Abbott proposes 'e-Safety' watchdog to combat cyber-bullying
TONY Abbott has vowed to establish an ''e-Safety Commissioner'' to try to stamp out online bullying and end the ''hands-off'' approach adopted by social media companies like Facebook.
Echoing his regular mantra of ''stop the boats'', Mr Abbott said a Coalition government would ''stop the bullies''.
''We are determined to ensure that as a country, as a society, as a culture, there is zero tolerance of cyber-bullying,'' Mr Abbott said. ''We don't accept bullying in the schoolyard; we can't accept bullying online.''
In Sydney, Mr Abbott, MP Paul Fletcher and communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull launched a Coalition discussion paper on tackling the online bullying of children.
The paper proposed the introduction of a co-operative regulatory scheme that would require large social media platforms like Facebook to establish processes to manage complaints about material ''targeted at and likely to cause harm to an Australian child''.
If a complaint was not answered within a short period of time, for example 48 hours, the complaint would be sent to an ''e-Safety Commissioner'', who would have the power to compel large social media companies to remove the material.
''We hear too many concerning instances where complaints are not responded to and we believe the scheme will give the community the certainty it would expect,'' Mr Abbott said.
''We are going to insist that the hands-off approach which has largely been adopted until now cannot continue.''
The discussion paper said no changes would be imposed without consultation with industry, but Mr Abbott made his intentions clear.
''We do need an e-Safety Commissioner, we do need to see more social responsibilities from companies and we do need to have effective mechanisms so that cyber-bullying can be swiftly addressed and offensive material can be taken down.''
The discussion paper said more than 90 per cent of Australian high school students could have Facebook accounts, and more than two-thirds of Australians aged 15 to 65 had smartphones.
Mr Turnbull said not only had bullying moved online, but online platforms amplified the effects of bullying.
Even if offensive or bullying material was taken down, Mr Turnbull said, people could take screenshots of the material and redistribute it.
''Everything that is done online is there forever.''