The Office of Children’s e-Safety Commissioner released its first six-month report via a video yesterday. The Office was launched last year by the Federal Government to counter the rising levels of cyberbullying among children. It came into being on July 1, 2015 after lengthy discussions and debate, both in the parliament and outside of it. OHPI had also participated in these discussions.

Among other things, the Office was given the power to approach social media platforms to remove seriously harassing, threatening, humiliating and intimidating content against children, and to penalise them if they failed to comply.

Below are the highlights of the report:

  • The office has now partnered with 9 social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, AskFm, Google+ and Yahoo.
  • It carried out over 5,562 online content investigation in the last six months.
  • It helped resolve 92 complaints of serious cyberbullying. It got the content removed within 8 hours of receiving the complaint.
  • It also referred over 2,500 children to Kids Helpline for further support.
  • It got 4008 URLs of child sex abuse material removed.

You can view the report here. We congratulate the Office for a successful start.

It would be also good if we could understand what made the 92 complaints serious enough for the content to be removed, and not for the rest 2,500 cases in which the children were referred to counselling instead. Presumably, they approached the Office with a complain. It will help us understand the standards applied by the Office in judging what is serious cyberbullying, and what is not. It is important that these standards are transparent.

It is also great that the Australian government has taken the issue of cyberbullying of children seriously. However, the fact that people are over the age of 18 doesn’t reduce the damage that cyberbullying can inflict on them or increase their power vis-a-vis global tech companies to get damaging items removed. Women, in particular, are victims of cyberbullying that uses their sexuality as means to attack them.

All Australians need the government act on our behalf when people use social media to seriously harass, threaten, humiliate and intimidate them. And to represent our interests before technology companies.

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