Facebook hands off on bullying - Abbott


Source: AFP

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott today slammed Facebook for its "hands-off" approach to online bullying during an announcement of the Coalition's online safety proposals at a Sydney school.

"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," Mr Abbott said.�

"We believe major social media outlets will be held to account."

The Coalition is seeking input from parents, schools and young people as well as industry experts on how to protect the online safety of Australian children.

In a discussion paper released today, the Coalition said the overwhelming finding was that parents and schools did not know where to turn when their children were bullied online.

Mr Abbott said Facebook and other social media outlets would be required to provide an officer as a single point of contact for parents to more easily have offensive content removed from their sites, according to the proposal.

The Coalition proposed "a cooperative, regulatory scheme, underpinned by legislation" that would be developed in consultation with school and parent communities, ACMA and social media companies.

Mr Abbott said there would be a range of punishments for cyber bullies that would vary according to the gravity of the offence.

"I suppose you would deal with them the same way you would with bullies generally," he said.

"Sometimes a stern talking to is enough, sometimes if bullying slips into harassment it can become a criminal offence.

"The important thing is that the purpose of today's discussion is that bullying must stop."

Mr Abbott stressed that the online safety proposal was not about internet censorship.

"The thing about the online world is that it's anonymous, it's permanent and it's everywhere," Mr Abbott said.

"And that's why protection is very, very significant.

?About 90 per cent of Australian high school students have a Facebook account.?

Opposition communications spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull said that if bullying and harassment of children was unacceptable in the playground, ?then it must also be unacceptable online?.

The Coalition's discussion paper on Enhancing Online Safety for Children said it would be seeking industry, community input into whether there may be scope to improve the level of coordination with law enforcement to ensure children's online safety.

They also proposed establishing an independent "Children's e-Safety Commissioner" that would be charged with coordinating a national response to online safety as well as create guidelines that schools, parents, children and internet providers should follow.


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