"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Investigating the harms of social media is idea, but Parliament is about to see how complicated it’s to repair.

Barely a day has passed by this month that politicians or commentators haven't talked in regards to the losses online.

There are quite a lot of high-profile examples within the conversation. was there Circulation of videos Bishop Marmari Emanuel was stabbed within the Sydney church attack. The normalization of violent content online can be central to the domestic violence crisis debate.

Then, in fact, there's X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk's disdain for Australia's legal system.

Inevitably, there are calls for “something to be done” and a widespread public appetite. Changes in regulations. A brand new parliamentary committee will explore what that change should appear to be, however it faces legal, practical and ethical hurdles along the best way.

Ten busy days

On May 1 and May 10, the federal government made two major announcements.

The first was the Commonwealth's response to a few of the online harm identified National Cabinet. At the May 1 meeting, the Commonwealth pledged recent measures to tackle violent online pornography and inappropriate sexual content targeting children and young people. It promised recent laws to ban deepfake pornography and fund a pilot project on age-verification technologies.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and Financial Services Minister Stephen Jones announced the brand new committee.
Bianca De Marchi/AAP

The other was one. Announcement Establishing a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee to review the impact and impact of social media on Australian society. The government wants the committee to look at and report on 4 key issues.

  1. Meta's decision to desert deals under s News Media and Digital Platforms Bargaining Code

  2. The critical role of Australian journalism, news and public interest media in combating misinformation and disinformation on digital platforms

  3. The algorithms, systems and company decision-making of digital platforms that Australians see, and their impact on mental health

  4. Other issues related to harmful or illegal content disseminated on social media, including scams, age-restricted content, child sexual exploitation and violent extremist content.

However, the ultimate terms of reference shall be drafted after consultation with each the Senate crossbench and the opposition, in order that they may change barely.

Why would they try this?

Asking the committee to review Meta's decision is an odd move.

In practice, Financial Services Minister Stephen Jones can “nominate” Metta without referring it to Parliament. That is, the Minister can determine all of the obligations of the News Media Bargaining Code that apply to Meta.

However, having a voice from the committee will help be sure that META keeps its deal with the problem. It also provides a possibility to redefine the basic principles behind the code and the parlous state of much of the Australian news media.

In relation to harmful or illegal content being spread on social media, there may be already one. Review The Online Safety Act is in progress. The terms of reference appear to ask the committee to offer input into the review.

The issue of misinformation and misinformation has also been a subject of scrutiny. The government released a proposed draft. Bill June 2023 to combat misinformation and disinformation. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) Power to enforce An industry code, or creating one if the industry cannot.

The draft was criticized by the opposition on the time. However, there have been changes since then and the committee could also be a vehicle to introduce an amended version of the bill.

An old problem

Online age verification is an easy concept that is difficult to implement unless non-compliance has significant consequences for the service provider.

Work on this area is usually cited pretty much as good practice by the UK communications regulator, Ofcom, and the UK Information Commissioner's Office. However, Commissioner K Website Notices “Age assurance is a complex area in which technology is developing rapidly”.

A group of children are using smartphones in a classroom.
The committee will investigate measures to limit children's access to social media.

One way is for the minor to discover themselves by uploading a video to a platform or sending an image of their identity. This is completely against it. E-Safety Commissioner Messaging On online safety. The commissioner advises parents to be sure that children don't share photos or videos of themselves and never share their identities.

In practice, identifying probably the most effective age for minors requires parental intervention. This may be done through the use of software to limit access or by monitoring screen time. If kids and youths can meet the principles just by borrowing a tool from a college friend, age verification won't do much.

As the International Association of Privacy Professionals has been foundAge verification and data protection are tougher than they appear. This is especially problematic if an age barrier doesn't exist already – comparable to the adult rights enjoyed by those over 18 – but appears to be a seemingly arbitrary point. Apart from online, a very powerful age for verification for things like alcohol sales and credit is eighteen. This can be the age at which contracts may be enforced.

Countries vs. Companies

An issue that is usually raised about social media platforms is how Australia can cope with global business.

Here, I European perspective Digital Markets Act Provides some ideas. The Act defines corporations with a powerful market position as “gatekeepers” and sets out rules that have to be followed. Under the act, vital data have to be shared on the user's direction to enhance the Internet and be sure that different sites and software can communicate with one another. It also calls for making the algorithm more transparent, although these rules are somewhat more restrictive.

A woman is standing in front of a large screen saying the Digital Markets Act and speaking in a lecture.
Margaret Vestager, European Commissioner for Europe Fit for the Digital Age, helps administer the Digital Markets Act.
Virginia May/AP

In doing so, it limits the facility of gatekeeper corporations, including Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, ByteDance (TikTok), Meta and Microsoft.

Obviously, Australia cannot exercise the collective power of a bunch of countries in the identical way that the EU does, but that doesn't prevent some measures from being useful here.

Governments enjoy substantial public support.”Do somethingabout access to online content and social media, but there are each legal and practical obstacles to implementing the brand new rules.

There can be difficulty in achieving political consensus on such measures, as seen with the controversy surrounding the Misinformation Bill.

But it's clear in Australia, each residents and governments are losing patience with tech corporations regulating themselves and shifting responsibility to folks.