Federal government urges Facebook and Twitter to join cyber safety plan

The federal government has launched a new cyber safety plan urging online platforms to make better use of artificial intelligence to take down content and ban users in a bid to stamp out online bullying.

Details of the program were released by the government over the weekend with the $17m Keeping our Children Safe Online package including an Online Safety Charter specifying the government’s expectations for industry in relation to protecting children online.

Communications minister Mitch Fifield laid out what the government will expect of the digital platforms

Along with the charter that will be developed in consultation with parents, industry and other stakeholders over coming the months, the program will include resources for parents and carers, and an online safety research program.

The program however is not legally binding on the digital platforms and comes a week after the ACCC released its interim report on the operations of the global online services in Australia.

In its interim recommendations, the ACCC suggested tightening privacy requirements on the online services and increased regulation over the sector.

Communications minister Mitch Fifield said in a press conference announcing the online safety package that he expects the digital platforms to use artificial-intelligence-driven tools to help police content.

“Now, what this will mean in terms of the Charter are things such as expecting digital platforms to make better use of artificial intelligence to remove material, so as not to rely on users to have to bring it to their attention in the first place,” the minister said.

“And also making better use of human moderators when it comes to ensuring that this material isn’t online.”

Fifield also flagged the government would be expecting the digital platforms to ban repeat offenders under the Charter and provide a greater level of transparency about actions taken against bullying.

Representatives of the online services were reluctant to comment on the program given the scant details available, instead pointing Mumbrella to a statement by industry group, Digi.

“Online safety is best achieved when government, industry and the community work together. Our members take real action against bullying through local online and child safety organisations, and in-school education programs with young people around Australia,” said Digi’s statement.

Facebook and Google ‘tale real action against bullying’, according to Digi

“We also invest heavily in automation and emerging technologies to identify and swiftly remove harmful content from our services.”

Digi’s membership includes the major digital platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google and Oath.

Fifield said the government expects digital platforms to help keep Australian kids safe: “Our new Online Safety Charter will clearly set out our expectations of industry.

“We will consult with the sector, stakeholders and most importantly parents over coming months to develop the Charter.

“Businesses who interact with children in the real world have to meet high standards of safety and digital businesses should be treated no differently.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison added the government’s top priority was keeping people safe.

“We must all work together to ensure the safety of our youngest Australians online, including parents, social media companies and the community,” the Prime Minister said.

“Nothing can be more important than protecting our children and in many cases this means defending them from dangers in the online environment.”

The Keeping our Children Safe Online package will include an education campaign for all parents and new educational resources for parents and carers of children under five years old.

It will raise awareness of the resources available to parents to protect their children online, particularly the work of the eSafety Commissioner, and develop new resources for parents, childcare centres and community groups to support a safe online environment and positive cyber-safe behaviour in young children.

Along with the announcement of the new initiative, the government has received the independent review of the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 and the Online Content Scheme, conducted by Lynelle Briggs AO and is considering the recommendations.


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