Australians think tech companies must act to stamp out online harms

Less than a quarter of Australians believe tech giants like Facebook, Instagram and Google are doing enough to protect users from harm on their platforms, according to a new national report released today by the eSafety Commissioner.

The report, which included a survey of over 3,700 adults aged 18-65, showed Australians want social media, gaming and app developers to start getting serious about removing harmful content, strengthening age restrictions, prioritising user privacy, and automatically flagging inappropriate language and behaviour. 

“If the tech giants are building the digital roads, they also need to install the digital guard rails and virtual seatbelts to keep their users safe, and this is what our Safety by Design initiative is trying to achieve. Until they take this responsibility seriously, more and more users will end up as roadside casualties,” eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said.

“eSafety’s small but dedicated team of investigators does a brilliant job of removing harmful content like child cyberbullying, image-based abuse and child sexual abuse material from the internet, but it can be a bit like playing a virtual game of whack-a-mole due to the size of some of these platforms.

“It’s obvious from this report that the Australian public want action, and they increasingly want action from the platforms themselves, who are well-placed with the resources, technological ability and intellectual capital to make it a reality.”

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher said the new research shows a significant awareness in the community of the potential to experience harm online.

“It demonstrates once again why the Morrison Government established the pioneering eSafety Commissioner, and why we will continue to invest in keeping Australians safer online,” Minister Fletcher said.

The top three online risks identified by Australians in the Building Australian adults’ confidence and resilience online report were scams/fraud, bullying/trolling, and the misuse of personal information/images. Almost half of those surveyed also highlighted the proliferation of unreliable information or fake news as a major risk online.

While a large majority of Australian adults said they were confident in their ability to use online technologies, they are less confident about how to manage specific online risks. 

Fewer reported that they knew how to deal with being bullied or harassed online, or how to protect their privacy. Less than half knew what to do if their accounts were hacked or where to go to report a negative online incident like abuse. At the same time only 1 in 10 Australians sought out or received online safety information.

“Just as parents need speak early and often to their children about online risks to help build their resilience and critical reasoning skills, adults also need to arm themselves with the skills and strategies to navigate the online world,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“Our website has plenty of tools, tips and advice to help equip Australians of all ages with the knowledge and confidence to stay safe and minimise harm online.”

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