Australian government’s child cyber safety proposal 'counterproductive': Industry

Facebook, Google and Twitter say the measures would be counterproductive to their own cyber safety work

The Australian Interactive Media Industry Association (AIMIA), AIMIA Digital Policy Group, Microsoft, Yahoo!7, Facebook, Freelancer, eBay, Google and Twitter have criticised the Australian government’s proposed child cyber safety policy, saying that it will be “counterproductive” to the online safety work they are already doing.

The statement said that the government's proposal to legislate a “one-size fits all” regime is counterproductive to its commitment to the safety of the people who use its services.

"The creation of a new statutory body and new regulation on complaints handling seems at odds with the government’s stated strategy to reduce regulation and to streamline government agencies," the companies said in a statement.

It pointed out that several industry players entered into the Cooperative Arrangement for Complaints Handling on Social Networking Sites with the Australian government in January 2013.

The arrangement (PDF) commits companies such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo!7 and Microsoft to have policies for acceptable use, reporting inappropriate content, acting on complaints quickly and removing child abuse material quickly.

The Australian government released a public discussion paper seeking comment about the proposed policy measures today.

The policies include establishing the role of a children’s e-safety commissioner, developing an effective complaints system to get harmful material down from social media sites faster and examining whether there is a need for a simplified cyber-bullying offence.

The government’s discussion paper seeks public comment on implementation of these measures including what constitutes a large social media site; who can make a complaint and what is a reasonable time frame for the social media site to respond.

According to Minister for Communications Parliamentary Secretary Paul Fletcher, the children’s e-safety commissioner would be a “single point of contact” in the federal government for online safety issues.

"When a child falls victim to cyber-bullying, it can be hard to get the harmful material down fast. And with current laws, cyber-bullies may not realise they are breaking the law. This is what these measures are designed to address," he said in a statement.

The discussion paper can be downloaded from the Department of Communications website. The deadline for submissions is 7 March 2013.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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