Acknowledging that fact that social media platforms are filled with anonymous abuse, the Australia government is set to pursue those making potentially defamatory claims. It also wants to make the social media companies more responsible for what’s published on their platforms.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new defamation laws would force online platforms to reveal the identities of trolls, or else pay the price of defamation. “The online world should not be a wild west where bots and bigots and trolls and others are anonymously going around and can harm people,” he said during a press conference. “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.”
Morrison said if social media companies opt to leave Australia, it would be an admission that they have no interest in making the online world safe. “They have made this online world, and the rules that exist in the real world should exist in the world that they have created.” The government says if companies run a complaints policy like the one they have spelled out, they can use that as a defense in defamation cases.
If the Australian government goes ahead with its plans, social media companies would be asked to require users, including their existing users, to provide their names, email addresses and phone numbers. This rule is already in place as platforms need this information for opening accounts. What the laws could actually mean is that if a person wants to hold an account in Australia, they won’t have an option. But the social media account can still be anonymous in the public sense.
Social media companies would be required to set up a complaints process. This simply means that a complaint can be made with a request to pull down the post, and or reveal the identity and contact details of the user. The company would ask the account which made the post to pull it down, and if they are happy for their identity and contact details to be passed on. If the user doesn’t want to delete the post or pull it down, and doesn’t want their details passed on, the person making the complaint can get a court order forcing the company to hand over their name and contact details. This way, defamation proceedings can be launched.