PM says new laws to end online bullying

New laws will force social media platforms to expose people who make defamatory posts anonymously.
New laws will force social media platforms to expose people who make defamatory posts anonymously.

The Morrison government will introduce legislation this week to crack down on abuse and bullying on social media.

Under the laws, platforms will be forced to expose the identity of individuals who anonymously post defamatory or damaging material.

"The online world provides many great opportunities but it comes with some real risks and we must address these or it will continue to have a very harmful and corrosive impact on our society, on our community," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

The government is seeking a complaints mechanism where if somebody thinks they are being defamed, bullied or attacked on social media that they will have an opportunity to require the platform to take it down.

If the platform fails to comply, there will be a court process allowing that person to require the platform to provide details of the abusive or defaming identity.

"The online world should not be a wild west where bots and bigots and trolls and others can (be) anonymously going around and can harm people and hurt people, harass them and bully them and sledge them," Mr Morrison said.

He said online companies must have proper processes to enable the removal of this content.

"There needs to be an easy and quick and fast way for people to raise these issues with these platforms and get it taken down," he said.

"They have that responsibility. They have created this world."

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese agreed with the sentiment of the announcement but said it must be delivered on.

"The government needs to explain how it can deal with the fact domestic controls have limitations for what is a global industry," he told reporters in Melbourne.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said her party has been calling for greater regulation of the tech giants for a long time.

"There is clearly a big problem with abuse and slurs on social media," Senator Hanson-Young, who has responsibility for media and communication, said.

"The question today is whether the Morrison government has come up with a workable solution to actually address online harms or if it is just more election-time huff and puff."

The Greens will move for the legislation to be sent to a senate inquiry for a thorough examination and to hear from experts.

Mr Morrison said the government will be looking for test cases to reinforce these new laws and will back people who have been wronged if they are of little means.

"We will back them in the courts and we will take them on. We will take them on in the parliament and we will take them on in the courts because I want to ensure our kids are safe," the prime minister said.

Liberal minister Anne Ruston said it is "absolutely unacceptable" for a platform to think it could shirk responsibility.

"I would really like to see any of these platforms stand up and say they think it's acceptable that they hide behind the anonymity of bots and bullies and bigots online," Senator Ruston told ABC's Insiders.

Australian Associated Press