Topic: Voluntary code of conduct for online dating app companies, the Voice
TOM CONNELL, HOST: Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth joins me now. Thanks for your time. A voluntary code? Despite what's been happening here with these incredible high rates of some sort of bad experience, right up to possibly, well, we think murder. Why voluntary? Why not just act now?
AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: We held a roundtable in January and what we saw from that roundtable was that dating apps did decide to make improvements and that's a good thing. But we also want to ensure that it's consistent across the industry. What a voluntary code would do is make sure that, whether it's the response to complaints, whether it's transparency, whether it's working with law enforcement agencies, that there is an industry wide response. We think that capturing the innovation that occurs in this industry and making sure that it's industry led is very important and we want to see that voluntary code of conduct in by mid next year.
TOM CONNELL: And it needs to be acceptable otherwise you’ll regulate?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Yes, it has to have the key elements that the Government has outlined and that includes engagement with law enforcement, it includes ensuring at-risk groups are considered, it involves engaging with victim survivors, that's why a voluntary code is important.
TOM CONNELL: So you've alluded that some apps are doing better than others. What are the unsafe ones at the moment that people should be wary of, that haven't acted enough in your view?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: I don't want to go out and speak about individuals. Individual apps have done different things. Some have done better on complaints, others have, for example, been better at interventions. One app actually, if they notice bad behaviour they will intervene and say, you can't come back on until you've done this education program about what's appropriate. So, different apps have acted on different areas. What we want to do is level the protections across the board on all dating apps.
TOM CONNELL: Okay, but shouldn't you be telling people? I mean you've got the information. Arming them with that knowledge. If your big thing is making sure you're protected or that they'll be stopping perpetrators, you should use this app. Wouldn't that be information Australians could use?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, I don't think one particular app protects everyone from harm and abuse…
TOM CONNELL: …[interrupts] Of course not, but you alluded to the fact that there are some doing more in different areas. Why not arm the consumers with that knowledge?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, some are doing more in some areas, some are doing more in other areas. But what I would say is, a false sense of security is one of the challenges here. And so what we need is to make sure that the design of the apps are done in a way that puts safety first. And I think we will keep working with the app companies, but importantly, get them to do the work to make sure that there is an industry wide voluntary code of conduct.
TOM CONNELL: Could there be something eventually with the eSafety Commissioner? You could go online and say, here's where your app rates in different areas. We have this if you try to get insurance or a bank loan, surely this product deserves that sort of level of knowledge for the consumer?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, of course, transparency in data is really an important part of that. We don't have that transparency in data. That is part of how we make, for example, the complaints process and the outcomes of the complaints process more available to people, all of those things are on the table to be discussed.
TOM CONNELL: Obviously you'd expect any behaviour reported to be taken seriously, authorities contacted and so on. What about monitoring for threatening behaviour?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think that is something that does need to be explored and I think there's a moral responsibility here even if it doesn't cross the threshold of an illegal act. If there is a pattern, for example, of abusive language then an intervention should be looked at whether that is possible.
TOM CONNELL: Does it raise an interesting issue of privacy? Presumably you'd need some sort of algorithm picking up types of words that someone's writing and then they get some sort of warning or someone looks into it, but that's also someone being privy to conversations that might be between future partners. How do you marry up those sort…
AMANDA RISHWORTH: …the concept I would say is that these platforms are not just a place where people can meet, they have moral obligations as well and responsibilities. If you look at the sort of algorithm that picks up words, that already happens. I have no doubt that already happens. It is what are the most effective interventions that can be done? And we know if there is particularly bad behaviour, you have to sign up to a code of conduct. When you sign on…
TOM CONNELL: [interrupts]…you might say look, this will be scanned by this for picking up these types of language. And if you don't want that, you've got privacy concerns, you don’t have to sign up…
AMANDA RISHWORTH: …you don’t have to sign up.
TOM CONNELL: Do you think that's important though, to have that sort of oversight?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think it is really important because what we know is early intervention is key. And this was a message Chanel Contos put forward very strongly at our roundtable, that sometimes people need to know they've crossed the line.
TOM CONNELL: Just curious as well, your area would be one where there'd be plenty of advice, I'm sure, from an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. If it was successful, how would you treat that advice? Would you sort of review it just as a minister and decide whether to act? Would you always respond in a press release or how would that interplay work?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, I'm not going to be really prescriptive. What we're dealing with now is a proposition before the Australian people to put together an advisory body that is embedded in the Constitution. This is constitutional recognition. I mean how I work already with First Nations People in the area of child protection, which is our Safe and Supported framework, our family and domestic violence framework, is that we sit down and listen to the Indigenous advisory groups that have been set up and embed that into our work. My message is very clear. I have not found that combative, I have not found that a problem. I found it really useful.
TOM CONNELL: But the whole point about a Voice is that it is harder to ignore. If you had a situation, say, where a community really wanted a cashless welfare card and that goes against your policy as a party, would you have to sort of take an extra look at it and think about it?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: What a Voice does is ensures that the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are brought forward in a considered way and that advice is presented to government. And I myself am not afraid of that advice and I very much look forward, when the Voice is successful, to engaging with the Voice in my portfolio.
TOM CONNELL: I’m going to leave it there. We're on a time limit and I'm going to stick to it so that you visit again. Minister, thank you.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Thank you.
TOM CONNELL: All right. If this story has raised any concerns for you, you can call 1800RESPECT, 24-hours a day.