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Will Rules Ever Make Children Safe Online?

In January Paul Fletcher, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications, announced plans to enhance online safety for children. A discussion paper was published, prompting a wide variety of feedback.

Many agree with the proposal for a Children’s E-Safety Commission, although opinions vary as to the extent of powers associated with the office. Some argue it should be focused on education on cyber-safety, whereas others see it as an enforcement role that will expedite the removal of harmful content and, perhaps, expedite the charging of offenders.

Fletcher’s paper also asked whether there is a need for a new, simplified cyber-bulling offence. Section 474 of the Criminal Code already declares it an offence to use a carriage service in ways that would be seen as menacing, harassing or offensive. But, perhaps, there’s a need for more specific wording to make it clear that activities such as ‘happy slapping’ – the online posting of videos of real-life bullying attacks – cannot be tolerated.

Many in the internet industry say laws exist and most players are keen to do the right thing – the appointment of an E-Safety Commissioner is just another level of bureaucracy. But this week’s CrossTalk shows that the argument isn’t that black and white, as Phil Dobbie talks to:
– Karen Annand from Chloe’s Law;
– Nigel Phair from the Centre for Internet Safety;
– Chris Althaus from the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association; and
– Chris Berg from the Institute of Public Affairs.

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