Australians who are being subject to online abuse will be able to report incidents to the eSafety commissioner under sweeping new powers now in force.

New online safety laws will make social media giants remove posts deemed as bullying or abusive within 24 hours.

If the posts are not taken down, individuals could face fines of up to $111,000 or companies could be hit with a $555,000 fine.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the new laws would target online trolls.

“We now have new protections for Australians who are subject to vicious, online abuse,” Mr Fletcher told the Seven Network on Monday.

“What we know is that people who are the victim of this, what they want most of all is to have the material taken down as quickly as possible.”

As part of the new laws, people who are abused or harassed online should first report the offending post to the social media company it was published on.

Should the company not take down the post, people would be able to report the incident to the eSafety commissioner, who has new powers to mandate the post be removed within 24 hours.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the social media companies needed to be held accountable for the content posted to their platforms.

“The vindictive nastiness has to be brought under control, and the people who have to control it are the people making money out of it,” he told the Seven Network.

“The premise should remain with the person who makes the money, and that is Facebook and Instagram.”

However, Labor backbencher Joel Fitzgibbon said the new laws would not have much of an impact.

“The impact of bullying on the playground is immediate, no matter where it occurs, but in the playground, you get kicked out of the play area,” he said.

“This is not kicking anyone off social media, I am not sure whether that is legally or technically possible.”

It comes as the government is holding a federal inquiry into online safety, where representatives from some of the world’s biggest social media companies have been questioned.

Other legislation is being debated on whether social media companies would be forced to identify anonymous trolls.

Andrew Brown
(Australian Associated Press)

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