Recommendations captured in cyberbullying report
The Law Council supports the recommendations of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee into the Adequacy of existing offences in the Commonwealth Criminal Code and of state and territory criminal laws to capture cyberbullying.
The recommendations contained in the report follow many of the recommendations put to the committee in the Law Council’s submission in October last year and evidence presented to the committee in February this year (read the opening statement here).
Among the Law Council’s key recommendations were:
- To develop a clear nationally consistent definition of cyberbullying;
- Greater education and awareness of the possible consequences of cyberbullying, including criminal prosecution under the existing offences, for the community, law enforcement, prosecutors and the judiciary;
- That existing offences in the Criminal Code and in state and territory criminal laws are adequate to deal with serious cyberbullying, and the introduction of a law that criminalises cyberbullying explicitly is not necessary; and
- That the Australian Government should continue to work with social media sites to develop a best practice in response to cyberbullying.
Many of these points were adopted by the committee in the report which recommends:
- The Australian Government consult state and territory governments, non-government organisations, and other relevant stakeholders, to develop and publicise a clear definition of cyberbullying that recognises the breadth and complexity of the issue;
- Australian governments approach cyberbullying primarily as a social and public health issue. The committee recommends that Australian governments consider how they can further improve the quality and reach of preventative and early intervention measures, including education initiatives, both by government and non-government organisations, to reduce the incidence of cyberbullying among children and adults;
- The Senate not legislate to increase penalties for cyberbullying offences committed by minors beyond the provisions already in place;
- Noting the serious harms that cyberbullying can cause, the committee recommends Australian governments ensure:
- The general public has a clear awareness and understanding of how existing criminal offences can be applied to cyberbullying behaviours;
- Law enforcement authorities appropriately investigate and prosecute serious cyberbullying complaints under either state or Commonwealth legislation, coordinate their investigations across jurisdictions where appropriate, and make the process clear for victims of cyberbullying; and
- Consistency exists between state, territory and federal laws in relation to cyberbullying;
- That the Australian Government place and maintain regulatory pressure on social media platforms to both prevent and quickly respond to cyberbullying material on their platforms.
The committee also recommended the government ensure the Office of the eSafety Commissioner is adequately resourced to fulfil all its functions, taking into account the volume of complaints it considers and promote to the public the role of the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, including the cyberbullying complaints scheme.
The government consider improvements to the process by which the Office of the eSafety Commissioner can access relevant data from social media services hosted overseas, including account data, that would assist the eSafety Office to apply the end-user notice scheme, was also recommended by the committee.
The committee would also like to see wether amendments to the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 relating to the eSafety Commissioner and the cyberbullying complaints scheme would be beneficial, in particular, expanding the cyberbullying complaints scheme to include complaints by adults; expanding the application of the tier scheme by amending the definitions of 'social media service' and 'relevant electronic service', and increasing the basic online safety requirements for social media services.