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Online watchdog to get beefed up powers

International social media giants could be forced to take down material used to harass others online faster, under proposed new laws.

The federal government also wants social media and internet giants to sign an ethics charter that would see them prioritise user safety and curb socially unacceptable behaviour.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher will launch the charter and a consultation paper for the new laws on Wednesday as part of his National Press Club address in Canberra.

He will say the new beefed up legal powers for Australia’s eSafety commissioner would put more pressure on the industry to prevent online harm.

“Harmful material must be taken down faster. Attempts to send terrorist attacks viral must be stopped in their tracks,” Mr Fletcher will say.

“Industry needs to step up and take more responsibility.”

Mr Fletcher will use a number of examples to explain the beefed up new laws, including one of a woman who has intimate images of herself uploaded by an ex-partner to an overseas revenge porn site.

He will say these proposed new laws would allow the commissioner to force Google or Bing to de-rank the page hosting the images in search results.

The new laws would reduce the time that online platforms had to remove harmful content from 48 hours to 24.

The laws would also extend to other online platforms, like the video game live streaming platform Twitch, to help stop children being cyber bullied.

The eSafety Commissioner would get new powers to have digital giants report to her.

Mr Fletcher wants companies to sign the charter that will lay out what the government expects of them online,

He will say the most popular digital products and services haven’t been designed with user safety in mind.

“This needs to change,” he will say.

“My strong message to companies in the industry is to read it, refer back to it, and most importantly, integrate it into your daily practises.”

The consultation for the new laws will be open for public comment for 10 weeks.

The eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant recently told a Senate hearing at least one in seven Australians copped online abuse.

She said her office had a 100 per cent compliance rates with social media companies when it came to take-down notices.

Ms Grant also said the commission also had high success rates with getting child abuse material and revenge porn taken down from websites overseas.

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