Protecting all Australians Online from Bullies, Trolls and Predators- The Cyber Initiative

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The Hon Tony Smith MP Speaker of the House of Representatives,
Senator the Hon. Scott Ryan, President of the Senate,
The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister
The Hon Tony Abbott MP, Member for Warringah,
Hon Members of the House of Representatives
Hon Members of the Senate

Whilst being an amazing tool to enable people to connect, learn from each other and share experiences and ideas, Social Media has also become a platform utilised by some to wreak harm and injury on others.

Australians are continuously seeing stories in the media about our society's inability to deal with and stop;
- Bullies and Trolls tormenting our children and individuals online,
- Sex Predators/Paedophiles using Social Media to target our children,
- Revenge Porn postings to humiliate and destroy reputations,
- Stalkers and Rapists using Social Media to identify and target their victims, and
- Racists/Haters posting their hate online.

Sadly we see far too many stories about the people we have lost. 

People such as Amy, Olivia, Jessica, Anchalee, Carly, Amanda, Libby, Cassidy, Charlotte and Danii.  Names of but a few of the wonderful lights that have tragically gone out. 

Successive leaders and governments have promised us to take action on Cyber Bullying yet almost nothing has been done except talk.

And whilst the talk continues, more lives are needlessly lost.

12 months ago, Angels Hope wrote to every member of Federal Parliament in the House of Representative and the Senate proposing a solution to the Cyber Bullying epidemic and Social Media related crimes called The Cyber Initiative.  The response we received was disappointing at best with little interest shown.

As a result of the deaths that have continued we are now taking our proposal directly to the people in the hope that we can gather the support required to bring about action that will help to save people's lives.

The Cyber Initiative proposes a simple, cost-free preventative solution that will make identifying and catching Cyber Bullies and other Social Media based criminals easy and immediate as well as providing a real preventative measure to deter people from engaging in these behaviours.

The Initiative calls for all users of Social Media apps and websites register a phone number with their accounts using a two-step verification process which will make account owners identifiable if they break the law.

All the technology and regulations for the Cyber Initiative already exist and if the government adopted the Initiative it could be active within weeks of the regulations being enacted.

Under the existing regulations of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, phone companies are required to verify a phone customers details prior to making the service available.  Using a phone number for verification as proposed by The Cyber Initiative would link the Social Media account to a verified person.

The Cyber Initiative has five key elements.

Two-Step Phone Number Verification
A two-step verification process to create a Social Media account would be required as well as an annual verification of all existing accounts.

Two-Step phone verification is when a person enters their phone number and the Social Media company sends a code to the number provided which the account owner enters to verify.

The technology already exists and is used by most Social Media companies already.  For those companies that do not have it, it is readily available and easy to implement.

Additionally almost every Social Media company already has a field in their registration process for a phone number only it is currently optional.  From a technical aspect, it is at most a two-minute task to change the coding to make that field mandatory.

Privacy and Data Protection
Angels Hope proposes that Social Media providers be prohibited from being able to market to users, sell their data or communicate with a user by phone, except for verification purposes without the account owners consent.  Consent cannot be a requirement of verification and would only able obtained through a manual opt-in process, not an opt-out process..

Companies in breach of this would be subject to fines not less than $50,000 per breach. 

Phone Number Access
To further protect people's privacy, Angels Hope proposes that access to a phone number can only occur by way of a Court issued Subpoena or Statutory Authority Demand (such as the Anti-Discrimination Board or the Fair Work Commission).  

This would ensure that a determination, at the most senior level of Law, was made that a law had been broken or was in the process of being broken for access to occur.

Refusal to Comply
Any company refusing to Comply with the verification process should be blocked from Australian users.  

The capability for doing this is already in effect with the Government blocking numerous sites from Australians, most publicly being the recent blocking of illegal downloading sites.

Social Media Categories
Angels Hope is proposing that all Social Connectivity sites and apps that do not require credit card payment for use be included.

This includes but not limited to Social Media sites and apps, Dating sites and apps and Gaming sites and apps. 

As The Cyber Initiative makes use of existing regulations and technology already in effect and existing, the cost of implementation would be almost nil to the Government and the Taxpayer but the benefits would be dramatic.

When families and individuals register complaints about Cyber Bullies and Trolls, the guilty parties can be identified and stopped helping to reduce Suicide from Cyber Bullying.

When predators attempt to engage with or groom minors they can be caught prior to any physical harm being done to the child.

When stalkers target and terrorise their victims online, they can be identified and charged.

When people post non-consensual sexualised material (revenge porn) they can be identified and charged.

When individuals or groups make racist, mysogynistic or homophobic posts.  When they call for violence against individuals or communities, they can be identified and held to account.

Mr Speaker, Mr President, Prime Minister and Honourable Members, the Cyber Initiative is not a panacea to the problem of Cyber Bullying or Social Media related crimes but it is the most effective deterrent to stopping these behaviours and the most cost effective tool in assisting Law Enforcement to identify and apprehend those engaging in illegal and criminal activities on Social Media.

Additionally, the Angels Hope Cyber Initiative would be a world first in creating real protection for users of Social Media and be an example of real Cyber Safety Leadership to the rest of the world.

Respectfully

Reuben Cunningham, Co-Founder
Alex Jordan, Public Engagement Officer
Angels Hope Australia



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