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Monday, 29 November 2021
Page: 6799


Senator HENDERSON (Victoria) (13:48): Online trolling is a scourge. It is a blight upon the lives of so many innocent Australians who have had to suffer abuse, vilification and bullying online. I want to congratulate the Prime Minister and the Attorney General for leading the charge in saying that they will introduce the 'social media anti-trolling bill 2021' to strengthen our online safety laws. The bill will protect ordinary Australians who are or become the targets of anonymous online trolling and abuse by empowering social media users to expose the identities of their abusers. This can happen either through an efficient complaints mechanism which enables a person to raise a complaint with the social media company and with the company's consent obtain the contact details of the anonymous abuser, or by enabling the person to obtain an end-user information disclosure order from a court.

The bill will incentivise—and I say 'will' because I very much trust that it will be supported by Labor, the Greens and the crossbench—social media companies to adopt mechanisms which facilitate the identification of online anonymous trolls. And, if they don't adopt these mechanisms, social media companies may be liable as publishers of the defamatory or abusive material. The government's bill makes it very clear that page owners are not publishers of defamatory material, which of course is a very significant improvement in the current law. These reforms are essential in the rapidly changing and evolving online world. This is a wonderful development—in particular for women, who suffer so much abuse online; they are a particular concern of our government. I celebrate this very significant announcement.