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Australia Plans To Amend Its Online Privacy Code To Protect Underaged Social Media Users

Underage social media users in Australia might soon need permission from parents before creating an account or logging into existing ones.

Credit: dole777 on Unsplash

The Australian government recently announced that it plans to amend its Online Privacy Code (OP Code) to "crackdown" on online advertisers and to protect the data of underage social media users.

According to the Exposure Draft of the bill seeking to amend the OP Code, the Australian government would be forcing social media companies like Facebook, Reddit and Snap Inc., the owners of Snapchat, to "take all reasonable steps" to verify the age of its users. The bill would also require parental consent from their users under the age of 16 before using, collecting and disclosing their data.

Additionally, social media companies are ordered to have the best interests of their underage users as their primary consideration when handling their data.

Social media companies who fail to comply with the OP Code's amendments would either be fined 10% of the company's domestic turnover or thrice the size of the financial benefit of the breach. They could also be fined AU$10 million for non-compliance.

Should the amendment be approved, the resulting OP Code would be the strictest regarding age controls for social media. It would add to the Australian government's efforts to crack down on big tech companies' power.

You may remember that the Australian government introduced the Media Bargaining Law in January 2021. The Law forces tech giants to pay Australian media companies for using their content.

Australia is also looking to strengthen its laws against online misinformation and defamation, according to Reuters.

The proposed amendment came after former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen accused the company of being indifferent about user safety while pushing for greater profits. She also added that Facebook's profit optimising machine harms children as it generates self-harm and self-hate.

Assistant Minister to Australia's Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention David Coleman said that social media played a part in the degradation of young people's mental health even before the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said that once the OP Code is amended, it would lead the world in protecting children from social media companies.

Social media companies have yet to comment on Australia's proposed amendment as of the publication of this article.


Written by John Paul Joaquin


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