$111k fines: Huge new penalties for online trolls

 

Trolls risk six-figure fines for posting revenge porn, bullying children or abusing adults online, under world-first cyber safety laws for Australia.

The world's toughest take-down laws for online abuse - including new powers to unmask anonymous trolls - will be introduced to federal parliament in the new year.

The new laws will include fines of up to $111,000 for adults who post "seriously harmful content'' online - such as death threats, menacing messages or revenge porn.

The Morrison government will grant eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant rapid website-blocking power to respond to "crisis events'', such as the Christchurch shooting, by requesting internet service providers to block access to terrorist and extreme violent content for a limited time period.

Online games, such as Fortnite and Call of Duty, will be added to the social media sites forced to erase bullying messages to children or threats to adults within 24 hours.

Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and gaming platforms will have to erase harmful content within 24 hours, instead of the 48 hours under existing laws protecting children from cyber bullies.

And they will be forced to monitor data and report to the federal government to detect "digital lynch mobs'' ganging up on victims.

 

Journalist Erin Molan has been a victim on online abuse and “pile-ons”. Picture: Supplied
Journalist Erin Molan has been a victim on online abuse and “pile-ons”. Picture: Supplied

 

Federal Minister for Communications and Cyber Safety, Paul Fletcher, yesterday warned trolls they could lose their homes under the world's toughest anti-bullying laws.

"In the worst cases we could see people facing significant financial penalties for posting cyber abuse and failing to take it down - $111,000 is a lot of money,'' he told News Corp Australia.

"You should not do or say things online that you wouldn't do in the physical world.

"Don't think you can get away with it and nobody knows who you are, because your identity can be uncovered and you can be subject to action by authorities.''

Mr Fletcher said former TV personality Charlotte Dawson had taken her own life in 2014 after being cruelly trolled on Twitter.

Journalist Erin Molan, AFLW player Tayla Harris and former NRL coach Anthony Seibold have also been victims of online abuse and "pile-ons''.

Cyber bulling triggered the suicide of 14-year-old Amy "Dolly" Everett in 2018.

The draft Online Safety Bill will give the eSafety Commissioner new powers to force social media companies offering services in Australia to hand over the identification details of trolls hiding behind pseudonyms.

Trolls would be issued a "take-down notice'' and hauled before the Federal Court, with hefty penalties if they refuse to comply within 24 hours.

The fines could be as high as $111,000 for individuals and $555,000 for corporations such as Facebook.

Mr Fletcher said trolls and companies based overseas would fall under the Australian law if they bully an Australian resident.

 

Federal Minister for Communications and Cyber Safety, Paul Fletcher, warned trolls they could lose their homes under the world’s toughest anti-bullying laws. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Federal Minister for Communications and Cyber Safety, Paul Fletcher, warned trolls they could lose their homes under the world’s toughest anti-bullying laws. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

 

He said adult victims could complain to the eSafety Commissioner about revenge porn, death threats or other online messages that "menace, harass or offend''.

"The test of cyber abuse for adults is higher than for cyber bullying of a child,'' he said.

"Adults are more resilient than children, and we've obviously got to balance freedom of speech issues.''

Mr Fletcher said cyber abuse would be defined as material that an ordinary reasonable person could interpret as intending to cause serious harm.

"(It is messages like) 'I know where you live, you're a disgrace, you should kill yourself now, I know where your kids go to school','' he said.

"There needs to be an element of being in real fear of your personal safety.

"Adults who are subject to sustained online abuse, tragically in some cases can lead to suicide.''

 

 

eSafety Commissioner www.esafety.gov.au

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 www.kidshelpline.com.au

Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au

Originally published as $111k fines: Huge new penalties for online trolls


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