Govt wants to crack down on online trolls

Federal Minister for Women Kelly O'Dwyer says social media and tech giants need to make sure policies on bullying and abuse are being properly enforced.

Generic computer image.

Generic computer image. Source: SBS

Social media and tech giants will be hauled in for regular meetings as the Turnbull government's new minister for women seeks to crack down on online bullying and internet trolls.

Marking International Women's Day, Kelly O'Dwyer used her first major speech in the portfolio to announce she would hold quarterly meetings with Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft and Instagram.


Also present at the meetings will be Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins and eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman-Grant.

"I think it's very important that they get a perspective from women and the impact that these online tools can have on women," Ms O'Dwyer told the National Press Club on Tuesday.

"Those regular meetings will mean that we hold their feet to the fire, we make sure that where they have policies (on bullying and abuse) that those policies don't sit on a shelf, that they are properly instituted and they're properly enforced."

The government was also not afraid of further strengthening laws if needed to protect vulnerable people online, as it is with revenge porn legislation now before parliament.

Ms O'Dwyer also announced a massive expansion of the sex discrimination commission's five-yearly survey on workplace sexual harassment to this year cover 10,000 participants, up from 2000 previously.

The survey results will be released in April and the minister said the government would examine in particular how workplaces are taking account of sexual harassment in the social media age.

"As the 'me too' movement continues to sweep the world, we need to think about the implications, both good and bad, that come with airing allegations in a public forum," she said.

"Social media is not a courtroom and complainants - and those who are the subject of complaints - can be subject to trial by keyboard warriors.

"We need to be careful that this public push doesn't silence the very women it wants to help."

Ms O'Dwyer also hinted the government may use the May budget to match Labor's pledge to re-fund the Australian Bureau of Statistics to conduct regular "time use" surveys, which allow for the economic benefit of unpaid caring and work in the home to be calculated.

2 min read
Published 6 March 2018 at 4:40pm