The Government Select Committee on Social Media and Online Safety has released its report examining social media platforms and online safety.
The report unveiled people’s online safety is being harmed by other individuals who engage in harmful behaviour and conduct.
Witnesses who gave evidence to the committee shared that the impact of online abuse leaves “a long trail of trauma and suffering”
Committee chair Lucy Wicks MP noted that the evidence presented showed the importance of a three-part response: social media platforms focusing on user safety and enforcing policies; the Government regulating and monitoring the sector; and that users understand that while respectful dissent and disagreement is a part of online discourse, abuse is not and it should not be tolerated.
Wicks said: “The Australian Government is leading the world in online safety, but technology and online predators evolve quickly, so the Government must continue to hold social media companies to account and support victims of abuse.
“For too long social media platforms have been able to ‘set the rules’, enabling the proliferation of online abuse. The balance of responsibility for the safety of users online, which until recently has been primarily on users, must be ‘flipped’ to ensure that social media platforms bear more of the burden of providing safety for their users.
“To protect Australians, social media companies have to take responsibility to enforce their terms of service, prevent recidivism of bad actors, prevent pile-ons or volumetric attacks, prevent harms across multiple platforms and be more transparent about their use of algorithms.
“The inquiry has also focused on what more can be done to address individual actions and behaviours online by building on the eSafety Commissioner’s existing education programs and government awareness campaigns to give Australians, and especially children, more information about how to safely engage in online discourse.”
The recommendations include:
• The establishment of a Digital Safety Review to review all online safety legislation and government programs, with a view to simplify regulations into one framework and make recommendations to the Australian Government on potential proposals for mandating platform transparency.
• Requesting that the eSafety Commissioner examine the extent to which social media companies enforce their policies in relation to users experiencing harm, in addition to requiring them to report to Government regarding reducing harm caused by their algorithms
• Addressing technology-facilitated abuse in the context of family and domestic violence, including the recommendation of significant additional Australian Government funding for support services
• Mandating that all social media companies set as a default the highest privacy settings for people under the age of 18 years
• Increasing the reach of educational programs geared at both adults and young people regarding online harms, with a focus on the eSafety Commissioner’s powers to remove harmful content and the mechanisms through which victims can report harmful content and online abuse
Throughout the almost four month inquiry, the Select Committee on Social Media and Online Safety have conducted eleven public hearings with nearly sixty witnesses, and received more than 100 submissions from individuals, organisations and government bodies.
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