Monday, 29 November 2021 09:54

Govt promises new rules to force online firms to unmask trolls Featured

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Govt promises new rules to force online firms to unmask trolls Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

The Federal Government will put in place new rules to force technology companies to identify anonymous online trolls, or be exposed to the risk of defamation payouts.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a media conference on Sunday that social media companies would be considered as publishers under the reforms.

Under the rules, social media platforms will have to set up a complaints system so that defamatory comments could be taken down, and trolls identified with consent.

There would also be new Federal Court orders that make it mandatory for the companies to provided details of trolls to victims who would then be able to sue them for defamation.

Additionally, the government has pledged reforms that will remove the liability from organisations who are non-publisher and have social media sites for comments on their sites.

In September, the High Court ruled that owners of Facebook pages were responsible for any comments posted by third parties in response to content placed by the owner.

The ruling was made in a case involving former Northern Territory youth detainee Dylan Voller, with the comments in question having been posted below news reports from numerous outlets on their Facebook pages. The new rule would reverse this onus.

“Social media can too often be a cowards’ palace, where the anonymous can bully, harass and ruin lives without consequence,” Morrison said.

“We would not accept these faceless attacks in a school, at home, in the office, or on the street. And we must not stand for it online, on our devices and in our homes.

“We cannot allow social media platforms to provide a shield for anonymous trolls to destroy reputations and lives. We cannot allow social media platforms to take no responsibility for the content on their platforms. They cannot enable it, disseminate it, and wash their hands of it. This has to stop.

“These will be some of the strongest powers to tackle online trolls in the world.

“Anonymous trolls are on notice, you will be named and held to account for what you say. Big tech companies are on notice, remove the shield of anonymity or be held to account for what you publish.

“In a free society with free speech, you can't be a coward and attack people and expect not to be held accountable for it.”

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, and Twitter, three platforms that could be affected by these rules, are yet to make any public comment about them. 

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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