Providing a safe experience for young people online

Mia Garlick, Director of Public Policy, Australia, New Zealand & Pacific Islands – February 8, 2022


Digital transformation and the revolutionisation of the internet have come with many advantages and advancements, but it’s also introduced new challenges for netizens, heightening the need for new rules. Legislation has, unfortunately, not kept up. As millions of Australians continue to enjoy the benefits of a free and open internet, we’ve witnessed the good that comes with connecting people and, at times, the harm that can be caused when people misuse online platforms. There is no simple answer, and as such, this conversation has raised important questions on how to hold digital platforms accountable for keeping its users safe, while protecting freedom of expression.

At Meta, we believe that businesses like ours should not be making decisions on our own, and so we are advocating for democratic governments to set new rules for the internet on areas like harmful content, privacy, data, and elections.

But we are not waiting for regulation – we are also ensuring that we are taking responsibility and investing more each year. We have tripled our safety and security team to 40,000 people, removed billions of fake accounts (often created to cause harm), and built better tools to give people control over the experiences and interactions they have on social platforms. As part of this work, we continue to evolve our policies and create new products to ensure they reflect emerging digital and societal trends. We don’t make these policy and product decisions alone, using insights and feedback taken from more than 800 safety partners globally. With new rules for the whole industry, they can make the internet safer while maintaining the social and economic benefits of such platforms for all Australians.

Playing it fair this Safer Internet Day 

Recognising there is much more to do, and aligning to the theme of Safer Internet Day in Australia, #PlayItFairOnline led by the eSafety Commissioner, we continue to engage with external experts, policymakers, parents and caregivers, and the broader industry in developing effective solutions to combat online abuse.

Providing a safe experience for our community, in particular, young people continues to be our top priority. We recognise the importance of ensuring that our policies, enforcement, and tools are regularly updated to ensure we can support all Australians to play it fair online.

With respect to our policies, we recently made changes to our bullying and harassment policy to help protect people from mass harassment and intimidation, and now offer more protection to public figures, particularly women, people of colour and members of the LGBTQI community, who we know can face increased scrutiny.

We continue to invest significantly in proactive detection technology. For example, Meta removed 1.8 billion fake accounts in the last quarter alone and we proactively detected 99.8% of them, the vast majority within minutes of being created. We believe that, on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where people make direct connections with each other, the community is safer when people stand behind their opinions and actions.

We also update the tools that are available to help people customise their experience on our apps. On Instagram, we offer warnings when our technology identifies language as potentially abusive and ask people to consider rewriting their comments. We know that this is effective because 50% of the time they do edit their comment – or they don’t post at all.

On Facebook, we’ve built tools to give people more control over who can comment on their public posts by choosing from a menu of options ranging from anyone who can see the post to only the people and Pages you tag. You can also block different degrees of profanity from appearing on your Facebook Page. We determine what to block by using the most commonly reported words and phrases marked offensive by the community.

Importantly, developing effective solutions to combat online abuse also means working with partners who can ensure that we better understand and are responsive to the communities that use our platforms. The Office of the Australian eSafety Commissioner and local organisations such as Orygen provide regular feedback on our policies, tools, and resources.

We are also grateful for PROJECT ROCKIT, who serve on our Global Safety Advisory Board, with whom we have partnered for many years and together trained more than 25,000 young Aussie students in anti-bullying workshops to date.

We look forward to continuing to build on our policies, products, and partnerships in the months and years ahead.

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