Australia will introduce legislation requiring social media companies to reveal anonymous users who post defamatory comments

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Australia will introduce legislation requiring social media companies to reveal anonymous users who post defamatory comments
© Provided by Business Insider Lincoln Beddoe/iStock/Getty Images Plus

  • Australian PM Scott Morrison announced social media anti-trolling legislation on Sunday.
  • The legislation places the onus of moderating defamatory content on social media companies.
  • Under the law, victims will be able to obtain the information of anonymous trolls who defame them.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced social media anti-trolling legislation on Sunday that would require digital media platforms to provide information on anonymous users who post defamatory content on their platforms.

The announcement follows a September ruling by Australia’s highest court that found publishers can be held liable for public comments in online forums, the Associated Press reported.

Under the law, digital media companies like Twitter and Facebook will be deemed a “publisher,” making them responsible for moderating defamatory material on their platforms. Morrison said the companies would also be required to take down the “digital shield” of protections that they currently extend to anonymous trolls online, as well as provide their user information.

He added that the government will look for test cases that can reinforce the law so that digital media companies and anonymous users can be held accountable in Parliament and the court system.

“Free speech is not being allowed to cowardly hide in your basement and sledge and slur and harass people anonymously, and seek to destroy their lives,” Morrison said. “That’s not freedom, that’s cowardice, and there’s no place for that in this country. In this country, we value freedom of speech, and freedom of speech means you take responsibility for what you say.”

Morrison said that in order to protect the country’s citizens, especially women and children who are victims of online harassment, the companies must have processes in place to take quickly and effectively take down defamatory content.

A 2018 Amnesty International survey of online abuse against Australian women found that three in 10 respondents had experienced online abuse or harassment and nearly half of those who answered yes were aged 18 to 24. Additionally, 37% of women who had experienced online abuse or harassment said that on at least one occasion, the incidents made them fear for their physical safety.

“You should not be able to use the cloak of online anonymity to spread your vile, defamatory comments,” Australian Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said during a press conference.

Cash noted that the legislation will also require social media companies to create a system to streamline the processing of user complaints. Once a complaint is filed, the company must provide victims with information about the anonymous user so that they can pursue legal action against them, Cash said.

Defamation victims will also be able to apply for an end-user disclosure order from the Federal Court of Australia, which would legally require digital media companies to provide the victim with the troll’s details, notify the troll that someone has filed a complaint against them, and ask them to take the defamatory content down, according to Cash.

“In many cases, this will actually be the end of the matter. The online troll will take down the material and the complainant will be satisfied,” Cash said during a press conference.

Insider has reached out to Facebook and Twitter for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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