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Interview with Tom Steinford, The Today Show


Subject: Measures to address cyber-bullying

Tom Steinford:
Social media giants, Google, Facebook and Twitter are about to be held accountable for online bullying and images of extreme violence. It's part of a new $17 million package announced today to improve the safety and wellbeing of our children online. Communication Minister Mitch Fifield is behind it and joins us now from Melbourne. Good morning to you, Minister. Cyber-bullying, huge problem, as are these images of extreme violence. How's this actually going to help?

Well, Tom, our highest obligation as a society is to protect our kids. And we've already done some good work in the online environment. We've established the world's first eSafety Commissioner. We've legislated a kids cyber-bullying material take-down regime. But the community expect us to do more. And we expect the digital platforms to do more. So what we're announcing today is a full court press when it comes to kids' online safety. An additional $17 million. Which will take our commitment over the next four years to $100 million when it comes to kids' online safety. At the heart of this will be an Online Safety Charter where we will express to the digital platforms and the tech companies what our expectations are on behalf of the community as to how they can make their platforms safer places for our kids.

From what I can gather, though, these new guidelines aren't actually legally binding. So, what then is the incentive for the companies to take any notice of them?

Tom, we're going to be making very clear to these tech companies that we expect them to do more when it comes to accountability. They should publish statistics as to the complaints that they've received about offensive material, what action that they've taken. They need to do more when it comes to using Artificial Intelligence to remove this material so that it doesn't have to be the user that identifies that material. And also they need to practice something called safety by design, whereby the default on those platforms and services that are most attractive to children are the most restrictive.

So, these will be our expectations. We'll be consulting with the platforms. We'll be entering into this Charter. But as we've demonstrated before with the cyber-bullying regime, if there's the requirement for legislation to give effect to these sorts of measures then, absolutely, that's something that we'll consider. But we want to take this on a cooperative basis and make clear our expectations to these platforms.

Well, it's certainly a step in the right direction, one that a lot of parents out there would be pretty happy with. Minister, thanks for your time this morning.

Good to be with you, Tom.


Media contacts

Guy Creighton | 0438 815 302 | Guy.Creighton [at] communications.gov.au