The eSafety Commissioner’s Youth Council has written an open letter to Big Tech to demand they impose consequences on users who abuse and harass others, breaching platforms’ own terms of service.
Published in the lead up to the 20th annual Safer Internet Day on 7 February, the 24-member council said urgent action is needed to prevent popular online platforms becoming a haven for trolls, haters and predators.
Sydney-based 14-year-old Ruhani said the Youth Council wanted to remind some of the world’s most powerful companies of their responsibilities to their youngest users.
“We want to remind both Big Tech and young people that behind every screen and every account is a person,” she said.
“We can’t stand by and let rage and fear-mongering continue unchecked. The harassment that so many of us have experienced has seriously damaged our confidence and wellbeing. We, as well as Big Tech, need to bring about serious change. This version of an online experience just isn’t cutting it anymore.
“Just having platform rules isn’t enough. We want Big Tech to actively impose consequences on people who break the rules that these companies wrote and to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of their users over profit margins.”
Based on research by eSafety, an estimated 70 per cent of Australians aged 14-24 years have been harassed, abused or had another negative experience online in a 12-month period.
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the letter was another sign young Australians wanted a new online paradigm for themselves and future generations.
“New eSafety research shows that 33 per cent of Australians aged 18 to 24 years believe technology companies aren’t doing enough to build safety features into their services and products,” Ms Inman Grant said.
“This letter highlights the concerns of a generation that has grown up with the internet and understands technology can be harnessed for extraordinary good but it’s also being increasingly weaponised by some for considerable harm.
“I’ll be inviting local representatives of the most popular platforms and companies to meet with the Youth Council to better understand their concerns and ideas. While positive strides in online safety are being made, they’re clearly not at the pace and scale needed by Australian young people, particularly as companies plow headlong into the metaverse, generative AI and quantum worlds.”
Watch the letter to Big Tech from the eSafety Youth Council.
Additional quotes from Youth Council members:
“We love how these companies help us to connect and learn but also hate that their platforms can be used to hurt us. We need Big Tech to step in and do something when people use their platforms and services to spread abuse and hate. Don’t ignore it.” – Elliot, 14 years old, Victoria
“Big Tech has significant power and influence over the online experience of millions of users. They have the resources to tackle harm and hate on their platforms and could set a new safety standard for the rest of the internet to follow. I cannot wait to see how their designers, engineers and trust and safety teams rise to this challenge.” – Harrison, 19 years old, ACT
“Being abused and harassed online makes us feel like we cannot be creative and that we’re not safe to be ourselves. That should never be the case.” – Izak, 19 years old, Queensland
“Safety measures must keep up with the pace of Big Tech’s growing influence in daily life. Young people should be able to confidently express themselves online without fear of harassment or abuse.” – Sonya, 19 years old, NSW