The federal government will meet quarterly with tech giants including Facebook and Google to “hold their feet to the fire” on combating cyber-bullying and making their online platforms safer for women.
Minister for women Kelly O’Dwyer revealed the new meetings during her address to the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday afternoon.
Taking place quarterly, the meetings will include Ms O’Dwyer, sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins, e-Safety Commissioner Julie Inman and representatives from Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft and Instagram.
The meetings would ensure these tech giants understood how these tech platforms can make women feel unsafe and unwelcome, and ensure that enough was being done to improve the situation, Ms O’Dwyer said.
“I think it’s very important that they get a perspective from women on the impact that these online tools can have on women. We should utilise every benefit that technology can bring to ensure that we have a safer space online,” Ms O’Dwyer said.
“I certainly think those meetings will mean that we hold their feet to the fire, and we make sure that when they have policies that they don’t sit on a shelf – that they are properly implemented and properly enforced.”
“I think that will then give people in Australia confidence that when their children are online they’re in as safe a space as they can be.”
Ms O’Dwyer said these social networking platforms could be dangerous and damaging for young women, and girls especially.
“Through the age of the internet and the almost universal access to mobile technology, we are living through uncharted social times where young children can be exposed to all manner of dangers that can potentially scar them permanently – from cyberbully to the hypersexualisation of young girls,” she said.
“We need to think carefully about the ways we can limit the harm to our children without undermining the benefits that online technology brings.”
The meetings would not be about censoring the tech giants, but rather in making sure they are doing everything possible to ensure the platforms are safe spaces, she said.
“This is not about censorship or governments seizing control of the internet, it’s about making sure that our laws and safeguards and other protections are responsive to rapidly-changing technology and usage. This is something that deeply concerns me and something that I am personally invested in,” Ms O’Dwyer said.
“I intend to work very closely with my colleague Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, and with leading internet providers to look at innovative ways that we can work to make the cyber space safer.”
The federal government has recently taken a hard line approach on tech giants like Facebook and Google.
Home affairs minister Peter Dutton recently confirmed that he was still committed to introducing legislation that would force tech companies to work with law enforcement to decrypt communications as part of an investigation.
It is yet to explain how this would not undermine all encrypted communications, or how it would actually force the likes of Facebook to comply with the laws.
The ACCC also recently launched a wide-ranging inquiry into the impact of digital platforms on competition in the media and advertising services market.
The competition watchdog has confirmed that it would use its compulsory information gathering powers to force Facebook and Google to hand over data as part of the “world’s-first” investigation.
The ACCC would ultimately be considering direct regulatory intervention and potential recommendations to government for legislation in the space.
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