GOVERNMENT URGED TO TAKE ACTION TO SAVE GIRLS FROM PORN

Anti-violence advocates have called on the Morrison government to act swiftly to introduce measures protecting children from easy access to online pornography in the wake of rising claims by schoolgirls of sexual harassment and assault. A parliamentary committee report recommending mandatory age verification for online pornography has been languishing for more than a year, with the government yet to respond. Supporters of the policy have called on the government to take urgent action, arguing that the recent groundswell of assault allegations, sparked by a petition launched by former Kambala girls’ school student Chanel Contos in Sydney calling for better consent education for young people, was evidence of pornography’s damaging influence.

Liberal National MP Andrew Wallace, who chaired the inquiry, said evidence tendered suggested that 28 per cent of 12-year-olds had viewed pornography online, rising to 65 per cent by the age of 16. He said there was no doubt exposure to pornography at a young age was contributing to harassment and assault. “The pressure that this is placing on young girls is just atrocious,” he said. “Young girls are forced to live out what these boys see on the screen and some of it is very graphically violent.” According to the Protecting the Age of Innocence report, which received more than 300 submissions, the serious impacts on the welfare of children and young people associated with exposure to pornography was a “widespread and genuine concern” in the community.

The report noted that online age verification to check users were over 18 was not a new concept and technology had increasingly become “more sophisticated, balancing effectiveness with privacy, safety and security”. South Africa recently legislated for age verification for pornography and is in the process of developing a regulatory framework to govern its rollout. “The committee recognised age verification is not a silver bullet, and protecting children and young people from online harms requires government, industry and the community to work together across a range of fronts,” the report said. “The committee also concluded age verification can create a significant barrier to prevent young people from exposure to harmful online content.”

A spokeswoman for Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the government understood “deep concern” about the issue and supported the work of the eSafety Commissioner in the area. eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman-Grant said she supported age verification “to protect children from being exposed to pornographic material” but any proposed model would need to balance “safety with appropriate privacy and security protections”.  “Parents are still the best firewall when protecting children from harmful content and there is a range of protective strategies and technological tools they can use, including parental controls and device-level filtering.” Collective Shout director Melinda Tankard Reist said violent pornography depicting forced sex was desensitising young men to violence in relationships.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

Print This Post Print This Post