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Australia to introduce new laws to force media platforms to unmask online trolls

November 28, 2021
Australia will introduce legislation to make social media giants provide details of users who post defamatory comments Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.
Australia will introduce legislation to make social media giants provide details of users who post defamatory comments Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.

MELBOURNE — Australia will introduce legislation to make social media giants provide details of users who post defamatory comments, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday, according to Reuters.

The government has been looking at the extent of the responsibility of platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, for defamatory material published on their sites and comes after the country's highest court ruled that publishers could be held liable for public comments on online forums.

The ruling caused some news companies like CNN to deny Australians access to their Facebook pages.

"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," Morrison said at a televised press briefing.

"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."

The new legislation will introduce a complaints mechanism, so that if somebody thinks they are being defamed, bullied or attacked on social media, they will be able to require the platform to take the material down.

If the content is not withdrawn, a court process could force a social media platform to provide details of the commenter.

"Digital platforms — these online companies — must have proper processes to enable the takedown of this content," Morrison said.

"They have created the space and they need to make it safe, and if they won't, we will make them (through) laws such as this."

The legislation will define social media services as the publisher of the comments, allowing them to be the target of a defamation claim in an Australian court.

If a claim goes to court, a social media platform will also be required to "unmask" a troll by providing an email address, a mobile phone number or relevant personal detail.

Morrison said an important part of free speech in Australia was being held responsible for what a person says.

"In a free society such as Australia where we value our free speech, it is only free when that is balanced with the responsibility for what you say," Morrison said.

"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."

The prime minister said the bill will go out for consultation and he expects to receive strong support from the Parliament.

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said if the legislation passes, online trolls would not be allowed to hide behind anonymous accounts.

"We will also put in place another mechanism for people who are subject to defamatory comments. They will be able to apply to the Federal Court of Australia for an end user discloser order," Cash said.

"In other words, they will be able to go to the Federal Court and say, 'I believe I have been defamed, and I am unable to take this action any further because this person is at this point in time anonymous'.

"The court will, therefore, be able to issue to the social media and order that they provide the complainants with the details to unmask the troll so that the complainant is able to take action against them." — Agencies


November 28, 2021
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