The Australian government has introduced groundbreaking legislation to crack down on online abuse and bullying. Prime Minister Scott Morrison released legislation on social media and anti-trolling on Sunday, announcing that it would be introduced to parliament. Social media companies would be considered publishers under the legislation and could be held liable for defamatory comments posted on their platforms.
According to the government, they may avoid liability if they provide information that enables a victim to identify and sue the troll. Morrison stated that the proposed laws were aimed at enforcing consistent rules both online and offline.
“The rules that exist in the real world must exist in the digital and online world,” he told reporters. “The online world shouldn’t be a wild west where bots and bigots and trolls and others can just anonymously go around and harm people and hurt people, harass them and bully them and sledge them.”
If passed by Parliament, the new law would enable victims of defamatory online comments to resolve disputes through a new social media platform’s complaints process, which would require the removal of the remarks and identification of the trolls.
If the platform does not comply, the complainant may request the poster’s personal information. If those details are withheld, a court order can be obtained compelling their disclosure, thereby opening the door to defamation proceedings.
Morrison stated that the government would back initial test cases in order to establish a legal precedent. “We will back them in the courts and we will take them on. We will take them on in the parliament, and we will take them on in the courts because I want to ensure our kids are safe,” he said.