Social media: Government tries to protect youth with new social media rules

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The Morrison government has unveiled a bill that aims to protect young people from the harmful effects of social media.

The Morrison government is preparing to enact new social media laws aimed at protecting young users and tightening privacy codes.

Attorney General Michaelia Cash unveiled the law on Monday, which she described as landmark after she published a bill to create a binding privacy code for social media companies.

Central to the proposed Privacy Legislation Amendment (Improving Online Privacy and Other Measures), the bill provides greater protection for young users following evidence of the negative effects of social media on teen mental health.

The recommendations include a requirement that social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram take “all reasonable steps” to verify a user’s age.

In addition, users under the age of 16 will require parental consent to sign up.

The government has drawn attention to evidence that young people’s mental health has deteriorated in recent years and has been linked to social media.

“While some platforms are taking positive steps, others continue to ignore the harm done to children when their personal information is misused,” Cash said.

“This world-leading legislation will ensure that the interests of the child always come before the business interests of big tech companies.”

Researchers and politicians are increasingly concerned about the effects of social media on children’s mental health.

A 2018 survey by the Headspace foundation found that 37 percent of teens surveyed cited social media as the cause of their mental health deterioration.

And in a leaked internal presentation, Instagram said, “For one in three teenage girls, we’re making body image issues worse.”

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said in response that it would soon encourage young people to “take a break”.

The bill also proposes to give the Australian Information Commissioner, the industry’s regulator, greater powers and introduce new tougher penalties.

It will establish guidelines on how young people’s personal information is used and transferred to other companies.

“Given the information we’ve seen emerging from social media companies recently, it’s clear that these companies need more oversight, not less,” said Senator Cash.

“For too long, personal data and online privacy have been treated substandard.

“Understandably, parents expect their children’s personal information to be protected from anyone who would harm them online.”

Originally published Morrison government to strengthen social media rules to protect young people

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