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Make it safe or we'll make you do it: Australian PM tells Twitter, Meta

If the social media platforms fail to do so, they will have to pay defamation costs

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Australia | Social Media | Twitter

Bloomberg & Reuters 

Scott Morrison
Australian PM Scott Morrison

platforms will be required to reveal the identities of anonymous online trolls or face making defamation payouts under the new legislation proposed by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“The online world should not be a wild west where bots and bigots and trolls and others are anonymously going around and can harm people,” Morrison said at a televised press briefing.

People who believe they have been defamed online will be able to get court orders directing online giants such as Inc. and Meta Platforms, the company formerly known as Facebook, to identify the individuals responsible for posts, Morrison said at a press conference on Sunday. If the platforms fail to do so, they will have to pay defamation costs.

“The online world presents many great opportunities, but it comes with some real risks and we must address these,” he said. The government “is making sure people are responsible for what they say” and ensuring companies “are on the hook” for damaging material posted to their platforms, he added.

“Digital platforms — these online companies — must have proper processes to enable the takedown of this content,” Morrison said.

“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.”

Under the current law, companies are not considered to be the publishers of material posted to their platforms. If a user makes defamatory comments on a page, for instance, legal responsibility lies with the owner of the page. The bill is due to be discussed in parliament this week, and comes after the country’s highest court ruled that media companies can be held liable for comments left on their accounts by members of the public.

“That is not what can happen in the real world, and there is no case for it to be able to be happening in the digital world.”

A spokeswoman for Meta said the company is waiting to see the proposals in more detail before commenting. didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment made outside of office hours.

Australia’s eSafety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, said previously that such a policy would be difficult to execute. “It would be very challenging, I would think, for for example to re-identify or identify its 2.7 billion users,” she said last year during a Senate Estimates hearing.

In February, Meta’s responded to a separate attempt to regulate how it does business in with a show of force.

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First Published: Mon, November 29 2021. 00:49 IST
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