Facebook trolls will be jailed for up to five years and social media giants forced to reveal the extent of customer dissatisfaction under sweeping changes promised by the Coalition if re-elected.
Less than two weeks from polling day, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared “trolls have no place in Australia”, vowing to lock up people caught abusing or harassing people online.
Currently, those caught using a carriage service, such as Facebook or Twitter, to harass or cause offence face a maximum three years in jail.
The Coalition also wants the companies behind popular online video games such as Fortnite to keep young gamers safe by ensuring the most restrictive privacy and safety settings are the default option when signing up.
It is estimated that 200,000 young Australians experience bullying during multiplayer online games each year, which could be cut down if security settings were tighter.
Social media giants will also be held to account with new laws forcing tech companies to reveal the number of complaints they receive about abusive content and what action was taken.
The government hopes the transparency reports, which will be similar to those released by the telecommunications industry, will force social media companies to quickly respond to reports of online abuse on their sites.
Most of the proposed changes will be included in a single piece of legislation — the Online Safety Act — which will make it easier for future governments to amend the law as technology advances.
With 80 per cent of young people aged eight to 17 playing online games each year, the tech sector will be encouraged to change their default security settings for apps and online video games.
While the measure will be voluntary at first, the Morrison Government won’t rule out forcing the gaming sector to implement the change.
Mr Morrison told The Sunday Telegraph the new laws would help keep Australia safe.
“As a dad I know first-hand how anxious parents feel about what their kids see and do online and the dangers the internet can bring,” he said.
“Online trolls have no place in Australia and I promise to bring in new laws to protect our kids and keep our community safe.”
The crackdown comes after a bad week for the Morrison Government, which was forced to dump three candidates for vile posts online.
Mr Morrison said no one should be subjected to vile abuse and harassment “whether they are in the online or offline world”.
“We need the law to keep pace with technology and I want to ensure the courts reflect community expectations about the seriousness of online harassment, abuse and crime.”
If re-elected, Mr Morrison will discuss these changes and other proposed protections for internet users with world leaders at the G20 leaders summit in Tokyo in June.