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Australian government announces new complaints handling guidelines for Social Networking Sites

User safety and cyberbullying are just some concerns that arise when using social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus.

Under new guidelines announced by the Australian prime minister, social networking sites have agreed to undertake raising awareness about antisocial behaviour online and promoting user safety.

The Cooperative Arrangement for Complaints Handling on Social Networking Sites details companies such as Facebook and Google (YouTube) having to set out clear information about its acceptable use guidelines; have "robust processes" in place to review and act on complaints; have a "single point of contact" for government and engage in "education and awareness raising" activities about what behaviour is and isn't acceptable online.

The protocol establishes that social networking sites need to understand that they have to work cooperatively with the government when it comes to addressing inappropriate conduct online, to meet the expectations of Australians.

These guidelines ensure that there are clear processes in which social networking sites can handle complaints promptly in line with their abuse policies.

The government is in discussion with Twitter to follow Facebook and Google into signing up to the protocol, encouraging other social networking sites to also join up and follow suit.

The guidelines were created with reference to recommendations made by the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety's Interim Report from June 2011, High-Wire Act: Cyber-Safety and the Young.

The protocol is complemented by the popular government information portal, Easy Guide to Socialising Online, which offers handy advice on how to safely use online social networks.

The website offers information on the cybersafety features of a variety of websites including Flickr, Myspace, Tumblr, Skype and Google Plus, alongside the popular choices of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

There's also an easy-to-understand overview of cybersafety features for social networking websites, online games and search engines.

Social networking users can also take advantage of some tips for socialising online, detailing the importance of keeping passwords secret and using privacy settings to control the information you share.

Posted by April Revake.

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