Labor election plan has digital licence and misinformation detection course for children

A digital licence program for children, like a 'pen licence for the digital age', has been proposed by the Labor Party ahead of this year's federal election.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor
Image: Daniel Reinhardt/picture alliance via Getty Images

The Labor Party wants to roll out a national eSmart digital literacy course for primary and high school students if it is voted into government at the upcoming federal election.

The course, called eSmart Digital Licence+, is designed to help build digital intelligence. It is a gamified learning experience where students can explore an interactive story-world containing learning materials, relatable scenarios, and guided reflections about personal experiences with technology.

Once students complete the milestones in the course, they then receive a Digital Licence+.

Shadow Minister for Education Tanya Plibersek likened the digital licence to a "pen licence for the digital age".

"Labor wants to ensure these resources are available to all children, regardless of what school they go to. It's crucial all our kids learn the skills they need to keep them safe online," Plibersek said.

Labor has promised AU$6 million in funding for the program, if elected, with that money to also be used in funding an eSmart Media Literacy Lab. The lab is a pilot program designed to help teachers build the media literacy knowledge of students aged 12 to 16 years old, such as how to discern between news and misinformation.

Both programs would be delivered by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, a charity established in honour of Alannah and Madeline Mikac, who were children that died in the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

Tim Watts, who is Assistant Shadow Minister for Communications and Cyber Security and deputy chair for Australia's social media probe, said the proposed initiatives would help children develop skills and knowledge for staying safe online.

In the lead up to the federal election, online safety has been at the fore of the presiding Liberal Party's focus. Some of the initiatives the federal government wants to get pushed out before the election are anti-defamation and online privacy laws.

Last week, Australia's eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant criticised the federal government's proposed anti-defamation legislation, outlining that it may be misused due to the lack of elements explicitly preventing cyberbullying and online abuse.

"I think [the anti-trolling Bill] can lend itself to a lot of retaliation, a lot of vigilante-style justice," said Inman Grant, who was reappointed into the eSafety commissioner post a fortnight ago.

She also expressed concern that the proposed laws would most likely not live up to the initial expectation of "unmasking trolls" despite it initially being flagged as anti-trolling regulation.


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