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Social networks to pay for cyberbullying


Social media companies may now face serious penalties and fines of up to $17,000 for failing to remove cyberbullying content after the government’s appointment of the first ever Children’s e-safety Commissioner last month.

Former Australian Federal Police cybercrime expert, Alastair MacGibbon, has been assigned to the role and will be in charge of managing bullying content on these social media platforms.

According to Shine Lawyers Solicitor, Paula Dorries, the new legislation effectively sets up a complaints system for cyberbullying material targeted at an Australian child.

“Cyberbullying material is material that is provided on a social media service and an ordinary reasonable person would conclude that the material was intended to have an effect on a particular Australian child of a seriously threatening, intimidating, harassing or humiliating nature,” Paula said.

If an Australian child has reason to believe that they are the target of cyberbullying material of this type, they can make a complaint to the Commissioner.

The Commissioner will then investigate the complaint through a two-tier scheme where social media companies will be categorised according to how they comply with requests.

If these companies, regardless of their declared status, fail to remove the material within 48 hours of a direct complaint to them and a complaint is then made to the Commissioner, he may issue a notice.

Paula Dorries explains that companies also have compliance requirements to do with basic online safety requirements, compliance with a request for removal of cyberbullying material and a compliance with social media service notice issued by the Commissioner.

“If the social media service fails to comply with the request from the Commissioner to remove the material, they may be fined 100 penalty units, and the current rate for a penalty unit is $170,” she said.

The new legislation has been introduced as a result of the climbing number of cyberbullying rates in Australia. According to NoBullying.com, 463,000 Australian children were affected by cyberbullying in 2013.

This new legislation is aimed at preventing such high numbers of cyberbullying by making social media services accountable for any bullying content on their sites which are not promptly or adequately dealt with.

Related information: Dealing with cyberbullying as a parent

Written by Shine Lawyers on June 16, 2015. Last modified: September 25, 2018.

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