Australia plans to crack down on online advertisers targeting children by forcing social media platforms to seek parental consent for users under 16 to register or face fines of A $ 10 million ($ 7.5 million) under a bill released on Monday. The landmark legislation would protect Australians online and ensure Australia’s privacy laws are appropriate in the digital age, according to a government statement.
Social media platforms would be required to take all reasonable steps to verify the age of their users under a code binding on social media services, data brokers and other large online platforms operating in Australia.
Platforms should also take children’s best interests first and foremost when handling their personal information, the bill says.
The code would also require platforms to obtain parental consent for users under the age of 16.
The proposed legal changes come after former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen claimed this month that whenever there is a conflict between the public good and what benefits the company, the social media would choose its own interests.
Deputy Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention David Coleman said the new code would lead the world to protect children from social media companies.
âIn Australia, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a steady increase in signs of distress and poor mental health among young people. While the reasons for this are varied and complex, we know social media is part of the problem, “Coleman said in a statement.
Facebook’s regional director of public policy Mia Garlick said her platform called for Australia’s privacy laws to evolve with new technology.
âWe have supported the development of international codes around youth data, such as the UK Age Appropriate Design Code,â Garlick said in a statement, referring to UK legislation introduced this year that requires platforms to verify the age of children. users if the content risks the moral, physical or mental well-being of children.
“We are reviewing the bill and the discussion paper released today, and look forward to working more with the Australian government on this matter,” she added.
Australia has been a leading voice in the call for international regulation of the Internet.
It passed laws this year that force Google and Facebook to pay for journalism. Australia has also defied tech companies by creating a law that could jail social media managers if their platforms broadcast violent images.