What is the Bill?
The Bill paves the way for the introduction of an Online Privacy Code. The Code will apply to three types of organisation, social media platforms, data brokers and other larger online platforms. If passed in parliament, the code once developed, would be enforced through the current regulatory powers held by the Australian Information Commissioner and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).
Why is it Important?
The online world presents many risks for young people’s mental health, from cyberbullying to unrealistic body ideals. It can expose them to risky behaviours, increased commercial and social pressures and relentless content exposure. A strong focus on data protection can reduce risks and help make the digital world a better place for children and young people.
InsideOut Institute together with Reset Australia spearheaded the formation of a coalition of organisations concerned about the implications of privacy and data use on the mental health of Australia’s children and young people. In consultation, many areas of risk were identified over a broad spectrum of mental health. The prepared joint submission broadly supports the bill and the need for regulation in the use of data whilst identifying specific recommendations to enhance the bill further.
Why this is Particularly Important for Eating Disorders
In consultation with young people with lived experience of eating disorders, InsideOut identified multiple problems with the use of children and young people’s data and the risks this creates to the development and maintenance of eating disorders including;
- Profiling via the use of data (web search history, social media posts, content views etc) can expose children and young people to advertising for apps and products that may seem helpful and ‘healthy’ but instead fuel the discorded behaviours and beliefs involved in developing eating disorders. This is specifically relevant to children who are less able to distinguish between advertising and information in digital context.
- Recommending content based on current viewing or search history can re-enforce unrealistic body ideals and lead to the promotion of disordered eating and behaviours, as well as leading to harmful communities and friend suggestions. This access to harmful content and communities can have the effect of ‘normalising’ disordered eating and trigger the emulation of these destructive behaviours.
It was the experience of our advisors that using data to recommend content and advertising across multiple platforms, whether initially useful or not, led to feeling overwhelmed by the amount of related content they received. Even when cognitively and emotionally able to recognise this as harmful content, it was extremely difficult to stop receiving it once data has been used to suggest similar content and advertising across platforms. It was agreed that the use of their data had been detrimental to the development of maintenance of their eating disorders which had affected their lives so significantly and devastatingly.
"You can look at one post that might relate to disordered eating messaging and then get into a whole wormhole of looking through content for hours. You just keep scrolling down the recommended posts and get caught in all this messaging that reinforces itself and the next day there will be more content and it is a very difficult spiral to get out of sometimes. YouTube was a particularly problematic website for me. I used to look up work out videos and all that kind of stuff, and because I was watching those videos, what was recommended was all this other disordered content. It suggested other Youtubers to follow and I got very trapped in that mindset for a long time. You can know stuff intellectually, you can be taught all these things and yet it can still happen to you. Through unhelpful things like Youtube just posting and recommending harmful content from influencers and things. There is only so much that education and teaching people can do and a lot of it is out of our control at the end of the day." (Now aged 23yrs)
"When I first started using disordered eating terms and searching them into the search engine it would give me a suggestion of other pages to follow or other unhelpful blogs to follow, those sorts of connections can be really harmful because in those communities people may be posting whatever it is that’s disordered and I think that can be really detrimental in fuelling someone’s eating disorder. When I was using Instagram, It was certainly my experience that things would pop up and it gets harder and harder to get rid of those suggestions. It probably took a few months before those suggestions were gone, even after unfollowing those things, things were still popping up on my page." (Now aged 23yrs)
"In my lived experience, data mining is such a huge factor in the development and maintenance of my personal eating disorder. My usage of social media definitely reflected data collection and data mining from a very young age, under the age of 12, when things like targeted advertising was so detrimental to me. I was falling victim to targeting advertising that heavily affected me and I do believe it played a role in the development of my eating disorder. As from such a young age I was exposed to this perception of health where, to be healthy you have to be fit, you have to be thin, you have to prescribe to diet culture." (Now aged 21yrs)
In response to the proposed bill, our recommendations include enhancing a rights-based approach, ensuring that the ‘Best Interests’ principle is enforced as intended including specifying requirements on service providers and how these principles apply to specific data users, broadening the scope of online platforms and ensuring the code is adequately monitored and enforced.
