Social media companies will be explicitly told to protect Australian children as part of a $17 million online safety package aimed at helping parents and their kids.
An online safety charter will be developed laying out expectations for social media companies to protect Australian children.
The coalition government announced the support package on Sunday, with new resources for parents and carers.
“What we expect is their full co-operation,” Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said of digital giants.
“This will be a charter where an agreement will be entered into with these digital companies but as I’ve always said before…if there is a necessity for legislation that is something we are prepared to look at,” he said.
The charter will outline expectations for companies to see a better use of artificial intelligence to remove inappropriate content, make better use of human moderators and greater transparency around complaint statistics, the minister explained.
Repeat offenders would also be banned from platforms under the charter arrangements.
“Our objective is to change the culture and the behaviour of the digital platforms and the tech companies, and the online safety charter is their opportunity to demonstrate that they’re up to that task and that they will embrace it,” Mr Fifield told reporters in Melbourne
The move was welcomed by Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant who said it was a positive step.
“If we’re going to stay ahead of techs and teens we need to be one step ahead and we need to be proactive in terms of targeting responsibilities of the online safety platforms large and small,” she said.
“This is a societal challenge and a parental challenge that our parents didn’t have to deal with.”
Melbourne mother-of-three and researcher Dr Olivia Metcalf said while the internet was a great tool it could also bring harm.
“It’s really overwhelming sometimes as a parent to know exactly the best way to keep them safe when it comes to technology and anything that can be done at another level to help support parents is really essential,” she said.
Ahead of the launch Prime Minister Scott Morrison said nothing was more important than protecting children.
“We must all work together to ensure the safety of our youngest Australians online, including parents, social media companies and the community,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said ahead of the launch.
A draft will be developed over the summer, and the final charter will be agreed in 2019.
The package also includes money for online safety research including a national e-survey to identify trends earlier and provide more resources for parents.