Australia is creating new powers to fine Twitter and Facebook up to $17,000 a day over bullying breaches

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Social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook will face fines of up to $17,000 per day if they fail to remove cyber-bullying material under a new system first flagged three months ago by Australia’s first children’s e-safety commissioner.

Alastair MacGibbon, a former Australian Federal Police agent and online safety expert, has been appointed to the role and will be charged with developing an effective public complaints system, backed by legislation, and implementing the proposed scheme.

The complaints service will target serious threats, harassment, acts of intimidation and embarrassment.

“So it’s intended to ensure the normal banter, even if it can seem a bit robust, between children or someone directing comments to children, generally is not going to be captured under the act,” MacGibbon said.

The ABC reports the commissioner’s office should be fully staffed and formally established by July 1.

MacGibbon says “it’s really important to reach out to industry, those that actually provide the services, the social networking services” in order to properly enforce the new legislation. Companies face fines of up to $17,000 a day if offensive material is not removed after a takedown request has been reported.

“I do know the large social media services were engaged in the consultation process in drafting this legislation,” MacGibbon said. “They do care about their end users; I think many of them will acknowledge that’s been a process they’re improving.”

A government discussion paper published last year, entitled Enhancing Online Safety for Children, outlines the primary concerns and need for the establishment of a Children’s e-Safety Commissioner.

Content uploaded to popular social media sites has the potential to be viewed by large audiences and go viral quickly. User generated content is not always created with forethought or discretion, and the increasing instances of cyber-bullying, sexting and ‘revenge porn’ are particularly concerning when young people are involved.

An eligible complainant would be any person under the age of 18 (a child) who is a specific target of harmful material; or the child’s parent or guardian; or another adult in a position of authority in relation to the child (such as a teacher or carer).

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