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‘These platforms are not dumb pipes, they are actually curators of content’: Australian government takes aim at Meta

The Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, has declared that “every parent” is concerned about the outsized role social media is playing in the lives of Australian children, reinforcing her views that an age limit is necessary.

Speaking to Sky News, Rowland said that, “while social media has been a force for useful connections for many people, including young people, we’re into our second generation of digital natives.

“Now, the vectors for harm have never been more exemplified, have never been better understood and continue to be better understood as each day goes by. We had always had this view that the internet is not an ungoverned space. There’s always been some laws that have attached to it – but we have decided as a government that we will review and update our laws.”

Rowland pointed to the current review of the Online Safety Act, saying she “recently announced an update of the basic online safety expectations”, and key to this is the implementation of an age threshold to access these sites.

“There’s so much research that’s coming out right now that has looked into over a decade of social media use and we can see all those different evidences of harms that are emerging, be it mental health or other issues, including the fact that these platforms are not dumb pipes – they are actually curators of content and they are pushing certain content through their algorithms,” she said.

“We are looking at a range of ages – 16 is one, certainly, just as the Prime Minister said. We know that young people’s ages and their brains are evolving and the evidence is coming in on this too, their brains are evolving.

“Through this age assurance trial, we’ll be able to get a good evidence base for that, and to be able to make decisions based on that.

“Every parent and caregiver is concerned about this and we as a government want to do everything in our power to not only be holistic in our approach, and do this across government ensure that it is a joined up mechanism that we have, but also that it’s effective. It needs to be capable of implementation and effective.

“This is one of the highest priorities of this government, keeping Australians safe.”

This comes as a survey out of the University of Canberra found that almost half of Australians use social media to access news, while 60% of Gen Z “rely on social media as their main news source”, up from just 43% in the previous year.

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