Warning that emerging social media platforms can pose a cyberbullying threat to young users

A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry will address concerns raised by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation that growing numbers of social media platforms are failing young people by not monitoring or tackling cyberbullying.

The foundation – established in memory of young Port Arthur shooting victims Alannah and Madeline Mikac – says soft regulation and poor monitoring of new forms of social media services pose a significant risk to young users.

“In their first year in the market, social media platforms can often have significant cyberbullying and harassment issues due to their lack of monitoring and reporting processes,’’ the foundation noted recently to a Senate inquiry into cyberbullying laws.

“Any move to improve and further regulate the policies, procedures and practices of social media platforms would need to address these emerging services and the risks they pose to the young people that trial them in their earliest iterations.’’

The foundation said the start-up culture of the technology industry prioritised testing in the marketplace and user feedback ahead of “user safety by design”.

“Young people are often the play-testers in this environment, as their age group has a higher proportion of early adopters,” it said.

Senate committee member and Tasmanian Greens Senator Nick McKim is concerned about the link between new tech companies trialling products and cyberbullying rates.

Mr McKim said the tech companies needed to respond to the concerns raised with the committee.

“The Greens are very concerned about children becoming play-testers when tech companies test products in the marketplace,” he said.

“We want the committee to explore this issue and hope it can recommend remedies.

“On the evidence to date there is a lack of reporting and monitoring processes to protect young people during market trials, and we think it’s important that tech companies respond to the committee on these concerns.

“Overall, the submissions vindicate the establishment of the committee and raise concerns that current protections against cyberbullying may not be adequate.”

The committee is investigating the policies of social media platforms in tackling cyberbullying and potential criminal penalties in the case of victims self-harming.