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Government announces plan to tackle cyber-bullying.

As you know Mamamia are very passionate about the safety of our children online, which is why we were pleased to hear about the Abbott’s Government’s new approach to cyber safety.

The discussion paper, released today, by Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications, Mr Paul Fletcher, sets out the Government’s intended approach to the issue.

Earlier today we spoke to the man responsible for the discussion paper to find out more about what the Government is intending to do.

Mr Fletcher is concerned at the alarming stories he has heard from children and parents about the devastating effects of kids being bullied online, in response the Government is considering:

  • A Children’s E-Safety Commissioner;
  • An effective complaints system underpinned by legislation that will remove harmful material from large social media sites quickly; and
  • Consideration of a new simplified cyber-bullying offence.

We asked Mr Fletcher how this process might work in a real life situation.

He told us that, the purpose of these proposals is to provide a single point of contact for parents, teachers and students through the E-Safety Commissioner to ensure that the offending material is removed as quickly as possible to minimise any potential harm. Research shows that this best outcome for victims.

This method is modelled on the New Zealand approach to cyber-safety. Provided by NetSafe, a not for profit organisation, an informal mediation session for victims of cyber-bullying is conducted. It has proven to be very successful.

If introduced in Australia it may work like this.

The Government works with large social media sites to develop an effective dispute resolution process, the aim is ensure that offensive material is removed quickly.

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If the complaint can not be resolved to the satisfaction of those involved, it  is intended that the matter be taken to E-Safety Commissioner to investigate.

At this point, it may be necessary to impose a penalty of some kind.

That’s why the Government is considering the introduction of a new simplified cyber-bullying offence which takes into consideration the fact that perpetrators of online bullying often have no idea they are breaking the law.

Existing offences are difficult to enforce and the intention is to avoid a costly or lengthly legal battle for those involved.

It is not intended that this offence be of a criminal nature. Rather an opportunity for a member of the E-Safety Commissioner’s office to approach a cyber-bully and ask them to remove offensive material or face a penalty (Yet to be determined).

The Government is keen to introduce legislation into the Parliament by the end of the year to give these changes some rigour. And they are keen to hear from you. If you are interested in online safety you can make a submission in response to the discussion paper.

Mr Fletcher will also be working closely with large social media organisations to develop effective ways of keeping kids safe when they are online.

A copy of the discussion paper can be found here, submissions are due by 7 March 2014.

We think this is a good start and we look forward to being involved in the discussion. What do you think of this approach? Will you be making a submission? 

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