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Cyberbullying, revenge porn and sextortion on the rise in Australia, as new laws promise jail time

Cyberbullying, revenge porn and sextortion on the rise in Australia, as new laws promise jail time

SEXTORTION, revenge porn, and cyberbullying are on the rise, Australia’s online safety agency says, and social networks and parents need to act now.

CYBERBULLYING, revenge porn, and sextortion are on the rise and the government agency tasked with fighting the scourge said social networks, parents, and teachers need to do more to stop their spread.

The Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner today told a Senate Estimates Committee cyberbullying cases soared by 60 per cent over the past year, and warned Australia was “about 10 years behind in terms of education”.

Image-based abuse, including revenge porn and sextortion cases, had also risen so rapidly in Australia that the agency planned to drop the word “children” from its title and would invest $4.8 million in an “image-based” reporting tool due to launch later this year.

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The agency charged with maintaining Australians’ online safety responded to a series of questions in the Senate on Wednesday, including inquiries about whether it had adequate resources to deal with its growing scope and rising number of complaints.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the Office received more than 400 cyberbullying complaints from children and their parents who had reported inappropriate material to social media sites but received no action.

“We’ve seen a 60 per cent increase in cyberbullying cases over the past year,” Ms Grant Inman said.

“Our own research shows us one in five young Australians have been cyberbullied over time.”

Despite the growing number of cases, Ms Grant Inman said the Office has used “the carrot” rather than “take-down notice” powers to convince social networks to remove the offending posts and images, explaining to the networks why the material was harmful.

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But Ms Grant Inman said the Office also needed to do more to prevent cyberbullying, and introduce educational tools for parents and teachers.

“Sexting is becoming a normalised courtship ritual and we are engaging in more research around that,” she said.

“I personally believe we’re about 10 years behind in terms of education. We know that the birds and the bees conversation now needs to come with a technical manual.”

But the Office has also expanded its scope to investigate cases of adult revenge porn and other image-based abuse, including an increasing number of sextortion cases where a person threatens to share intimate photographs unless they receive favours or money.

Ms Inman Grant said the Office was trialling preventive measures, including warning potential perpetrators that they no longer had permission to hold intimate images and they should delete them or the evidence could be used in a civil or criminal trial.

She said the Office also planned to release a new “image-based abuse national tool” that would co-ordinate the removal of images from social networks and other websites, and give victims a central place to report offences.

“What happens currently if an image is on Instagram or Twitter, a victim would have to report to each platform and you talk about re-traumatisation,” she said.

“We would like to see some sort of fast track.”

Only South Australia and Victoria have specific anti-revenge porn laws currently, though New South Wales was expected to introduce a similar bill into its parliament this week that would include penalties for up to three years in jail and $11,000 fines.

Online Source: news.com.au

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