Senate Inquiry into Cyberbullying Laws in Australia Underway
Ensuring that the criminal justice system provides adequate laws to combat bullying and cyberbullying is especially important in the current age. Following the tragic suicide deaths of multiple students around the country, a Senate committee has now been tasked with examining the adequacy of existing offences in the Commonwealth Criminal Code and in State and Territory criminal laws to capture cyberbullying.
The committee is set to consider:
- The broadcasting of assaults and other crimes via social media platforms;
- The application of the Commonwealth Criminal Code and adequacies of the penalties provided, particularly where the victim of cyberbullying has self-harmed or taken their own life;
- The adequacy of the policies, procedures and practices of social media platforms in preventing and addressing cyberbullying; and
- Other measures used to combat cyberbullying predominantly between school children and young people.
The Committee held a public hearing on Friday 9 February 2018 in Canberra, hearing submissions from organisations including the Alannah & Madeline Foundation, Facebook, Instagram and the office of the eSafety Commissioner.
Each presenter highlighted ongoing education, early intervention and outreach as essential to promoting a positive and safe experience for young people online. The Alannah & Madeline Foundation in particular, however, recommended the need for a national, uniform legal definition of what constitutes bullying, and the need to grant the Commonwealth further power to legislate on bullying as a crime. State laws that act to criminalise bullying are currently being considered in South Australia.
While the most effective measures to address cyberbullying are arguably early intervention and prevention to minimise potential harm, the need to impose criminal sanctions that not only act to honour the victim, but send an unequivocal anti-bullying message to society, nonetheless, remain.
The Committee is currently accepting further submissions and is set to release its final report on Wednesday 28 March 2018.