New inquiry will ‘force social media’ to act on youth safety, PM says

Dec 01, 2021 at 10:14 pm by admin

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has used social media to launch an inquiry into… social media.

The new probe will look at toxic material on social media platforms and the dangers this poses to the well-being of Australians, and is to be chaired by MP Lucy Wicks.

It comes on top of legislation announced earlier this week to unmask anonymous online trolls.

Morrison says mums and dads are “rightly concerned” about whether big tech is doing enough to keep their children safe online. “Big tech created these platforms, they have a responsibility to ensure their users are safe,” he said.

The inquiry will give organisations and individuals an opportunity to air their concerns, and big tech to “account for its own conduct”, communications minister Paul Fletcher said.

The announcement says the Australian government has “led the world in regulating social media”, establishing the world’s first dedicated online safety watchdog in 2015, and in June passing an Online Safety Act to give an “eSafety commissioner” stronger powers to direct the removal of online abuse. 

Assistant minister mental health and suicide prevention David Coleman said there had been a consistent increase in signs of distress and mental ill-health among young people “even before the COVID-19 pandemic”. He said for too long, social media platforms had been putting company profits ahead of the wellbeing and safety of children.

In a 2018 survey of over 4000 young people aged 12 to 25, social media was nominated as the main reason youth mental health was getting worse. He cited a recent leak of Facebook’s own internal research as demonstrating the impact social media platforms can have on body image and the mental health of young people. “We know that we can't trust social media companies to act in the best interests of children, so we're going to force them to."

Pictured: This picture of Scott Morrison at the press conference announcing the social media ‘troll’ bill was posted on his Facebook page

Sections: Digital business


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