Federal Member For Banks
Shadow Minister for Communications

Shadow Minister for Communications, Transcript – SKY AM Agenda- Laura Jayes

Subjects: Coalition’s backing for age verification to protect Australian children from social media



Laura Jayes: Elon and Albo. Well, that is the fight at the moment, and it is global. It’s about what Twitter is keeping up on their platform. Theres also calls today from the coalition for a Social Media Age Limit. Joining me now is the shadow communications minister, David Coleman. David, thanks so much for your time. We spoke to Michelle Rowland about this a little earlier. She seems willing, but, you know, it does outline kind of the obvious challenges with these. It’s about enforcing these things, isn’t it?

David Coleman: Well, we’ve got to get on with it Laura. The UK is doing this. They passed a law to do it last year. Numerous US states like Texas, Arkansas and others. And we’ve got to get on with it. And the eSafety Commissioner asked to start a trial more than a year ago and it’s time that started, because the fact that kids are on social media and seeing violent imagery such as we’ve seen in the past couple of weeks, pornographic imagery, all of the interactions with basically random people anywhere on earth, it’s not good for them. And we’ve got to lean forward and we’ve got to get on to these and protect kids from social media.

Laura Jayes: Okay. So how do you do it, though, David? There’s talk of software, but does it come down to the social media companies needing to do it with their own AI and algorithms?

David Coleman: Well under the UK model, they’re looking at what they call age estimation. So, for instance Laura, I’m 50 so I’m clearly well over say 16, which would be the age, potentially for accessing social media. So, I would get a tick, if I tried to access the site, like that.

Laura Jayes: But how would they know?

David Coleman: Well, because they have done the scan. And as the eSafety Commissioner has said, the technology’s advanced immensely. She recommended this over a year ago. And then in February, she said since then, it’s advanced even further. And like everything online, there’s complexities and there’s technical issues and so on. But that’s not a reason not to do it, because this is really serious stuff Laura. What we’re seeing in terms of the mental health outcomes for girls in particular is really disturbing. Things like hospitalisations of young girls for self-harm is up very substantially in the last decade. So is self-poisonings by young girls. Now, social media is not the only reason that’s happening. But there’s no question in my mind that social media is a significant part of it. You know, imagine we went back 20 years ago Laura, and we said, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to allow children to access basically, effectively, relationships with any person on earth, including adults. We’re going to expose them to pretty much all of the material that exists in the world, and we’re going to be okay with that. Now, we would have said, well that’s outrageous, you can’t do that. But broadly, that’s what’s happened. So, the time for sort of debating this issue and talking about it and so on, it’s really coming to an end. Laura, it’s time to get on with this trial, and protect kids. Because, frankly, who thinks a ten-year-old should be on social media, and seeing all the things that they see on that.

Laura Jayes: Yeah, I agree with you. It’s about enforcing though, teenagers and tweens are pretty good at getting around rules, particularly on the internet. So how would you enforce it?

David Coleman: You’re right, Laura, in the sense that people will always try and get around rules. And, and that’s why you have the eSafety Commissioner to go through the process.

Laura Jayes: Rite of passage for teenagers almost, isn’t it?

David Coleman: But you don’t say, someone might try and get around the rules, so we’re not going to impose it. I mean, if you apply that logic, you could say that about virtually any rule that governments impose. People try to get into pubs underage and so on. But we don’t say we’re going to let ten-year-olds into pubs. So, I think that yes, there is complexity. But to be frank, the social media companies use that complexity to their advantage to throw out red flags as to basically why nothing should happen. And what we have to do is have the intellectual clarity and strength to see through that and to basically say, what do we care about here? What we care about is the childhood of our kids, of giving them the best possible opportunities and ensuring wherever we can, that they don’t see stuff that is damaging for them. In every previous generation we have done that. We have a classification system to this day for movies and TV shows Laura. But why do we have that? Well, because we don’t think it’s a good idea for little kids to see X-rated material or extreme violence. And who argues with that? So, the substance of it is really clear. But what we’ve got to do is get on with it, back our eSafety Commissioner, who wants to get moving on this, and stop delaying it.

Laura Jayes: All right. There was some support from Michelle Rowland this morning, so we’ll see if this gets her to hurry along in this space. David always good to talk to you, thank you.

David Coleman: Thanks Laura.