The Australian cabinet is going to introduce a bill to combat online trolling. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement. The new law should force global social media giants to reveal the identities of anonymous online trolls.
The legislation will be announced this week in the form of a draft proposal and is expected to be submitted to parliament early next year.
The reforms make it possible to hold social media companies such as Meta, Twitter and Snapchat liable for defamatory comments users post on their platforms. Social media companies are considered publishers in the bill. They avoid liability if they provide information that would allow a victim to identify the troll and initiate libel proceedings.
The new law requires global social media platforms to set up a client system that can remove defamatory comments and identify trolls with permission. In addition, a new order from the federal court in Australia will require tech companies to disclose troll identification information to victims without consent. This allows victims to initiate defamation cases.
The Prime Minister emphasizes that the proposal does not consider everyday Australians and Australian companies with a social media page as publishers. They are therefore not liable for defamatory comments on their page.
According to Prime Minister Morrison, the rules that exist in the real world should also exist online. “Social media is all too often a palace for cowards, where anonymous people can bully, harass and ruin lives without consequences,” said the prime minister. He also says: “We would not accept these faceless attacks in school, at home, in the office or on the street. And we cannot accept it online, on our devices and in our homes.”
Morrison then turns to the anonymous trolls and big tech companies. He warns anonymous trolls that they are called by name and must be held accountable for what they say. Morrison tells tech companies: “Remove the shield of anonymity or be accountable for what you publish.”
According to the prime minister, you cannot attack people without consequences like a coward in a society with freedom of speech.
The bill could have major implications for the online privacy of many Australians. In order to comply with the new rules, social media platforms will have to collect personal data from all their Australian users. That is not necessary at the moment. The precise details of the draft proposal are not yet clear; it will be online later this week.
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