We broadly welcome the Bill as one way to ensure the quality of the digital services available to Australian children and young people improves their digital experiences, and subsequently their mental health and wellbeing.
- Subdivision 2A, 26KC (6) (e)\
- Subdivision 2A, 26KC (6) (f)\
- Ashley Rodriguez 2018 ‘YouTubes Recommendations Drive 70% of What We Watch’ Quartz qz.com/1178125/youtubes-recommendations-drive-70-of-what-we-watch/\
- eSafety Commissioner 2017 ‘Cyberbullying’ www.esafety.gov.au/key-issues/cyberbullying\
- Luke Munn 2020 ‘Angry by design: toxic communication and technical architectures’ Humanities and Social Sciences Communications www.nature.com/articles/s41599-020-00550-7\
- Grace Holland & Marika Tiggemann 2016 “A systematic review of the impact of the use of social networking sites on body image and disordered eating outcomes” Body Image 17, pp.110-110 doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.02.008\
- Ysabel Gerrard 2018 ‘Beyond the hashtag: Circumventing content moderation on social media’ New Media &Society 20(12):4492-4511. doi:10.1177/1461444818776611\
- Suku Sukunesan 2021 ‘Anorexia coach’: sexual predators online are targeting teens wanting to lose weight. Platforms are looking the other way theconversation.com/anorexia-coach-sexual-predators-online-are-targetingteens-wanting-to-lose-weight-platforms-are-looking-the-other-way-162938\
- Giuseppe Logrieco, Maria Marchili, Marco Roversi, & Alberto Villani 2021 ‘The Paradox of Tik Tok Anti-Pro-Anorexia Videos: How Social Media Can Promote Non-Suicidal Self-Injury and Anorexia.’ International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, 18(3), 1041. doi:10.3390/ijerph1803104\
- Tom Knowles 2021 ‘Molly Russel: Coroner Voices Alarm Over Delays to Inquest’ The Times www.thetimes.co.uk/article/molly-russell-coroner-voices-alarm-delays-inquest-gmfmk7bwp\
- Dylan Williams, Alex McIntosh & Rys Farthing 2021 Surveilling young people online Reset Australia au.reset.tech/uploads/resettechaustralia_policymemo_tiktok_final_online.pdf\
- Sandra Calvert 2008 ‘ Children as Consumers: Advertising and Marketing’ Future Child Spring 18(1):205-34. doi:\
10.1353/foc.0.0001, Amani Al Abbas, Weifeng Chen & Maria Saberi 2019 ‘ The Impact of Neuromarketing Advertising on Children: Intended and Unintended Effects’ Annual PwR Doctoral Symposium 2018–2019 knepublishing.com/index.php/Kne-Social/article/view/5187 Moniek Buijzen, Patti Valkenburg 2003 ‘The effects of television advertising on materialism, parent–child conflict, and unhappiness: a review of research’ Journal Applied Developmental Psychology 24(4):437–456 doi.org/10.1016/S0193-3973(03)00072-8\
- Dylan Williams, Alex McIntosh & Rys Farthing 2021 Keep it to a Limit Reset Australia au.reset.tech/uploads/resettechaustralia_policymemo_pollingreport_final-oct.pdf\
- Office of the Australian Information Commissioner 2020 Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy www.oaic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/2373/australian-community-attitudes-to-privacy-survey-2020.pdf\
- Laura Owen, Charlie Lewis, Susan Auty, Moniek Buijzen 2012 ‘Is children’s understanding of non–traditional advertising comparable to their understanding of television advertising? Journal Public Policy Mark. 2012;32(2):195–206 doi.org/10.1509/jppm.09.003\
- Rafqa Touma and Zena Chamas 2021 ‘A Freeby is Enough’ The Guardian www.theguardian.com/media/2021/sep/20/a-freebie-is-enough-influencer-gift-posts-trigger-breaches-in-australian-ad-standards\
