Coalition sets ultimatum for big tech over online safety

The Coalition is giving the tech industry 12 months to enforce parental controls on smartphones and tablets as part of a raft of election promises to protect children online.

The e-safety policy will include $23 million for schools to boost teacher training, $10 million to streamline support services for victims of online abuse, a renewed promise to legislate anti-trolling laws to strengthen accountability around defamatory comments, and the enforcement of parental controls under an industry code.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has renewed his attack on big tech companies over online safety.Credit:James Brickwood

If the industry does not act to create controls that are easy for parents to access and hard for children to bypass, the Coalition says it will regulate to force companies to do so.

An impending announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison this morning will re-focus last year’s election pitch against big tech by casting himself as a leader who is willing to take on the digital giants.

“Our kids should be able to learn, be entertained, or connect with their friends and family without facing abuse, humiliation or online predators,” Morrison said in a statement.

“The online world cannot be a coward’s cavern where the rules of the real world do not exist.”

In December, Morrison announced a broad-ranging parliamentary inquiry into the toxic impacts of social media, and has repeatedly spoken of its harmful effects during the election campaign, including in the first leaders’ debate.

Morrison and Attorney-General Michaelia Cash announced in November they would amend defamation laws, traditionally a state and territory responsibility, to provide an “easy and quick” way for people to complain to social media platforms and have allegedly defamatory material taken down.

The proposal has drawn criticism from top defamation lawyers, who warn it is likely to increase legal costs, waste court time and make it harder to remove defamatory posts.

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