia To Bring In World’s Toughest Laws To Tackle Internet Trolls

by : Emily Brown on : 23 Dec 2020 11:25
Australia To Bring In World's Toughest Laws To Tackle Internet TrollsShutterstock

An online safety legislation proposed in Australia calls for trolls and social media platforms to face huge fines for failing to remove abusive material.

The Australian government announced its plans to crack down on trolls with what Cyber Safety Minister Paul Fletcher described as a world-leading online safety framework for seriously harmful content.

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Under the new rules, the eSafety Commissioner would have the power to direct internet service provides, social media companies and other online platforms to take down abusive material.

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Among the content referred to in the proposal is cyber-abuse, describing it as material an ‘ordinary reasonable person’ would deem would ‘menacing, harassing or offensive’ and likely and intended to harm an individual.

The bill also refers to ‘abhorrent violent material’, defined as any audio or visual material that records or streams, for example, a terrorist act, murder, torture, rape or kidnapping.

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The material must be removed within 24 hours, or the eSafety commissioner can require search engines and app stores to block access to the services. Companies will face fines of up to $555,000 for failing to take action after being directed, while individuals will face fines up to $111,000.

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Current rules require action to be taken against abusive or bullying content within 48 hours. Sanctions are already in place for cyberbullying a child, but the new proposal extends this to include adults.

According to news.com.au, Fletcher said the measures had appropriately balanced the importance the freedom of speech, noting adults have greater resilience than children when it comes to abusive content.

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He commented:

The internet has brought great social, educational and economic benefits. But just as a small proportion of human interactions go wrong offline, so too are there risks online.

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The online watchdog will have increased capacity to identify the people behind anonymous or fake trolling accounts, as well as the power to rapidly block websites for a limited time period in response to crisis events such as the Christchurch terror attack.

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The proposal expands the cyberbullying scheme to further protect children, enabling the removal of material from online games, websites, messaging and hosting services rather than just social media, while updated industry codes would require providers to do more to keep users safe.

Fletcher described the reforms as ‘substantial’, The Guardian reports, saying:

The internet has brought great social, educational and economic benefits. But just as a small proportion of human interactions go wrong offline, so too are there risks online.

By establishing proper protections to help keep Australians safe online, we can in turn help Australians to realise the substantial benefits that come from using the internet.

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The new bill is out for consultation today, December 23, with submissions accepted until February 14.

If you’ve been affected by bullying and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact Bullying UK (part of Family Lives) on 0808 800 2222. The helpline service is open 9am–9pm Monday to Friday and 10am–3pm Saturday and Sunday.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: News, Australia, government, internet, trolls

Credits

The Guardian and 1 other
  1. The Guardian

    Trolls and social media platforms face huge fines in Australia for failing to remove abuse material

  2. News.com.au

    $111,000 fines flagged for Facebook comments under cyber bullying crackdown