Senate passes legislation to crack down on social media

The government yesterday won support from the Senate for its online safety bill, paving the way for the creation of a Children’s e-Safety Commissioner and the implementation of a system to compel social networking sites to remove bullying material.

The legislation creates a two-tier system for social networks overseen by the commissioner. Social networks can apply to the commissioner for Tier 1 social networks.

The commissioner has the authority to issue a request to social networks for the removal of "cyber-bullying material targeted at an Australian child within 48 hours," states the bill's explanatory memorandum.

"There will be no direct enforcement measures in relation to tier 1 services," the memorandum states.

"However, if a tier 1 service repeatedly fails to comply with requests to remove material over a 12 month period, or the Commissioner is satisfied that the service does not comply with the basic online safety requirements, the Commissioner may revoke the service’s tier 1 status."

Tier 2 covers social media services declared by the communications minister. Tier 2 social networks that don't rapidly remove bullying material could face fines.

The bill received bipartisan support in the Senate.

"This is a very significant milestone in the Government's work to make the internet safer for Australian children," the parliamentary secretary to the minister for communications, Paul Fletcher, said in a statement.

"It is very pleasing to see the bipartisan support for this bill – which in turn reflects the message that politicians across the spectrum are hearing from Australia's parents, children and teachers about the importance of keeping children safe online – and doing more to protect children against the threat of cyberbullying."

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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