Online Safety Bill is a way to move forward


It’s been widely said the tech companies are the railroads or oil companies of the 21st century. These companies wield enormous power. They have done much good, but they have the potential to do much harm.

It’s why the Online Safety Bill is an important piece of legislation currently before the Senate. It’s a very welcome initiative. It brings to bear a simple, single framework for online safety.

Setting out the basic online safety expectations and arming the eSafety Commissioner with power to effectively ensure people are protected should be broadly welcomed.

The fact is people are being bullied and abused often under the cover of anonymity. There’s nowhere else in our society where you can, under the cover of darkness, pretend to be someone else and attack people.

So it’s important we look to increase penalties for the use of a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence, from three to five years.

Over the past few months, the Morrison Government has introduced world-leading media bargaining code legislation. Australia has led the world in trying to ensure publishers and public interest journalists are paid for their work.

Just as large tech companies cannot threaten a country, nor can they have more power than any other non-state actor in the world today where they can bully and defeat a country.

As a government we’ve been prepared to intervene to ensure consumers are protected. I am not in favour of regulation for regulation’s sake but there is much content on social media which already contravenes our laws.

As I said in the Senate chamber, social media really has become the wild west.What we need to do is balance civil liberties against the desire to protect people and these are judgements that should be exercised by a minister and they should be disallowable.

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner was the first dedicated online safety regulator to be established in the world and acts as a safety net for when online services fail to keep Australians safe online.

The Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, is doing a great job but the framework of having the minister set the regulation is an important one.

Ultimately, we want to have a system where Australia is not a backwater. We want to see technology used but we also want to make sure people are protected.

We don’t want to see people bullied and harassed online, we don’t want to see people attacked under the cover of anonymity.

We have laws in New South Wales against anti-incitement and defamation, so social media should not provide a back door to breaking the law.

What I want to see is a scheme that is ultimately going to protect people from cyberbullying and image abuse in a way which balances out the privacy concerns which are understandable and legitimately held.

Australia had a big win with the media bargaining code. We now need to build on that.

This government has a great record of being prepared to intervene where there’s consumer detriment or broader community detriment in relation to tech companies.

We should use this opportunity to lead the world again.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

2 Comments
  1. Rod Harris 3 months ago
    Reply

    The motivation and purpose behind the bill is to protect people from unfair online abuse, its a simple as that!
    For example, I am a victim of such abuse, due to a nasty wannabe competitor who hides behind dozens of fake online accounts. The abuse exceeds over 100 exhibits of blatantly false and photoshopped images which has caused significant harm to my family, our workers, and we have lost $ millons in revenue because many people have mistakenly believed the offenders horrendous lies about us!
    Since 2018, I have voluntarily donated over 5000 hours of my time to research and liaise with global experts in this subject matter. Are you aware the cyber abuse is the greatest cause of death between 14-40 year olds in developed countries, and probably much higher elsewhere. And, sadly, over 50% of the parents whose children commited suicide (due to cyber bullying) were unaware their child was a victim! It’s tragic with stats are rising. Also, over 60% of google reviews in Australia are false (misleading intent), yet less than 5% of the public know it!
    I have contributed numerous submissions and recommendations to Govt, viewed the draft bill and supported the bill. My only reservations is that the bill gripe doesnt go far enough in its detail or scope and likely to confuse the public and law enforcement agencies, and therefore may ultimately benefit lawyers far more than victims! There is so much more the Australian Govt can do to improve the integrity and online safety beyond this current bill, and I hope to see meaningful upgrades in due course.

  2. Peter 3 months ago
    Reply

    Unfortunately a large proportion of our State and Federal politicians, and especially the Ministers, have demonstrated a complete lack of expertise, conscience or moral compass when it comes to exercising powers that they have already. I would certainly not be giving them any more power to inflict their warped and twisted notions on the population at large, like their beliefs in weird religions and other cult like activities, belief in unproven medical treatments, and their lack of interest and knowledge about scientific endeavours in almost any field of science. A major push for this legislation comes from the religious right that wants to ban anything they believe is inappropriate – like scantily clad humans, lefty-tree-hugging propaganda and the like. Many of us would prefer to see to see the likes of News Corp and other Murdoch investments banned or heavily regulated so they can’t tell such blatant lies on a regular basis, especially to those poor information starved people who have welcomed Barnaby Joyce back into a position of power.

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