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Wednesday, 28 March 2018
Page: 2461

Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (17:19): I present the report of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee on cyberbullying, together with the Hansard record of proceedings and documents presented to the committee, and I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

In speaking to this report very briefly this afternoon, I want to highlight to the Senate the significant impacts and distress caused by cyberbullying on many vulnerable Australians. Be they young people or adults, the distress and disruption to people's lives has significant mental health impacts, and there are not as yet sufficient remedies for people to address this kind of harassment. We've seen, in recent days, big debates about the lack of duty of care of companies like Facebook in relation to people's data. But I want to say that is not where their duty of care should end. Duty of care should relate not only to privacy and safety of data but also to people's online conduct.

On that note, we've made strong recommendations about social media in this nation. The definition needs to be broadened because currently not enough media platforms are captured by it. Duty of care is a real issue in terms of people's conduct inside those platforms. There's not very much difference between a shopping centre, a workplace or other places where duty of care is expected, so there should be a greater onus on our social media companies to ensure that people conduct themselves inside those platforms in a manner that is free from the kind of bullying and harassment that is unacceptable online and unacceptable elsewhere in the community. The extraordinary harassment faced by people, particularly women, people of disability, LGBTI people and other people with characteristics that might make them vulnerable, is just extraordinary and cannot go unaddressed by this nation. The Office of eSafety Commissioner gave terrific evidence, but, sadly, their powers are limited by the fact that they can only issue take-down notices for children. The committee recommends that those powers be expanded.

I really want to say thanks to the witnesses that gave evidence to our committee, in particular the very brave women, including those from the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children, Van Badham, Sonya Ryan and Women in Media. It is absolutely critical that we hear their stories, and I commend the report to the Senate. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.