The Federal Government announced that it had established a
protocol targeting online anti-social behaviour such as
cyber-bullying and "trolling".
The protocol, entitled the "The Cooperative Arrangement for
Complaints Handling on Social Networking Sites", is largely
directed at the major social networking sites, with Facebook,
Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! all agreeing to participate. As yet,
Twitter has yet to commit to the arrangement, although the
Government has indicated that the parties are in discussions and
has placed public pressure on Twitter to embrace the protocol,
singling it out as a popular medium for such behaviour.
The protocol establishes a broad set of guidelines to be
implemented by social networking sites, including:
establishing acceptable use policies which clearly define
inappropriate behaviour and set out the consequences of breaching
introducing mechanisms which facilitate the reporting of
the implementation of review processes for handling complaints,
including sanctions for noncompliance with acceptable use policies
(i.e. removal of content and suspension/closure of accounts)
ensuring the timely removal of child abuse material;
the establishment a Government "contact person" with
whom the Government can discuss any appropriate issues;
providing the knowledge and guidance that will enable users to
navigate the site safely;
supporting the Government on any cyber-safety or relevant
initiatives as well as contributing to or collaborating with
striving to provide and promote useful user safety services;
attending biannual meetings with government officials to
discuss emerging issues and trends.
Notably, it is the social networking sites who are charged with
designing policies and procedures which give effect to the
protocol. Moreover, the protocol is non-binding, is intended to
supplement existing policies which address these issues, and is
self-monitored by social networking sites.
In light of the above, it will be interesting to observe how the
social networking sites develop such policies given the freedom
afforded to them, in particular the sanctions which they choose to
impose for policy breaches. In the case of several of the
guidelines, the sites already have measures in place and may rely
on those without further change. The Government has also indicated
that it intends to liaise with social networking sites to develop
the protocol further.
The Federal Government's announcement follows the earlier
proposal to prohibit information being posted to social media sites
from inside New South Wales' courtrooms. Both initiatives raise
monitoring and compliance costs for social networking sites and may
increase their exposure to legal claims from people affected by
material published on their sites.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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