Tony Abbott today announced that a Coalition government would establish an “e-Safety Commissioner” to fight bullying through social media networks. The announcement was made during the release of a discussion paper on the issue:
The discussion paper said no changes would be imposed without consultation with industry, but Mr Abbott made his intentions clear.
“We do need an e-Safety Commissioner, we do need to see more social responsibilities from companies and we do need to have effective mechanisms so that cyber-bullying can be swiftly addressed and offensive material can be taken down.”
The discussion paper – “Enhancing Online Safety for Children” – proposes a “co-operative regulatory scheme” that would put in place a complaints procedure in relation to online material aimed at bullying children.
These are platitudes. The Coalition knows that enforcement is an issue here. The trans-national nature of the internet makes the implementation of any kind of legal framework very difficult and very expensive.
The proposal is also likely to do nothing but enforce existing laws. There are already criminal offences that cover cases where harassment and threats have occurred. And it’s the various state governments’ responsibility – not the Commonwealth – to ensure that police have adequate resources to effectively enforce these laws. All this would do is add another layer of unnecessary and ineffective government bureaucracy.
Bullying can have some awful effects. There’s no doubt about that. And we all want to make sure our kids don’t feel harassed or threatened, whether it’s at school or online. But the solutions to problems like these are for parents to take an active role in their child’s life. A government-appointed e-Safety Commissioner won’t put an end to bullying. The best chance we have against bullies is building strong family units and good communication between school teachers and parents.
An e-Safety Commissioner is a mere thought bubble.