The main recommendation listed by the committee calls on the Australian government to legislate a duty of care on social media platforms and regulatory pressure on platforms in order to prevent and respond to cyber bullying, including using significant financial penalties if needed, Maurice Blackburn employment law principal John Bornstein explained.
Mr Bornstein said that with the recommendations in place, it’s now time for the Australian government to act swiftly on implementing them.
“Australia lags other countries when it comes to cyber safety, namely Europe and New Zealand, and we welcome that the Senate committee investigating these issues has recognised that a strong response is needed to tackle cyber bullying,” Mr Bornstein said.
“The recommendations made by the committee are significant, most notably for the Australian government to legislate to create a duty of care on social media platforms to ensure the safety of users.
“This is something we have strongly advocated for and we are pleased the committee has acknowledged this – this measure will help to bring cyber space in line with workplaces, namely in ensuring that social media giants have a duty of care imposed on them and that individuals can sue them if that duty is breached.”
Mr Bornstein noted that “for too long, companies like Facebook and Twitter have not been held to account for serious incidents of cyber bullying in Australia and this will allow individuals at last to have the tools they need to take these groups on for harm caused”.
He said demanding a duty of care that makes the consequences of cyber bullying clear will go a long way in tackling the prevalence of it.
“Imposing a duty of care that has real consequences we believe can make a difference to these big tech companies playing an urgent and long overdue role in minimising bullying and inappropriate behaviour on their social media platforms,” Mr Bornstein said.
“We also welcome the committee’s recommendation to place and maintain regulatory pressure on social media platforms to prevent and quickly respond to cyber bullying, including the use of significant financial penalties if needed.
“This too is a major step – if significant financial penalties and incentives are at stake then we believe this will lead to platforms having to clean up their act, including committing serious resources to enforce appropriate behaviour.”
Emma Ryan is the deputy head of editorial at Momentum Media and editor of its legal publication, Lawyers Weekly.
She graduated from Charles Sturt University with a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism).