Australia’s Defamation Law to Unmask Social Platform Trolls

Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is currently proposing new defamation laws. These new laws will require online platforms to disclose the identity of trolls or otherwise face defamation charges. 

More specifically, the law would make social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook liable for defamatory comments directed at its users.

According to the Prime Minister, the internet world should not be like the Wild West, where trolls, bots, bigots, and others can operate anonymously and threaten individuals. 

Under these new laws, anyone who believes they have been defamed could file a complaint with the platform. The person who published the defamatory information will be told to remove it as part of this process.

If the poster refuses or the victim decides to file a lawsuit, the site could then legally ask the accused for permission to expose their contact information.

If the platform cannot obtain the poster’s permission, the laws could then declare an “end-user information disclosure order.” This declaration would allow tech companies to unmask a user’s identity without their consent. 

If the social platform cannot (or just refuses to) identify the troll, they’ll be responsible for paying any fines. However, since the rule only applies to Australia, social media platforms won’t be obliged to expose trolls in other countries.

Moreover, this legislation will most likely not appear in Parliament until the first quarter of next year. Plus, it’s still unclear what precise information the platforms would have to collect and provide. Ginger Gorman, a cyberhate expert, believes the legislation will be insufficient in combating online abuse.

Overall, this new proposal is part of a broader attempt in Australia to update its defamation rules. In September, the High Court ruled that news sites should be responsible for the public’s defamatory comments on their social media pages. 

However, another thing to consider is that we still don’t know how serious a defamation case would have to be to justify revealing someone’s identity. For instance, a vague definition of defamation could put people’s privacy at risk.

ABOUT AUTHOR

After teaching for 8 years, Damjana found a new challenge — writing. With her academic background in the English language, doing research and writing is always fun and enjoyable for her. In her spare time, she loves binge-watching TV shows, especially crime documentaries, or spending time with her dogs.

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