Liberals propose law to regulate social media
Abbott's plan calls for networks to have staff thinking about the children
Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott has floated a suite of online child safety ideas that would include legislation to regulate social media, which would become answerable to a “Children’s e-Safety Commissioner” charged with taking “a national leadership role in online safety for children.”
The proposals stand a very good chance of becoming law as the opposition is well ahead in opinion polls.
The ideas are outlined in a discussion paper (PDF) on the topic children and the internet.
Stopping cyber-bullying is the paper’s main target, and it suggests Australia go about doing so with the development of “co-operative regulatory scheme”, defined by legislation, that would compel “online social media outlets with a certain minimum number threshold of accounts or customers in Australia” to “establish and publish an approved process by which complaints can be made about specific content that is targeted at, and likely to cause harm to, an Australian child and for further process to be established that outlines how this content will be rapidly removed.”
The paper says these guidelines would only be developed after industry consultation.
The paper outlines a process whereby social networks would have 48 hours to respond to a complaint. If a dispute arose after assessment by a social network, the source of the complaint could ask the e-Safety Commissioner to review the material. Any decision by the Commissioner to take material down would be binding on the social network.
Third parties could also ask the Commissioner to become involved, an avenue seen as ensuring the service does not become a censor.
Abbott has also said “our proposal is that every one of these large social media organisations should have a designated officer who is responsible for handling this kind of issue in Australia and we are going to insist that the hands off approach which has largely been adopted up until now cannot continue.“
That rhetoric will go down well in Australia, where several cases of teenagers committing suicide have recently been reported. Facebook pages in which anonymous adolescent poster rate the performance of their sexual partners have also attracted community ire, with The Social Network sometimes slow to respond.
The discussion paper rules out similar approaches for material pertaining to adults, saying that to regulate more widely would restrict freedom of speech.
Yet Australia has also debated the limits of that freedom of late, after citizens posted lists of unlicensed police cars’ number plates. Facebook was again slow to respond to, or act on, requests from government regarding such material.
The discussion paper’s content also needs to be understood in the context of the recent decision by the current government to abandon a comprehensive internet filter. Abbott says the five years it took to make that decision were time that could have been better spent on a more constructive approach.
But Abbott’s party, the Liberals, may also find a trap in the paper, as it notes that filter software has little public profile. While in government, the Liberals implemented an extensive give-away of filtering software.
The rest of the world, your Australia-based correspondent imagines, will wonder how the nation can go from deciding to lay off the Internet to once again proposing centralised regulations in the space of a few weeks. ®
Bullying screws up lives in subtle ways
Bullying isn't all about some name calling or the other extreme poor kids comitting suicide, bullying can fuck up lives for a very long time and the effects are so subtle that it could even have happened to those around you.
My own story, I married a lovely lady who had spent her last 3 years at school being bullied by other kids over a health issue and because her Dad died of a heart attack in front of her when she was 13. She'd done nothing wrong, she simply had a bit of shitty luck and for that the other kids thought it was worth victimising her. She never got any support from school, her Mum wasn't really in a fit state to help her so she failed all her exams and left school feeling with no qualifications and no prospects. I met her when she was 19 I convinced her to go back to college and get her qualifications that she'd missed at school, she managed to get into clerical work in London rather than basic cleaning jobs she'd had to do. At age of 30 she went into nursery teaching, got her CRBs and now at the age of 35 she's about to start her degree course in teaching as she wants to go back and help those kids who do get missed by the system like she did.
While this may be a token effort and appreciate attempting to stop cyber-bullying is like trying to stop a waterfall with a bucket, it's a start and if it gets people talking and communicating then that's progress.
And out of touch.
Good grief, you can call a kid whatever you like, they can complain, 2 days later, after it has been repeated around the internet, caused offence, upset the kid, given all their friends (ex-friends, enemies and everyone else in the town) a 'laugh' it will be removed.
There is no way to stop cyber bullying any more than there is a way to stop bullying at school. Kids will be bullied for all sorts of things - wrong clothes, wrong taste in music, wrong hair colour, wrong waist line, wrong skin colour, wrong accent, anything that doesn't match the 'norm' as defined by the other kids and their parents.
It can't be stopped, perhaps better to work on helping kids to cope with ti and realise that being different is good!
We need to teach kids that life isn't fair, people aren't always nice, and the best way to survive is to learn to overcome it. The earlier they learn that, the better. Hide them from bullying at school, and how will they cope when they're bullied in the office, and are too "grown up" to cry on Mummy's shoulder about it? Bullies are a nasty but unavoidable fact of life, and need to be outed and taught that it doesn't work, not suppressed and hidden.
This is so reminiscent of the past UK government's nannying of the educational system. Kids were taught that they never failed anything, there was no "pass" or "fail" line, and everything was always OK. Result: they never learned to pick themselves up again after being knocked down, and the first time they get a setback (failed job interview, rejected lover, etc.) is when they're an adult, and they have absolutely no way to cope except by looking for someone to blame, because it can't be their own fault. Not a recipe for a healthy society.
And besides, haven't governments learned yet that they *can't* control the internet?