Government urged to reconsider how it advances children's rights in the digital age

  • Media Release
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On Human Rights Day, a collection of children’s rights organisations have urged the Government to reconsider how it advances children’s rights in the digital age.

Recent research by Reset Australia has shown that the current approach – where the Government allows the social media industry to self-draft their own Codes around online safety and online privacy for children – is flawed.

Only 21% of Australian adults said they would trust social media companies to write the Codes around children’s online safety and privacy. Young people themselves agree, only 14% of teenagers said they would trust social media companies to ‘write the rules’ about their online privacy. Yet this is what is going to happen unless the Government changes tact now.

Young people in Australia could be offered weaker protections online as a direct result of allowing industry to self-draft their own Codes. For example, the age at which young people’s accounts must ‘default to the most private possible’ is set in Codes drafted by regulators internationally as 18. In Australia, where industry has drafted the Code, the age is 16. This means 16 and 17 year olds Australians are not as protected as they would be in the UK, Ireland or California where regulators have drafted their Codes.

Likewise, unnecessary precise location data about children could still be collected in Australia under the industry self-drafted Code, where it cannot be collected in countries where Codes have been drafted by regulators themselves.

“It really is the pits to think that we are letting industries that have shown time and time again that they prioritise profits over children’s safety and privacy to ‘write their own rules’. This approach just doesn’t work. Social Media companies have had 20 odd years to improve children’s safety and privacy, but they chose not to. It’s unclear why they’d change their minds now, so allowing them to draft any Codes will not improve things one iota.” Said Dr Rys Farthing, Director at Reset Australia.

“Australia passed the world’s very first online safety laws for children and should be the safest place for young people online but it isn’t yet. Allowing industry to self-draft their own codes, to mark their own homework, is part of the reason. As the new Government considers the draft Online Safety Codes on the table, and thinks about how to protect children’s online privacy through regulations, they should take a stronger approach and allow our independent regulators – the experts who have children’s best interests at heart – to draft Codes instead.”

For more information, contact Chris Cooper +61 403 353 621