Government to develop ‘Online Safety Charter’

Document will spell out government’s expectations for major social media services

The government will develop an ‘Online Safety Charter’ that sets out its expectations from digital platforms.

The charter is part of a $17 million online safety package announced over the weekend by the government.

The ‘Keeping our Children Safe Online’ initiative will include an education campaign aimed at parents as well as a range of new resources and a research program.

A statement issued by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, communications minister Senator Mitch Fifield and education minister Dan Tehan said that the charter “will be developed in consultation with parents, stakeholders and social media and digital platform companies which will outline the government's expectations for industry in relation to protecting children online.”

A draft of the document will be developed over summer, with a final version expected to be unveiled next year.

“We will consult with the sector, stakeholders and most importantly parents over coming months to develop the Charter,” Fifield said.

“Businesses who interact with children in the real world have to meet high standards of safety and digital businesses should be treated no differently.”

The government is currently considering the recommendations arising from independent reviews of the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 and the Online Content Scheme.

The Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner was established by the 2015, although the office has since been given an expanded mandate — it is now named the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

In addition to online bullying the office is charged with tackling the non-consensual sharing of intimate images (so-called ‘revenge porn’).

In a submission to inquiry into the online safety act, the Digital Industry Group Inc (DIGI) argued that in some cases the eSafety Office’s mechanisms for addressing problematic content duplicated existing processes.

“Since its inception, the remit of the eSafety Office has been expanded significantly leading to a stretching of resources and a plethora of disparate initiatives that are outside of the scope of the enacting legislation,” the group, whose members include Google, Facebook and Twitter, said in its submission.