Australia plans to introduce a new law that will make social media platforms reveal the identity of users who post defamatory comments. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the online world shouldn’t be a “wild west” where bigots and trolls can anonymously harm people.
The new legislation will introduce a complaints mechanism that allows users to lodge a report if they think they have been defamed, bullied, or attacked on social media. The mechanism will allow complainants to request for the content to be taken down, and if the offending user fails to do so, a court process could force the social media company to provide details of the commenter to aid the defamation case.
A draft of the legislation is expected to be released some time this week, and will be introduced to the Australian parliament next year. “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,” said Morrison.
Australia has had a contentious relationship with social media platforms in the past year. The country had earlier this year passed a law that made digital platforms like Facebook and Google pay local media outlets and publishers to link their content in news feeds or search results, with Facebook temporarily banning news content in Australia as a protest. This also comes weeks after the High Court of Australia ruled that media companies are legally liable for users’ comments on their social media pages, leading to CNN blocking Australians from their Facebook page.