Aust opposition considers social-media takedowns, child-friendly smartphones

Aust opposition considers social-media takedowns, child-friendly smartphones

Summary: The federal Coalition is considering policy on the best way to remove harmful content from social media and how to protect children online.

TOPICS: Networking

A children's e-safety commissioner, the ability to pull down offending content more quickly, and child-friendly smartphones are just some of the things that we can potentially look forward to under a future Tony Abbott Coalition government.

The proposals came in a discussion paper released by Coalition MP Paul Fletcher today, which looks at better methods of protecting children online.

The so-called children's e-safety commissioner would be in charge of "education campaigns," and would give guidelines on how to deal with online content and behaviour that is directed at children but "fails to meet the criminal threshold."

The Coalition has recognised, in the discussion paper, that comments on Facebook or social media that may not be illegal could nevertheless be a form of bullying for children, and could lead to psychological harm. And while within Australia, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has the power to issue take-down notices for content that is refused classification (RC) or above R18+, content on international sites, such as the major social-media companies, is not in the ACMA's remit.

The Coalition suggests that to get around this, there should be a "co-operative regulatory scheme" for social-media companies that operate in Australia. In cases where people are being bullied on Facebook, those who are being bullied have a method to request that the content be removed.

With some degree of foresight, the Coalition has pointed out that this would be a voluntary, industry-funded scheme, and would not be implemented without consulting the industry first.

This is where it all seems to unravel. If the Daily Telegraph's recent "stop the trolls" campaign, which the federal government jumped onboard with, taught us anything, it is that a lot of the social-media providers already have policies in place to deal with these sorts of things.

In fact, although the Telegraph was calling a victory by saying that Twitter would be working with Australian law-enforcement agencies, Twitter in fact said that it wouldn't be doing anything much different to what it already was.

I can't see a future Coalition government getting any more out of these big US-based social-media companies than what the current government already has.

According to the discussion paper, the Coalition would also like to see "branding or symbols" placed on smartphones that have parental control tools, so that parents know which ones to buy. It's a nice idea, and I know that Telstra is working to bring in parental control tools with Smart Controls. A lot of smartphones out in the market already come with parental controls as it is. The problem is that parents will buy this device and think all of their problems are solved. The same argument as the recently dumped filter applies here; no matter what controls you put in place to stop people from doing something, they are going to find a way around it.

The decent part of the policy is about education. More education for both parents and kids around how to effectively deal with online bullying, dangers, or trolls and appropriate use of smartphones is likely to be much more effective than trying to force the social networks to play nice.

Topic: Networking


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Bigger govt; same protection

    More money to be wasted with zero impact.

    A givt that wants to filter the internet and control the media; and opposition looking to do the similar. Such restrictions often sold as protectig the children.

    Where's a libertarian to go?
    Richard Flude
    • Cartel system

      It's call the cartel system. In majoritarian compulsory voting systems such as our, the major parties fight over the centre of voters, so there is a converence of policies.
      Now as both parties are offering effectively the same thing to survive against challengers they embed themselves through the state; one means of doing that is for every party that receives move than 100,000 votes receives $1.98 which is indexed from the 1990 when it was set. This means the big parties get money and the little parties nothing. this is necessary has major parties due to the professionalisation of politics have lost their huge number of members because they have effectively no saw; e.g. since 1983 the parliamentary party in the ALP has ignored the base through a political expedience clause.
      Both parties have responded to the issue not by saying we are ideologically for this but do the centre voters and marginal seat voters want to have child porn blocked? the answer is yes because if they said no they would loose the only people that would win them the election. So how they go about doing it is the only different thing.
      However it is odd that the Coalition is proposing additional regulation for parental controls on phone - if you needed the proof that the libs are just rhetorical party of small government, here's some additional useless regulation.