Social media watchdog has 'serious risks': Freedom commissioner

Social media watchdog has 'serious risks': Freedom commissioner

Summary: Australia's incoming Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson has said there are 'serious risks' with the government's proposed children's eSafety commissioner having the power to remove content deemed to be 'harmful'.


The incoming human rights commissioner tasked with looking at issues of freedom, Tim Wilson, has said that there are "serious risks" with the government appointing a watchdog with the power to force social networking sites to remove content that is deemed to be "harmful" to children.

Yesterday, Parliamentary Secretary for Communications Paul Fletcher released a discussion paper outlining the government's proposal to bring in a Children's eSafety Commissioner with the power to compel large social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook to "rapidly" remove content that is said to be "targeted at and likely to cause harm to an Australian child".

Wilson, who was appointed to the new role of freedom commissioner by Attorney-General George Brandis late last year and will take up his position on the Human Rights Commission next month, told ZDNet that while there are good intentions behind the government's proposal, it has serious risks associated with it.

"The government has every right to work with private social media sites to self-regulate content posted on social media sites, but it is concerning that the government would seek to have material removed," he said.

"Despite the obvious good intentions to ensure that harmful content is removed, the risk of government imposing restrictions on speech is in the power and discretion it gives to government employees to decide what is acceptable and what is not.

"There are very serious risks with this proposal, particularly when material deemed to be 'harmful' is largely up for interpretation."

Wilson said that the social media companies often already have codes that sufficiently self-regulate the removal of content that is harmful to children.

The social networks that would be affected by such a plan have said that it would be ineffective by not capturing all networks such as Snapchat, and would be counter-productive to the efforts already undertaken by the social networking sites to protect their customers.

Topics: Government, Government AU, Privacy, Australia


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.

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  • Welcome to the Abbott nanny state

    The big social networks already have decent processes for removing things that don't fit their "Community Standards" ( Facebooks for example - ).

    Go Tim!
    • It's not a nanny state. It's a state of government control.

      Governments that want to control their populations usually cite two reasons to allow government censorship or wiretapping of communications:

      1. Protect children
      2. Protect the population from terrorists

      It gives them a back door to access people's communications, then an excuse to censor them. Later, the reasons for censorship will be expanded.

      The government is going to decide what is harmful to children. I think Bugs Bunny is harmful to children (duck season, rabbit season, blast of gun, straighten beak).

      A lot of people use social networks as their main means of communication, so censoring it is a powerful tool. Next they will want to censor anything that is from a "terrorist". Don't forget, Edward Snowden is viewed by 5-eyed nations to be a terrorist.

      Governments can't be trusted. In fact, no government should be trusted to have complete control over everything, especially communications. There needs to be checks and balances on every government, as power will always corrupt. Governments wiretapping and censoring communication gives the government power over the people. It should be the other way 'round (but governments generally don't want to be transparent themselves).
      • I stand by the term.

        Considering it's the exact definition of "Nanny State"...
  • Just say no people.

    Nanny state, government control who really cares what it is called.

    I care that yet another independent censor is appointed by someone with good intentions and no idea to regulate the internet. Remember Firewall Australia. well that is required to enforce this stupid move. And who polices this policeman?

    I am sick of being told we are protecting the children. It is actually so patently false as to be humorous.
  • yeah

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  • BoomerMMW

    I seem to remember the fuss these people made over Conroys Internet filter.