Child abuse and online safety risks probed at inquiry

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson |

Child safety, cybercrime and privacy experts are expected to give evidence at a national inquiry into social media days after an executive from Meta denied the medium had harmed children.

Representatives from the federal attorney-general and communications departments will appear before the inquiry on Tuesday in its fourth public hearing in three weeks. 

The Social Media and Australian Society inquiry was called in May after Facebook’s parent company Meta announced it would not renew deals with local publishers under the News Media Bargaining Code. 

But the inquiry is also tasked with considering harmful and illegal content on social networks, their impact on mental health, and the use of age-verification technology to restrict children’s access to digital platforms.

Attorney-General’s department representatives scheduled to appear before the committee include the child protection international partnerships director and head of child abuse policy and engagement in its cybercrime division. 

The 11 policy experts will appear four days after representatives from social media giants Meta, TikTok and Snapchat fronted the inquiry, where Meta global safety head Antigone Davis denied claims social media had a negative impact.

“I don’t think social media has done harm to our children,” she said.

“I think that social media … provides tremendous benefits.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese seized on Ms Davis’ comments over the weekend, telling reporters they demonstrated the tech company’s arrogance. 

Meta representatives are expected to be recalled to the inquiry for further questions at a later date.