Senate passes legislation to crack down on social media

Social networking sites could face fines if they fail to remove bullying material

The government yesterday won support from the Senate for its online safety bill, paving the way for the creation of a Children’s e-Safety Commissioner and the implementation of a system to compel social networking sites to remove bullying material.

The legislation creates a two-tier system for social networks overseen by the commissioner. Social networks can apply to the commissioner for Tier 1 social networks.

The commissioner has the authority to issue a request to social networks for the removal of "cyber-bullying material targeted at an Australian child within 48 hours," states the bill's explanatory memorandum.

"There will be no direct enforcement measures in relation to tier 1 services," the memorandum states.

"However, if a tier 1 service repeatedly fails to comply with requests to remove material over a 12 month period, or the Commissioner is satisfied that the service does not comply with the basic online safety requirements, the Commissioner may revoke the service’s tier 1 status."

Tier 2 covers social media services declared by the communications minister. Tier 2 social networks that don't rapidly remove bullying material could face fines.

The bill received bipartisan support in the Senate.

"This is a very significant milestone in the Government's work to make the internet safer for Australian children," the parliamentary secretary to the minister for communications, Paul Fletcher, said in a statement.

"It is very pleasing to see the bipartisan support for this bill – which in turn reflects the message that politicians across the spectrum are hearing from Australia's parents, children and teachers about the importance of keeping children safe online – and doing more to protect children against the threat of cyberbullying."

Read more: Brandis launches $18m 'real time' social media monitoring project

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