Labor to keep Office of Children's eSafety Commissioner if elected

Labor has said it supports the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner, and confirmed it will retain the role if elected next month.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Labor has said it will retain the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner if it is elected during the July 2 federal election, amid news that the government is advertising for a new eSafety Commissioner.

"Labor supports the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner and its functions, and we have no plans to change this," a Labor spokesperson told ZDNet.

The idea of such an office has been Coalition-led since its inception; it was first brought up in November 2012 by opposition MP Paul Fletcher, who published a discussion paper proposing it as a way to approach online safety for children.

The government subsequently introduced the Enhancing Online Safety for Children Bill 2014, and the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner was launched in July 2015.

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 of the Children's eSafety Commissioner, which then investigates the content.

The eSafety office was set up as part of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The eSafety Commissioner has the authority to force social media companies that operate in Australia, including Twitter and Facebook, to remove content deemed to be online bullying, or face fines of AU$17,000 per day.

Inaugural commissioner Alastair MacGibbon last year said children also need to be educated about cybersecurity in school programs.

"I think most IT security professionals would agree that our concept of educating staff not to be clicking on links and falling victim to those human attacks, we've failed. So generationally what we need to be doing -- while we need to try to maintain our line in the sand as best we can with our modern-day workers -- what we should be doing is investing in the future workers. The great human firewall, if you will," MacGibbon told ZDNet last October.

"If we can get kids that we're already allowing to use a lot of technology to be safe and secure as they use it, when they become the next generation of worker, we might be able to get rid of those targeted human attacks."

The Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner completed 2,057 investigations into illegal online material during its first three months of operation, referred 600 children to the Kids Helpline, and handled 40 cases of serious cyberbullying through its complaints process.

It has also partnered with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Yahoo Groups, Yahoo Answers, and Ask.fm, with the participating social media companies agreeing to remove any seriously harmful content within 12 hours of it being posted.

"The level of cooperation is remarkable," MacGibbon has said.

MacGibbon has since been appointed to the role of Special Adviser on Cyber Security within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, a position created as part of the government's Cyber Security Strategy.

Applications for the role of eSafety Commissioner close on July 8, the week following the federal election.

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