Under the new laws, children under 16 years old in Australia will need parental permission before they can sign up for social media apps.

The new requirements would apply to Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and OnlyFans, Reddit as well as Bumble, WhatsApp, WhatsApp, and Zoom.

The companies must take all reasonable steps to verify a user’s age and ensure that a parent has given permission.

Australian children under 16 will need parental permission to use social media under proposed new laws. Pictured: Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg

New laws will require parental permission for Australian children aged 16 and under to use social media. Pictured: Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook and Instagram require that users are over 13 years old in Australia. They also use artificial intelligence to determine their age.

Social media giants could be subject to increased fines of up $10 million for breaking the rules. This is an increase on the current $2million maximum.

The changes are outlined in an exposure draft of new legislation released on Monday by Attorney-General Michaelia Cash. 

The new law will prevent children’s information from being shared without their consent. 

The draft legislation states that online platforms’ privacy practices can be harmful to children and vulnerable people. This includes sharing data for advertising purposes or engaging in harmful tracking or profiling. 

What social media companies are covered by the laws? 

Examples of social media services for the purposes of the legislation are:

  • Social networking platforms like Facebook
  • Bumble is one of the most popular dating apps.
  • Online content services, such as Only Fans
  • Online blogging or forum sites like Reddit
  • Gaming platforms that allow end-users to interact with each other, such as multiplayer online games with chat functionalities.
  • Zoom and WhatsApp are two examples of online messaging and videoconferencing platforms like Zoom and WhatsApp 

 Source: Draft legislation

Paul Fletcher, Communications Minster, stated Tuesday in Parliament that the online privacy code will “strengthen safeguards for children and other vulnerable groups”

He stated that while we are very clear about our requirements for social media platforms under the code they will be required take all reasonable steps verify the age and consent parental or guardian consent for any children under 16 years.  

The code will include new rules for data brokers as well as other large online companies with more than 2.5million Australian users (such as Amazon, Google, or Apple).

This code allows users to request that their personal information not be shared with any third parties.

According to the draft legislation, “A person may choose to use it when, for instance, they don’t wish an organisation to disclose personal information for direct marketing purposes.”

However, users cannot demand that their data be deleted under the law. 

The law proposed is in response to the Cambridge Analytica data-harvesting scandal of March 2018.

British consulting firm used the personal information of millions of Facebook users in order to target political ads. 

Mia Garlick was the Director of Public Policy Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands. She said that Facebook was still reviewing the proposal. 

This comes as Facebook faces a stormy sea of criticism after Frances Haugen (an ex-employe of Facebook) leaked internal documents showing that the company knew of potential harm from its sites. This prompted US lawmakers to renew their push for regulation. 

In Australia, a separate law makes social media companies liable for defamatory content posted on their platforms.

Anne Webster, Nationals MP, outlined Monday’s new legislation. It calls for greater accountability from companies such Facebook and Twitter.

These proposed laws would give the e-safety commission the power to investigate claims made online of defamatory material and issue notices to service provider.

If the posts are not removed within 48 hours of a notice being given, the user who posted them and the social media platform will be held liable for defamation.

The bill would also allow a federal minister the ability to set the expectations of a social platform on how defamatory content is hosted online.

This is some of the research Facebook was shown last March about how Instagram is harming young people

This is some of the research Facebook showed last March on how Instagram is affecting young people. 

Dr Webster stated that the changes would provide greater protection for users of social media.

She stated that there is not much impetus for social media services to protect users from harm or defamation.

“Big tech platforms create their own rules, and they are insufficiently and sporadically enforced.”

After a court awarded the Victorian MP an $875,000 payout last year, it was after it discovered that a conspiracy theoryist made a series obscene posts against her.

The payout also included Dr Webster’s husband, and the charity that the couple founded to support young mothers.

Facebook apologized to Dr Webster for the delay in responding to defamatory posts.

Monday’s testimony by Dr Webster to parliament was in response to posts being posted online. She expressed concern that the defamatory claims against her could affect her charity’s work.

She said, “I was concerned that these mothers might be driven away by lies and left even less vulnerable.”

Although the bill stated that the legislation would limit freedom of speech, it also said that they were necessary to ensure users were protected against online harassment and abuse.


Meanwhile, under a separate law in Australia, social media companies would be liable for defamatory content placed on their platforms

In Australia, a separate law would make social media companies liable for defamatory content posted on their platforms.