​Children's eSafety Commissioner reports 75 percent increase in cyberbullying complaints

During July, August, and September, the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner investigated 70 serious Australia-wide cyberbullying claims, up from 40 in the same period last year.
Written by Asha Barbaschow on

The Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner responded to 70 serious cyberbullying complaints in the three months to September 2016, representing a 75 increase over the same period last year.

In investigating the reports, acting Children's eSafety Commissioner Andree Wright said the department does not just remove the content, rather it focuses mainly on education.

"We take a holistic approach in dealing with cyberbullying to ensure no one slips through the cracks -- while we do help get material removed when this is needed, we also provide information, advice, and support to Australian families and schools affected by cyberbullying," Wright said in a statement.

"Education also plays a big part. We provide quality resources that empower young people to take action when they see and experience cyberbullying along with practical steps to build their resilience to deal with its emotional effects."

Additionally, the eSafety office dealt with 3,075 online content complaints during July through September this year, up from 1,182 in the same period last year. It also referred more than 800 URLs of child sexual abuse material for removal.

In July, the office commented on its first 12 months in operation, reporting it conducted in excess of 7,400 investigations into child sexual abuse content found online.

In the 12-month period, 186 serious cyberbullying complaints were received by the office, with 71 percent of the claims relating to young women. Predominantly, those complaints involved harmful comments, name-calling, and the posting of offensive or upsetting images or videos online.

The Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner was set up as part of the Australian Communications and Media Authority in July 2015 by the federal government to appropriately deal with content that has been posted on social media sites in the country after research it conducted found that over a 12-month period, as many as one in five Australian children aged eight to 17 have experienced cyberbullying.

The office has the role of removing online content that is deemed to be cyberbullying and developing a "cyberbullying civil notice regime", as well as dealing with complaints about offensive and illegal content. Parents, guardians, and children can lodge complaints to the office, which then investigates the content.

The department has the authority to force social media companies, such as Twitter and Facebook, to remove content deemed to be of a bullying, offensive, or illegal nature. Those that do not comply face fines of AU$17,000 per day.

"With millions of young Australians highly engaged on social media, we welcome the efforts of all our partners to help ensure positive experiences for their users" Wright said on Monday.

Additionally, Wright said the office trained 600 frontline professionals this quarter to assist women experiencing technology facilitated abuse.

"Our new eSafetyWomen workshops are equipping these professionals with the right skills and knowledge to help women better protect themselves online," she said.

In his three month report, the commissioner highlighted that his office had also received 36 percent more traffic to its website year-on-year, seeing 198,601 visits from July to September this year.


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