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  • Meerelle Cruz

Facebook to Face Heavy Fines for Allowing Young Users to Sign-Up to its Platforms Under Proposed Aus

The Australian government is considering a new measure that would require social media companies to get parental authorization for users under the age of 16 or risk steep fines if they are detected.

The draft regulation states that social media platforms must "take all reasonable steps to determine users' ages and prioritize children's interests when collecting data," which appears to be nearly hard to police correctly. That offers much space for interpretation, as the term "reasonable" in this context appears to be somewhat broad. However, if implemented, the new enforcement campaign might strengthen Australia's social media rules and make it one of the most stringent age-control regions in the world.

Any code violations would face sanctions of 10% of the company's domestic annual revenue, three times the financial advantage of the breach, or A$10 million ($7.5 million) under the new law. The maximum fine is currently A$2.1 million." The decision comes in the wake of recent findings based on Facebook's research that reveals Instagram can have severe mental health consequences for young users, a result that several other independent studies have confirmed.

Facebook has denied these assertions, stating that the study in question was based on replies from only 40 users and should not be taken as a broad indicator. However, given the overall perception that Facebook values growth over all else, this isn't a good sign for The Social Network, and additional legislative attempts like this could gain traction in the coming months. This might have a significant impact on how Facebook and other social media platforms operate. If social apps are compelled to install more strict controls under the threat of such hefty fines, they will have to reevaluate their apps' sustainability in these countries, resulting in them being withdrawn from specific regions.

To be clear, neither Facebook nor any other platform has gone this far. However, Facebook did deactivate news Pages entirely on its platform earlier this year in response to another Australian Government initiative. If the regulations around what "take all reasonable steps" means in this context add more complexity to enforcement efforts than they're worth, we could see some companies consider removing certain elements to avoid any risk.

In a larger sense, it'll be intriguing to study the specifics of the Australian idea and how it might be implemented in other parts of the world. Governments and authorities worldwide are looking at Facebook and its ramifications, with the most up-to-date information on its effects now publicly available. Will this result in more stringent regulations?

'What's the alternative?' is the actual question. It's one thing to declare, "Facebook is horrible; someone should do something about it," and another to put effective rules in place. Again, initiatives like this are intriguing because they put Facebook's policies and procedures to the test. While most of these campaigns fizzle out or merge into a less consequential settlement, the tide appears to be turning against The Social Network in such rulings.

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