Australia plans 'penalties' for social networks that don't think of the children

Cyber-bullying plan is missing some important details

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Australia has devised a small stick and big stick approach to cyber-bullying material stored on social networks.

The nation's recently-installed government ran on a policy of Thinking Of The Children that proposed the creation of a new “Office of the Children’s e-Safety Commissioner” with the power to compel social networks to take material deemed to represent cyber-bullying.

There's still no word on just what kind of material the government proposes to deal with, but parliamentary secretary Paul Fletcher today explained the Commissioner's powers see the eventual appointee oversee “a ‘two tier’ scheme” in which “under tier 1 large social media services can work cooperatively with the Commissioner; but if they repeatedly fail to respond to notices they face being moved to tier 2”.

The second tier will see social networks “be legally required to comply with a notice issued by the Commissioner to remove cyber-bullying material, and a failure to comply will attract penalties.”

The Reg has asked Fletcher's office for information about the penalties, and definitions of “repeated” failure to respond and “cyber-bullying material”, plus guidance on "large" social media services. We've been told that definitions of cyber-bullying will likely rest with social networks themselves, as those considered "Tier 1" already have a description in their terms and conditions. For other definitions we need to wait for the draft legislation which we're told will arrive by year's end. ®

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