Australia may soon make life difficult for internet trolls, albeit at a high cost. According to Reuters Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled legislative proposals that, in some cases, could compel social media platforms to reveal the identities of trolls and others who make defamatory comments.
A complaint mechanism would necessitate the removal of these hostile posts from online platforms. If they do not, the court system may order a specific site to provide information about the offending poster.
Morrison compared today’s internet to a “Wild West” in which anonymous attackers could “harm people.” If it can’t happen in real life, there’s “no case” for it to happen online, according to the Prime Minister.
The proposed legislation comes just weeks after the High Court of Australia ruled that media companies could be held liable for comments on Facebook posts. Due to liability concerns, CNN restricted access to its Facebook pages in the country. The proposed legislation would go a step further by requiring specific actions if a post is deemed harmful.
The move raises concerns about privacy. Anonymity may benefit trolls, but it also protects political dissenters and other innocent critics — will Australia ensure that any identity disclosure laws are not used to discourage challenges to authority, as they are in China?
Without examples of the legislation, it’s unclear what constitutes a serious enough offense to warrant revealing one’s identity.