Australia proposes law that would ban online anonymity to curb “defamation”
A threat to free speech.
Australia plans to introduce a law that will require social media companies to “unmask anonymous trolls,” allowing users to file defamation lawsuits.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who hopes to be reelected next year, announced the plans for the new law, arguing that it would give victims of online harassment an opportunity to identify their abusers.
The Australian PM said that the same rules that apply offline should apply online:
“Anonymous trolls are on notice, you will be named and held to account for what you say. Big tech companies are on notice, remove the shield of anonymity or be held to account for what you publish. In a free society with free speech, you can’t be a coward and attack people and expect not to be held accountable for it.”
The law will require social media companies to “establish a quick, simple, and standardized complaints system that ensures defamatory remarks can be removed and trolls identified.”
The announcement added that: “A new Federal Court order will be established that requires social media giants to disclose identifying details of trolls to victims, without consent, which will then enable a defamation case to be lodged.”
For social media companies to help identify users, they have to collect and validate users’ identities. That raises privacy concerns because social media companies have not proven very trustworthy with data.
Additionally, for some groups of people, anonymity is not something nice to have; it is a necessity to be able to tell the truth and hold government’s accountable.
By Cindy Harper