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Children In Australia To Potentially Be Blocked From Social Media As A Part Of New Pilot Trial 

In May, Australia’s federal government announced a $6.5 million pilot trial regarding “age assurance technology” as a means of preventing children from accessing harmful and adult content online. 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese initially announced that the pilot would work to “identify available age assurance products to protect children from online harm, and test the efficacy, including in relation to privacy and security.”

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“The outcomes will inform the existing work of Australia’s eSafety Commissioner under the Online Safety Act – including through the development of industry codes or standards – to reduce children’s exposure to age-inappropriate material,” he stated

Now, the Australian government has expanded the trial program to look into potentially blocking children from accessing social media altogether. They’re currently in discussions with Meta, who owns Facebook and Instagram. 

Multiple campaigns have started with the launch of this trial which worked to push the government to look into banning children under the age of 16 from social media. The government is now looking into how this could potentially be possible and what it would truly look like if it occurred, according to reports.

Communications department acting secretary for online safety, Bridget Gannon, stated that the government will be “consulting with experts, with children, with parents, to understand their concerns and their interests on this issue, and really pulling it together with some policy advice to the government on possible ways forward.”

“We want to understand how different technologies work at those younger ages for that social media work,” she said as reported by the Guardian

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Gannon also stated that the department has been speaking with multiple social media platforms like Meta, however, none of those companies are legally required to take part in the trial. In fact, Meta has already hinted that they are reluctant to take on the requirement of verifying the age of all of their users across their platforms. 

Instead, Meta believes that age verification should be the responsibility of app stores like Apple and Google. 

While individuals involved in the trial and within the committee have made the argument that these companies should feel obligated to comply with the trial, regardless of legal responsibility.

Gannon said it would be in these companies best interest to be involved in the trial as it will be informing them on how new codes will be developed and enforced as well. 

She also stated that the department will be working with technology experts to accurately assess how effective various technologies will work and what their impact may be. They will also work to analyze how easy it would be to regulate and distribute that technology over private networks.