Australia government proposes new bill regulating social media companies
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Australia government proposes new bill regulating social media companies

The Australian Government on Monday published a draft of a new online privacy act regulating social media companies.

The proposed act, called the Online Privacy Bill, builds on Australia’s Privacy Act of 1988. The act purportedly “enables the introduction of a binding online privacy code for social media and certain other online platforms, and increases penalties and enforcement measures.”

The bill begins by clarifying which organizations would be subject to new regulations. These include, but are not limited to, social media services, date brokerage services, and large online platforms. Organizations would also be required to stop disclosing user information upon request from the user.

Among the bill’s most significant provisions is a requirement that social media companies take steps to verify the age of users. If the user is under 16, the law would require parental consent before social media companies use or collect data from the child. Such a provision could create significant roadblocks for social media companies, which tend to attract young users.

The proposed bill also greatly increases the penalties for companies or individuals who violate it. The bill would raise the maximum penalty amount to either $10 million, three times the value of benefits derived from the conduct, or 10 percent of the company’s domestic annual turnover—whichever is greatest. It also creates a criminal penalty for companies or individuals who engage in multiple instances of non-compliance.

It is unclear whether all these provisions will be included in the final bill. However, the draft represents the Australian Government’s intent to bolster regulations on online and social media organizations.

The government is soliciting feedback until December 6, after which the bill will be introduced to the Parliament of Australia.