Australia’s Anti-Troll Legislation Would Allow Social Media Users Access to Names and Contact Info

Image: Félix Besombes via Unsplash

In an effort to curb online bullying, defamation, and cyberhate, the Australian government is planning to introduce some of the world’s most stringent “anti-troll” legislation.

Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, announced Sunday he will introduce legislation to parliament this week forcing social media companies to reveal the identities of anonymous trolling accounts while creating policies that would make it easier to sue people for defamation.

“The rules that exist in the real world must exist in the digital and online world,” said Morrison. “The online world shouldn’t be a wild west, where bots and bigots and trolls and others can anonymously go around and harm people and hurt people.”

 
 

Morrison added: “That is not Australia. That is not what can happen in the real world, and there is no case for it to be able to be happening in the digital world.”

Under the proposed legislation, social media companies would be required to collect the details of users, and give courts the power to force companies to hand over the identities of users to aid defamation cases.

Social media companies would additionally be legally liable for the content they publish from users, removing liability from individuals and companies that manage pages.

 
 

It is unclear as yet exactly what personal data would be collected such as a phone number, email address, and a user’s contact name.

“The online world shouldn’t be a wild west, where bots and bigots and trolls and others can anonymously go around and harm people and hurt people.”

Morrison said the government will look for test cases to backup then new laws and will offer assistance to people who are financially unable to fight back.

“So if the digital companies or others think they’re only just going to have to be dealing with perhaps someone of little means seeking to pursue this, then we will look for those cases. We will back them in the courts and we will take them on.”

If the legislation passes, social media companies will be required to allow for a complaint process, where people can ask for the removal of content they feel is defamatory towards them.

If the post is not removed by the platform, the user can request the personal details of the person who posted the content. If those are not released then a court order can be given to force the company to release them.

“You should not be able to use the cloak of online anonymity to spread your vile defamatory comments,” said Attorney-General Michaelia Cash. “This legislation is going to empower Australians to unmask these trolls.”

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