Australia tackling online bullies

If American media companies think that they can ignore Australian law, they should reflect on the humbling of Dow Jones a few years back.  

They uttered a serious defamation of Australian miner Joe Gutnick in one of their publications and thought they were protected by America's permissive libel laws

But since the libel was of an Australian, Australian law had jurisdiction and Dow Jones eventually settled, costing them a heap

Harmful online abuse would be stripped from websites under a new government proposal to squash adult cyber bullying.

The eSafety Commissioner would be given the power to direct platforms to take down abuse, when they have failed to respond to complaints.

The online watchdog’s capacity to unmask the identities behind anonymous or fake accounts used to conduct abuse or share illegal content will also be beefed up.

Cyber Safety Minister Paul Fletcher said the new scheme was a world-leading online safety framework for seriously harmful content.

“Overwhelmingly what victims of serious cyber abuse tell us is they want the material taken down but that can be very hard to achieve,” Mr Fletcher told the ABC.

“The eSafety Commissioner has done that effectively with cyber-bullying against children and we’re now going to extend that to cyber-abuse directed against adults.”

Under the new Online Safety Bill, out for consultation on Wednesday, services will be required to remove image-based abuse and cyber bullying content within 24 hours of receiving a notice from the commissioner.

Companies that don’t comply will face maximum civil penalties of $550,000, while individuals will be subject to fines of up to $111,000.

Websites streaming online crisis events such as the Christchurch terrorist attacks and extreme violent content will also be able to be blocked for a limited time, under the commissioner’s request to internet service providers.

Protections for children will also be strengthened to enable bullying material to be removed from online services frequented by children.

Mr Fletcher said the measures recognised adults had greater resilience than children when it came to abusive content, and appropriately balanced the importance of freedom of speech.

The bill will also include legislated “basic online safety expectations” for digital platforms to establish a new benchmark for industry to keep Australians safe.

Under these, the eSafety Commissioner will be able to seek an explanation from the platforms about how they will respond to online harms under new transparency reporting requirements.

The industry will also be required to do more to keep users safe under updated codes.

“The internet has brought great social, educational and economic benefits,” Mr Fletcher said. “But just as a small proportion of human interactions go wrong offline, so too are there risks online.”

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