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Australia’s anti-trolling Bill slammed by the Electronic Frontiers Australia for achieving nothing

Last year, we brought you a report of Australia proposing a bill to unmask online trolls. However, the Electronic Frontiers Australia, EFA, has derided the move, saying the Bill will only work for the privileged few.

The anti-trolling laws had been introduced into Parliament last month and will compel social media operators to provide complaint mechanisms that will let victims get information about the trolls. This step will allow the courts to issue summons on potential defamatory cases, where the victim feels like instituting a legal claim.

According to the EFA, the trolling laws fall short because only the rich could take advantage of them. The culprit is the cost of court cases, which could be between AU$20,000 to AU$80,000. Many Australians can’t afford this.

The organization said, “Instituting defamation action is costly and available in practice to only a powerful and well-funded few. The anti-trolling Bill will further increase the opportunity for the already-powerful to threaten those who criticise them, and provide a mechanism for extracting personal information that could, in turn, be used to apply further pressure.

“The anti-trolling Bill will do nothing to stop abuse, and a great deal to allow powerful individuals to bully those who attempt to criticise them.”

The EFA’s comments were contained in a statement submitted to the standing committee on legal and constitutional affairs, overseeing the proposed legislation review.

Meanwhile, the EFA’s stand is in line with comments made by Australia’s eSafety commissioner in February. The commissioner said the laws dealt with defamation and not trolling.

The EFA also cites the risks associated with social media platforms identifying all Australian users as it could be used to target dissident voices. It also risks the safety of vulnerable users. “The very people anonymous users most fear discovering their identity are exactly the people most likely to try to use the powers under the draft to unmask their anonymous critics. Even if the complaint is subsequently found to be meritless, the consequences of being unmasked could be potentially career-ending or similarly catastrophic.”

Social media companies have also expressed similar concerns about the proposed Bill. Popular ones like Meta (the owner of Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp), Twitter, and YouTube, have submitted their views to the standing committee.

“The removal of the defence of innocent dissemination for providers of social media services exposes social media providers to an unprecedented level of defamation risk while being wholly unnecessary to achieve the Bill’s objectives,” YouTube said. “The [Bill’s] Explanatory Memorandum suggests that the current definition of ‘relevant contact details’ is intended to capture the minimum information necessary to effect substituted service. However, it is well-established that a court may make an order for substituted service to an email address.”

“It is not clear why a different liability regime should apply to a social media provider, depending on where the poster is located. Especially because defamation law is focussed on the place of publication and not the location of the author or originator of the content,” Meta wrote.

“The removal of anonymity will have a regulatory and social cost well beyond the problem the government is seeking to solve, and it needs to be balanced against legitimate opportunities for people to exchange information, ideas, and express their opinions and beliefs,” Twitter submitted.

Written by HackerVibes

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