Joint Media Release with Senator David Johnston
Minister for Justice and Customs
NetAlert – Working Group convened to prevent predation through social networking sites
The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Senator Helen Coonan and the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator David Johnston, today announced the membership and terms of reference for the Consultative Working Group to address the potential serious abuse of social networking sites by paedophiles and sex offenders to contact and groom children.
Senator Coonan said the Consultative Working Group was a logical extension of the Australian Government’s $189 million NetAlert – Protecting Australian Families Online programme.
“It is critical that we work together to identify innovative and effective mechanisms to deal with new and emerging dangers online. Industry organisations such as MySpace and Microsoft, and community groups such as Bravehearts are already on the front line.
“There is no greater danger online than sex offenders using internet, and particularly social networking sites, to identify and abuse children,” Senator Coonan said.
Senator Johnston said the Working Group would report on the nature and scope of the criminal threat posed by social networking sites for grooming children for sexual offences.
“The Government is committed to exploring any workable mechanism to eliminate the misuse of social networking sites by those seeking to exploit children,” Senator Johnston said.
The Working Group will report on existing measures and suggest reforms that could assist in providing children with more protection when they use these sites.
The Group will consist of one representative from each of the following bodies: the Federal Attorney-General’s Department (Chair, First Assistant Secretary, Criminal Law Branch, Joanne Blackburn), Australian Federal Police (Assistant Commissioner, Roman Quaedvlieg), CrimTrac (CEO, Ben McDevitt), MySpace (Fox Interactive Media General Manager, Rebekah Horne), Microsoft (Director – Internet Safety, Julie Inman), Bravehearts (Executive Director and Founder, Hetty Johnston), the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Executive Officer, Marie Fox), the Alannah and Madeline Foundation (CEO, Judith Slocombe), Internet Industry Association (Chief Executive, Peter Coroneos) and the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (Deputy Secretary, Abul Rizvi). In addition, nominees will be sought from State and Territory Attorneys-General and State and Territory Police Ministers.
“I am pleased with the range of participants in the Group and particularly welcome industry and community representatives,” Senator Johnston said.
“There is no more important task than protecting our children and I look forward to the States and Territories getting behind the Howard Government and Working Group,” Senator Coonan said.
The terms of reference of the Consultative Working Group are attached.
Senator Coonan Katherine Meier 0417 441 141
Senator Johnston Fiona Telford 0439 003 191
Terms of Reference
The Consultative Working Group is to report to Governments on the following matters:
- The nature and scope of the criminal threat created by the use of the Internet, including social networking sites, for the grooming of underage persons by sexual predators (‘the online predator threat’).
- The adequacy and appropriateness of existing measures to deal with the online predator threat, including laws and enforcement arrangements.
- Additional measures that could assist in dealing with the online predator threat, including through the prevention, detection and prosecution of criminal conduct and the management of convicted offenders. Measures to be considered include those relating to the following:
- The relationships between online service providers, including social networking sites, and their customers, including the terms and conditions applicable to the use of online services.
- For example, is it a sufficiently clear part of the conditions for establishing a page on a social networking site that the name, email address and other relevant details of the person can be provided to law enforcement authorities in appropriate circumstances?
- Should site operators more clearly segregate adult and child users?
- Should stricter controls be imposed on those who may sign up to use sites (both in terms of those with convictions, and in terms of requiring parental approval for children to sign up)
- The relationships and lines of communication between law enforcement agencies and online service providers.
- For example, can better arrangements be put in place for social networking site operators to provide relevant information to law enforcement authorities, for example for matching against records held on ANCOR?
- The regulation of the activities of convicted offenders, including through ANCOR and parole conditions.
- For example, should the use of the Internet or social networking sites specifically, be banned, regulated or monitored for offenders registered on ANCOR or a subset of those offenders, as part of the administration of ANCOR or as an aspect of parole
- Should the legislation of all States and Territories require registration of email addresses among other details to be recorded on ANCOR?
- Should the scope of ANCOR be extended to cover additional categories of offender or suspect?
- Should it be a criminal offence for an adult to pose as a child on the Internet?
- If so, in what circumstances?
- The considerations that need to be weighed in deciding whether to advance measures identified in 3, including potential costs and impacts on legal rights including privacy.
This includes Australia’s obligations under Article 34(a) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Australia to take all appropriate measures to prevent 'the inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity'.