Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia is proposing new defamation legislation that will require web sites to identify the identity of trolls or face defamation charges. The legislation, according to ABC News Australia, would make social media firms like Facebook and Twitter liable for defamatory statements made against individuals.
Platforms will also be required to set up a complaint procedure for anyone who believe they have been defamed. The individual who uploaded the possibly defamatory information will be requested to remove it as part of this procedure. If they decline, or if the victim wishes to pursue legal action, the platform may lawfully request permission from the poster to divulge their contact information.
What if the platform is unable to obtain the consent of the poster? The legislation would create a “end-user information disclosure order,” allowing internet companies to expose a user’s identify without their consent. If the platforms are unable to identify the troll for whatever reason — or just refuse — the corporation will be held liable for the troll’s defamatory remarks. Because the rule only applies to Australia, it appears that social media platforms would not be required to identify trolls in other countries.
During a news conference, Morrison stated, “The internet world should not be a wild west where bots, racists, trolls, and others are anonymously wandering about and may injure individuals.” “That is not something that can happen in the actual world, and there is no reason why it should be possible in the digital world.”
A draft of the “anti-troll” law is anticipated this week, according to ABC News Australia, and it is unlikely to reach Parliament until the beginning of next year. It’s yet unclear what precise information the platforms would be required to gather and provide. Worse, we still don’t know how serious a case of defamation would have to be in order to justify disclosing someone’s identify. A broad definition of defamation might put people’s privacy at risk.
The proposed legislation is part of a bigger attempt in Australia to update its defamation rules. The High Court of Australia declared in September that news organizations are “publishers” of defamatory remarks posted by the public on their social media accounts and should be held accountable. As a result, news organizations such as CNN have blocked Australians from accessing their Facebook pages entirely. The verdict, however, might have ramifications for those who administer social media accounts, since it suggests that they can be held liable for any defamatory statements made on their pages.