- Christian Montag, Bernd Lachmann, Marc Herrlich, and Katharina Zweig. 2019 ‘Addictive Features of Social Media/Messenger Platforms and Freemium Games against the Background of Psychological and Economic Theories’ International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 16, no. 14: 2612. doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16142612 \
Jamie Carlson, Natalie de Vries, Mohammad Rahman, Alex Taylor 2017 ‘Go with the flow: engineering flow experiences for customer engagement value creation in branded social media environments’. J Brand Manag 24, 334–348 doi.org/10.1057/s41262-017-0054-4\
Jean Eric-Pelet, Said Ettis, Kelly Cowart 2017 ‘Optimal experience of flow enhanced by telepresence: Evidence from social media use’ Information & Management 54(1) 115-128 doi.org/10.1016/j.im.2016.05.001\
Nagisa Sugaya, Tomohiro Shirasaka, Kenzo Takahashi, Hideyuki Kanda 2019 ‘Bio-psychosocial factors of children and adolescents with internet gaming disorder: a systematic review’. BioPsychoSocial Med 13, 3 doi.org/10.1186/s13030-019-0144-5\
- Beatriz Luna 2010 ‘Developmental Changes in Cognitive Control Through Adolescence’ Advanced Child Development Behaviour 37: 233–278 ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782527/\
- Daniel King, Marc Potenza, 2019 ’Not Playing Around: Gaming Disorder in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11)’ Journal of Adolescent Health 64 P5-7 doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.10.010\
- Holly Scott, Steaphany Biello, Heather Woods ‘Social media use and adolescent sleep patterns: cross-sectional findings from the UK millennium cohort study’ BMJ Open 9(9) doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2019-031161\
- Alice Walton 2019 ‘Social Media Use May Mess with Teens Sleep’ Forbes www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2019/10/24/heavy-social-media-use-may-steal-teens-sleep/\
- See for example Michael Carr-Gregg 2015 Using Technology to Improve Young People’s Mental Health AIFS Webinar Series aifs.gov.au/cfca/webinars/logging-using-technology-practice-improve-young-peoples-mental-health\
- Vikram Patel e t al 2018 ‘ The Lancet commission on global mental health and sustainable development’. The Lancet, 3 92(10157), 1553–1598 doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31612-X\
- See for example, Adam Waytz & Kurt Gray 2018 ‘Does Online Technology Make Us More or Less Sociable? A Preliminary Review and Call for Research’ Perspectives on Psychological Science doi.org/10.1177/1745691617746509\
Janna Clark, Sara Algoe, Melanie Green 2017 ‘Social Network Sites and Well-Being: The Role of Social Connection’ Current Directions in Psychological Science doi.org/10.1177/0963721417730833\
- Eric Han 2021 ‘Strengthening privacy and safety for youth on TikTok’ newsroom.tiktok.com/en-us/strengthening-privacy-and-safety-for-youth\
- Instagram 2021 ‘Giving young people a safer, more private experience’ about.instagram.com/blog/announcements/giving-young-people-a-safer-more-private-experience\
- James Beser 2021 ‘New safety and digital wellbeing options for younger people on YouTube and YouTube Kids’ blog.youtube/news-and-events/new-safety-and-digital-wellbeing-options-younger-people-youtube-and-youtubekids/\
- James Beser 2021 ibid\
- Instagram 2021 ibid\
- Children’s Data Code 2021 childrensdatacode.org.au\
- Children’s Data Code 2021, ‘Policy Asks’ www.childrensdatacode.org.au/policy-asks/\
- Division 2A, 6W(1)\
- Division 2A, 6W(3)\
- Division 2A, 6W(4)\
- Division 2A, 6W(6)\
- ABS 2020 National State and Territory Population www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/population/national-state-andterritory-population/latest-release#data-downloads-data-cubes