Cyberbullies tackled during Innovation Month

The Australian Government Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) is using July as Innovation Month to highlight examples of innovation in the Australian Public Service (APS) that have real and measurable impacts.

According to the Department, a good example is the effort to counter cyberbullying in the general population evidenced by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

One in five young Australians experience serious cyberbullying. It’s a big problem and one that the Office of the eSafety Commissioner is working hard to address.

quotatoin-marks-01…One in five young Australians experience serious cyberbullying…quotatoin-marks-02

Since 2015, the Office has been leading online safety efforts to empower all Australians to have safe, more positive experiences online. Their Cyberbullying Complaints Scheme is an innovative way to address this.

The only one of its kind in the world, the Scheme is a portal where young people, or a parent on their behalf, can report a cyberbullying incident which they’ve experienced.

“The Scheme provides an ear for Australian kids, their parents and other adults in their lives, to be able to find someone to talk to about cyberbullying,” Ben Au, Manager of the Cyberbullying Complaints Team, said.

“The report comes to my team and within three business hours we’ll get on the phone with the young person or parent, to talk through what they’ve experienced. It’s about drawing out the issues, getting the information that we need and providing support and comfort.”

The online portal isn’t the only innovative part of the scheme with the Office also working closely with social media platforms to improve their practice.

Under a unique co-regulatory scheme, the Office works cooperatively with platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat to enable the quick referral and removal of serious cyberbullying content. The Scheme also provides the Office with discretionary powers and civil penalties, including the right to fine social media sites which do not comply with takedown notices.

“We’ve really worked with social media platforms to lift their game in terms of how they deal with cyberbullying,” Dominique Tomarchio, Senior Communications Adviser, said.

Since its inception, the Scheme has received excellent feedback and other nations are looking to Australia as an example of best-practice in addressing cyberbullying.

But the unique and innovative nature of the Scheme naturally invites challenges, as Kathryn King, IT and Design Manager, explained.

“Getting the balance between what we need to capture, and ensuring a good user experience for children and youth, who are our prime demographic, is a challenge that we continually improve on,” she said.

But the Office has been working hard to come up with a solution to this challenge and earlier this year piloted a new version of their online complaint form.

“In March we released a newer version of the form, which we estimate reduces the complexity and time it takes to complete the form by about 35 percent. It also adds a few design elements, especially for mobile devices,” Ms King said.

Continuous improvement certainly is the name of the game and the Scheme is doing an exceptional job of driving an innovative approach to combating and reducing the incidence and impact of cyberbullying.

You can find out more about the Office of the eSafety Commissioner and the Cyberbullying Complaints scheme on their website.

Innovation Month runs from 2 – 31 July. This year’s theme is ‘Working Together,’ and includes a full program of events which provide everyone in the public sector with opportunities to share their experiences innovating and to explore new ideas to improve their work practices.

CyberHound is a proud supporter of the Office of the eSafety Commissioner and its initiatives such as Safer Internet Day.