February 10, 2020














I fully support the sentiments in this motion, particularly with regard to the protection of children online and particularly given the ubiquitous nature of the internet. But I'd like to also speak today and bring the attention of this House to the dangers exposed in online chat rooms. For example, there is the online gaming platform Discord, which was used to plot and to organise the Charlottesville rally—the Unite the Right rally—in 2017. The group Stormfront—which is a well-known white supremacist group—has paid moderators who wait for young people, in particular, to come into rooms like Discord with questions. They wait for them to recruit them.


An investigation by Annabel Hennessy—a very proper and thorough investigation, I might add—for The West Australian newspaper looked at how extremist groups are targeting young people through online gaming chat rooms such as Discord. That investigation also revealed that some of the more benign online games that are non-violent and not the ones you'd expect—for example, the one with the shoot-'em-up cars and whatever; really non-violent games—are attracting young people and are being used as gateways to get to young people and recruit them for violent, extremist and terrorist organisations. One of the examples is Minecraft, which you wouldn't think is a violent game. But, for example, in one chat room for Minecraft, they've reconstructed a Holocaust site. In another one, they reconstructed the Christchurch attacks. I found a chat room where My Little Pony—the one that those gorgeous little young girls play—is being used to recruit Neo-Nazi sympathisers and violent right-wing supremacists.


Online gaming chat rooms open and expose young people to potentially millions of people around the world who are able to contact a young person, to influence them and to recruit them—for many different reasons, and we could talk about honey potting and recruiting them for child exploitation. This particular investigation by Annabel then led to an hour-long television program on Channel 7 in Perth that explored this even further. This particular investigation looked at the recruitment of people—young people, in particular—for violent right-wing and violent white supremacist groups and other forms of terrorism through the use of online chat rooms and online gaming.


I was on that one-hour show on Channel 7, and one of the things that I said to the parents who were watching was: 'If your 13-year-old, 14-year-old or 11-year-old child were spending a couple of hours every day outside of the house hanging out with a group of people that you didn't know, you'd be concerned. At the very least, as a parent, you'd ask questions.' If it were me, I'd have a tracking device on my kids; but that would be me! You would at least be very concerned. So, when a young person is in these online chat rooms and is talking to people who their parents don't know and who the young person doesn't know—the person on the other side of the line could be anybody—then parents need to be equally concerned about who their children are interacting with in the online space.


The motion before us today raising awareness of this issue provides a really good time to remind people that healthy online behaviours are just as important as other kinds of healthy behaviours. We need to raise our children in this day and age—where, as I said earlier, the internet is everywhere; it's ubiquitous—to be able to interact online in ways that protect them and in ways that ensure their safety. I commend this motion to the House, and I urge all parents to make sure they know what their kids are doing online.



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