Australia to mandate parental consent for minors on social media

By Arya M Nair, Official Reporter
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Social media companies will be required to get parental approval for users under the age of 16 in Australia and those who fail might face fine up to $7.5 million, according to draft legislation published recently.

The Online Privacy Bill states that social media companies, such as Facebook, Reddit and smartphone dating applications like Bumble, are required to take all reasonable steps to identify users’ ages and prioritize children’s interests when collecting data.

The new draft would make Australia one of the toughest countries in the world when it comes to social media age limits, and build on efforts to rein in the power of Big Tech following mandatory licensing payments for media outlets and plans to toughen laws against online misinformation and defamation.

Facebook this month faced anger from US lawmakers after a former company employee and whistleblower handed thousands of documents to congressional investigators amid concerns the company harmed children’s mental health and has stoked societal division.

Ms. Mia Garlick, Facebook’s director of public policy in Australia and New Zealand, said the company was evaluating the proposed law and recognized “the need of ensuring Australia’s privacy laws evolve at a comparable pace to the rate of innovation and new technologies we’re experiencing today.”

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, a privacy watchdog, would be given full investigation and enforcement powers under the draft bill, with the power to fine a company up to $7.5 million, 10 percent of its annual turnover, or three times the financial benefit of any breach.

Recently, Facebook announced that it is planning to rebrand with a new name to focus on the metaverse, however, sources claim that this move is to divert the attention from scrutiny and serious issues that the company is facing.

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