Facebook privacy chief defends cybersafety measures

Mr Thompson said Facebook removed around 20,000 underage users globally each day. (AGENCY)

Facebook's head of privacy has defended the company's record on removing underage users and ensuring young people do not access inappropriate material.

Chief privacy adviser Mozelle Thompson appeared via teleconference before an Australian Senate committee on cybersafety, where it was alleged that children under 13 were accessing the social networking site.

Liberal backbencher Alex Hawke questioned if the company was doing anything to deal with the large numbers of Australian users under the recommended age of 13.

"I'd suggest to you there's quite a few [children under 13] on Facebook, from my own experience, plus also from the inquires [undertaken by] this committee," he said.

But Mr Thompson said Facebook - which has around 10 million Australian users and more than 630 million worldwide - removed around 20,000 underage users globally each day.

"This is something that we work on all the time," he said.

"There's a lot of things on Facebook that happen on Facebook that don't happen every place else. Like limits on nudity [and] other things - you can't do those things on Facebook."

The company says it is also recruiting a cybersafety policy expert to be based in Australia, and Mr Thompson says his team has developed a closer working relationship with the Australian Federal Police over the last year.

"On child safety, this past year Facebook has been an active member of the consultative working group and their important initiatives like the cybersafety help button," he said.

"We are working with them right now to develop an online safety guide that can be made available to the public."

According to the Government's website, the cybersafety help button is an application available for free download that "provides help and advice on a range of online risks including cyber-bullying, unwanted contact, scams and fraud, and offensive or inappropriate material".

Martin Bryant profile

Tasmanian Liberal Senator Guy Barnett also raised questions over Facebook's handling of a request to remove an account impersonating convicted Port Arthur killer Martin Bryant.

Mr Thompson said the account was removed within 72 hours of receiving a faxed notification.

"With regard to the Martin Bryant case, we understand how that could be very disturbing to the public," he said.

"We looked at when the report was taken, and it was reported by a fax on February 23. It was immediately escalated by removing the page and disabling the user."

Voluntary filter

Representatives from Facebook, ninemsn, Microsoft Australia and Yahoo!7 all appeared before the committee, and tabled their support for the introduction of voluntary internet filtering rather than legislated mandatory filtering.

Yahoo!7's Samantha Yorke described a Government proposal to legislate mandatory internet filtering at the service provider level as premature.

"The breadth of scope was something that was of concern for us here at Yahoo!7," she said.

"We also felt that imposing a filter through legislation might have been a little bit pre-emptive in terms of trying to seek a voluntary collaborative process within the industry more broadly before jumping to that step."

Other submissions included the creation of a cyber safety ombudsman and appointing a senior person as a cyber policy expert.

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