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PM calls on social media companies to help take on cyber bullies

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called on Twitter to join other social media companies that have agreed to a protocol to…

Students at the Matraville Soldiers Settlement Public School are part of a program designed to teach them cyber safety and security. McAfee

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called on Twitter to join other social media companies that have agreed to a protocol to help deal with cyber bullying.

The Prime Minister was speaking after the launch of a new cyber education program for primary school students.

Online social media giants Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have all agreed to work within guidelines set by the government, including setting out information on acceptable use and behaviour, providing a single point of contact for federal agencies, and having a robust processes in place for reviewing and acting on complaints

“I think this is a step forward by these giants of social media,” Ms Gillard said today.

However she said Twitter also needed to agree to the guidelines.

“It’s on Twitter that so much of the damage has been done by trolls,” Ms Gillard said.

The new cyber education program will include training in cyber safety, cyber security and responsible online behaviour.

“It’s clear that school based interactions and learning are extremely important,” said Philippa Collin, research fellow in the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Western Sydney, and program leader at the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre.

However she said it was important measures designed to improve cyber safety recognised that children often relied on experiential learning – learning while using social media platforms.

“The Young and Well CRC is looking at how you deliver engaging campaigns that deliver information and resources and contribute to behaviour change around safe online practices to young people in the digital spaces that they’re already taking part in,” Dr Collin said.

She added that in her experience social media companies were genuinely interested in understanding how to minimise the risks of cyber bullying.

“There’s a good business case for them to do so,” she said.

However Mark Gregory, senior lecturer in electrical and computer engineering at RMIT University, said more work was required to solve the problem of cyber bullying.

“Education only works if there’s an industry regime that’s going to support that education,” Dr Gregory said.

“When they can show a code of practice that all of the major companies and second tier companies have signed up to, then we will have, in my view, something we can all cheer about.”

Dr Gregory said such a code of practice would ensure companies like Twitter didn’t drag their heels, and would include education on cyber safety within the platforms themselves.

“The internet is a form of media and it needs to be brought in line with the current codes of practice that we have for the other forms of media – that’s a good first step and we haven’t got there,” Dr Gregory said.

In the meantime, Dr Collin said it was important education programs gave children coping mechanisms to help them deal with negative online experiences, which were now a reality of life.

“The skills and understanding is not in and of itself sufficient to prevent them from having negative experiences.

“So this is a major shift from blocking or filtering to an emphasis on skills to recognise, respond, and most importantly seek help when they’re having negative experiences online.”

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10 Comments sorted by

  1. Chris Maddigan


    And so died the internet.

    It sends chills down my spine when I hear people say

    “The internet is a form of media and it needs to be brought in line with the current codes of practice that we have for the other forms of media – that’s a good first step and we haven’t got there,” First step? where on Earth does Mark Gregory go then.

    The internet has offered our society a new birth of freedom. We will rue the day we decided to "civilise" it.

  2. Pat Moore


    Two words Chris Maddigan...Wild West. Trouble is, by the unfetered law of the jungle, the strongest, most savage, bloodthirsty, opportuniustic, murderous etc etc...rules? It would work fine if we were all equal, moral, perfect, caring etc animals...but we're not. Easy to lament any regulation if you're a privileged white male at the top of the tree.

    Surely just one obvious example.. .. that of men who seek to hunt for innocent children to rape & abuse over the net, would convince you otherwise? Trolling/bullying/vigilantism is neither actually or virtually acceptable?

    I remember the open slather massive amount of unrestricted pornography that went from man to man (this was in the banking industry) when the net first started. So regulation may be chilling to you but unregulated space has proved chilling to others with different experience.

    But political censorship & control by Big Brother would be a different matter?

    1. Chris Maddigan


      In reply to Pat Moore

      We need a bit of the Wild West. We need a counter to ever increasing State Power. We need a refuge from the ever increasing restrictions on our liberties and the endless drive to make us ever safer from everything, including ourselves.

      We need a place that is free from every restriction against free speech whether it is libel or defamation or new fangled "hate" laws. If that means that the internet is full of lies and propaganda - so be it. The trick will be to learn how to find the truth amoung the garbage.

      Please don't bring rape of children into the discussion. No one is opposed to that sort of regulation.

    2. david henry


      In reply to Pat Moore

      When I was young I played a board game called "stranger danger" if you made it home you were the winner, along the way it was possible to be robbed or even abducted.

      Equipping children/people with the skills to make safe decisions when using social media is important, the companies are in a good position to do something similar to this game, but it cannot be made their obligation.

      A cyber education program is a great idea, far more useful than algebra, especially in the primary school group. Dr Gregory and the "protocols" and "codes of conduct" imply unnecessary intrusions on privacy by the government, and it is a shame this rubbish is bundled with the good stuff.

  3. Doug Rankin


    People don't care when they can't see their victims. You are probably reading this on a machine built by children do you care? – obviously not. Climate change is another example and no one really is doing anything about it – except trying to alleviate their guilt. I could go on. The point here is you can’t change human behaviour, legislating for it is just stupid and you just get people’s back up.
    You can hide on the internet and the sheer numbers of people slandering others makes you impossible…

    Read more
  4. Andrew Jakubowicz

    Professor of Sociology and Codirector of Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre at University of Technology, Sydney

    The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) has welcomed today’s announcement from Prime Minister Julia Gillard of the proposed roll-out of an education program aimed at targeting social-media-based harassment and cyber-bullying in primary schools throughout Australia.

    Anticipated as a mechanism through which to teach students about the principles and responsibilities of safe and respectful behaviour as ‘digital citizens’, the program is planned for implementation in 3200…

    Read more
  5. Meg Thornton


    I think this is a lovely idea in principle. I suspect in practice it won't work.

    It won't work, because the majority of people who use the internet aren't Australian. It won't work, because of that majority, approximately half come from a country where their freedom of speech is a protected right, and where any concept of linking rights to responsibilities is anathema. It won't work because it's effectively requiring that the various social media companies fix the culture of the USA (working…

    Read more
    1. Meg Thornton


      In reply to Meg Thornton

      PS: Given this is being promulgated by the same government which has said to the lobby group of a certain religious faith that their *offline* bullying practices against persons who offend their ideals are still going to be permitted by law... the words "crashingly inconsistent" spring violently to mind.

  6. Theo Pertsinidis
    Theo Pertsinidis is a Friend of The Conversation.

    ALP voter

    On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’

    Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’

    And Vanity comes along and asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’

    But Conscience asks the question ‘Is it right?’

    And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither
    safe, nor politic, nor popular, but must do it because Conscience says
    it is right.

    Is it safe for military to war? Is it safe for police in violent situations?

    War and law enforcement is with risk.

    So is putting my name to paper or being a pro 'No Gun' citizen. Guns only for military, police and special services.

    I am open to criticism. I am a man without a gun against a man with a gun.

    This is the challenge facing us.

  7. sandy moran

    logged in via email

    You can use parental control program to manage and control children's Internet use and timely prevent them from cyber bulling when finding the signs. If you need a parental control tool, you can search the Internet and find many. Some websites browsers or social networks have parental control functions. If you want to realize parental control on PC,I recommend you to try professional third party software which has functions of site block and time control,etc.I have used parental control program of anykeylogger(,it works well,you can also find other fine programs on the Internet.