The Australian government will consider a new law that will force social media companies to obtain parental consent for users under the age of 16, with large fines if caught.
Which seems largely impossible for effective implementation, but the bill points out that social media applications would be required to “take all reasonable steps to determine the age of users and prioritize children’s interests when collecting data.”
This leaves a lot of room for overturning, as ‘reasonable’ in this context seems quite broad. But nonetheless, the new law enforcement initiative could improve social media regulations in Australia and make it one of the strictest age control regions in the world, if adopted.
According to Reuters:
“The new law would increase penalties for each violation of the code, with penalties of 10% of the company’s domestic annual turnover, three times the financial benefit of the violation or $ 10 million ($ 7.5 million). The current maximum fine is A $ 2.1 million. ”
The move follows recent reports, based on Facebook’s own research, which shows that Instagram can have a significant impact on the mental health of young users, a finding that has been concluded by various other independent studies.
Facebook denied such claims, noting that the survey cited was only based on the responses of 40 users, and that it was not used as an indicative measure. But still, amid a broader narrative that Facebook prioritizes growth, often above all else, it’s not exactly a great outlook for the Social Network, and one could see that more regulatory initiatives like this will gain more momentum in the coming months.
Which could have a big impact on the way Facebook, and social media platforms more widely, function. If social applications are forced to implement stricter measures, under threat of such heavy fines, each will have to re-evaluate the viability of their applications in these markets, and some could even be removed from certain regions.
To be clear, neither Facebook nor any other platform has gone this far yet, but Facebook completely deactivated news sites on its platform earlier this year, in response to another Australian government initiative, and if regulations on what to “do all reasonable steps ”means that in this context they actually add more complexity to the implementation efforts than they are worth, we could, again, see that some companies are considering removing certain elements to avoid any risk.
In a broader sense, it will also be interesting to see the real details of the Australian proposal and how they can be applied in other regions. Governments and regulators around the world are now looking at Facebook and its influences, with the latest insights into its effects now available for everyone to see.
Will this lead to stricter regulation?
I mean, the real question is ‘what is the alternative?’ It’s one thing to say ‘Facebook is bad, someone should do something about it’ and it’s another to actually make effective rules.
Which, again, is why such proposals are interesting, as they put Facebook’s policies and processes to the test. And while most of these pushes eventually disappear or merge into a less influential solution, the momentum in such decisions seems to fluctuate more strongly against the Social Network.
Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.