Senate committee cyber bullying report backs call for social media giants to have a duty of care to keep users safe

29 March 2018
Jade Thompson

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers have welcomed a Senate committee report outlining sweeping recommendations to combat cyber bullying, including calling on government to legislate a duty of care on social media platforms and regulatory pressure on platforms to prevent and respond to cyber bullying, including using significant financial penalties if needed.

Maurice Blackburn Employment Law Principal Josh Bornstein said the committee’s response was significant and it was now incumbent on the Australian Government to act swiftly on the recommendations to improve cyber safety.

“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 cyberspace 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.

“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.

“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.

“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,” he said.

A copy of the Senate committee’s report is available here. A copy of Maurice Blackburn’s submission to the Senate inquiry is available here.

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