Technology companies need to better regulate online abuse to protect democracy, a parliamentary inquiry into social media and online safety has found.
The inquiry investigated online harms faced by Australians, evidence of the impacts of harms and the effectiveness of taking up industry measures and controls to prevent further harms.
Its report recommended the eSafety Commissioner's role to involve further education policies, protection measure options and working across the public sector.
The current eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant slammed the anti-trolling legislation last week for it being full of "conflation, confusion [and] oversimplification of very complex technical and legal challenges".
Encryption technology is one of the recommendations on the committee's radar, with multiple stakeholders including the Department of Infrastructure, the Department of Home Affairs and the eSafety Commissioner being requested to examine the need for potential regulation of the private technology.
Home Affairs told the inquiry the lack of regulation over encryption resources such as WhatsApp and Signal created a risk of child abuse.
The department found the companies had "demonstrated that their priority was privacy rather than harm mitigation" when it came to encryption, which has spurred the recommendation for further examination.
The committee also pushed for social media organisations to have a more active role in detecting harmful content, particularly raising concern that social media detection models are reliant on responding to harmful content after it has been made public.
The report said there should be "clear and direct consequences for breaches" including the banning of users from social media platforms and the use of pop-up warnings for content that an algorithm identifies to be breaching the terms of service.
Concerns were raised that "community standards are being shaped and influenced by social media platforms" with no regulation, which risks growing the incidents of abuse.
While the committee advocated the importance of hearing from varied stakeholders in protecting the community from the online space, organisations such as Scarlet Alliance representing the Australian Sex Workers Association were only referred in footnotes once in the 245 page report.
The committee has also recommended the Australian government to appoint a House Standing Committee on Internet, Online Safety and Technological matters as a step towards further legislation and monitoring the online world.
The report also proposed an inquiry into the role social media plays to democratic health and social cohesion.
This comes after recent committee hearings into the government's proposed anti-trolling laws which aims to increase controls against online abuse by requiring social media companies to identify people behind anonymous accounts.
The bill also aims to make owners of social media pages and groups not liable for user comments following the 2019 Voller case at the High Court.
Various stakeholders have addressed the bill with criticism for being more about defamation then anti-trolling.
Organisations as Meta and Twitter argue it may not be possible to get all the data required to identify people behind anonymous accounts.
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