Australia’s biggest internet companies are standing together against government proposals to introduce an internet watchdog, which could see a bureaucrat given the power to decide what is harmful web content and tell sites to pull it down.
Proposals published ahead of the September election last year would see the government appoint an e-safety commissioner with the power to ban content from social media sites that it deems harmful. However the policy provoked an immediate backlash from civil liberties groups and was dumped within hours of its publication.
Members of the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association (AIMIA) including Google, Facebook and Twitter, have now raised the concerns after meeting with Communications Minister Malcolm Turbull’s parliamentary secretary Paul Fletcher yesterday, ahead of the release of a discussion paper outlining the government’s plans.
Following the meeting they have raised serious concerns about the law that would give a bureaucrat in Canberra the power to dictate what is harmful material on the web and what is not.
A joint statement from the AIMIA Digital Policy Group, and AIMIA members including Microsoft, Yahoo!7, Facebook, Freelancer, eBay, Google, and Twitter, said:
“We share the Abbott government’s commitment to keeping young Australians safe online and we invest heavily in tools and infrastructure to achieve this.
“However, the Government’s proposal to legislate a one-size fits all regime is counterproductive to our own work and commitment to the safety of the people who use our services.
“Also the creation of a new statutory body and new regulation on complaints handling seems at odds with the Government’s stated strategy to reduce regulation and to streamline Government agencies.”
AIMIA members maintain their platforms are made safe by the policies they have in place to prohibit bullying and harassment, as well as tools to keep young people safe online and teams working around the clock to respond to content reported as harmful.
They say efforts to protect children from cyber-bullying are balanced with the need to uphold the right of free speech, and claim the proposals are out of step with international best practice.
The proposals also do not cover smaller sites such as SnapChat and Tinder.