Australia Wants Facebook to Ask Parental Permission for Child Users

Australia plans to require social media platforms to seek parental consent for users under 16 to join or face a $7.5 million fine under a bill released Monday.

This important piece of legislation will protect Australians online and ensuring that Australian privacy laws are properly safeguarded in the digital age, said a government statement.

Social media platforms will be required to take all reasonable steps to verify the age of their users under binding laws that apply to social media services, data brokers and platforms. online major operating in Australia. The platforms must also give primary consideration to children’s best interests when handling their personal information, according to the draft law.

The law would also require the platforms to obtain parental consent for users under the age of 16.

The proposed legal changes come after former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen confirmed this month that whenever there is a conflict between the public interest and what is in the company’s favor, the social media giant puts its own interests first.

Australia’s Assistant Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, David Coleman, said the new law would lead the world in protecting children from social media companies. “In Australia, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a consistent improvement in mental health among young people. While the reasons are varied and complex, we know that social media is part of the problem,” Coleman said in a statement.

Facebook’s regional public policy director Mia Garlick said the platform had called for Australian privacy laws to evolve with new technology.

“We have supported the development of international legislation around youth data, such as the UK Age-Appropriate Act,” Garlick said in a statement, referring to a UK law introduced this year that requires social media platforms to verify the age of the user if the content poses a moral, physical or mental risk to the child.

“We are reviewing the draft law and discussion paper released today, and look forward to working with the Australian government on this further,” he added.

Australia has been very vocal in calling for international regulation of the internet. This year, the country enacted a law requiring Google and Facebook to pay for journalism work. Australia is also gripping tech companies by passing laws that can jail social media executives if their platforms display violent images. [ab/ka]

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