Red Kangaroos? Maybe a Nuisance. Online Trolls? Very Similar

December 16, 2021

It is arguable that trolls are the worst bullies in history, because online anonymity means they do not face repercussions. Trolls’ behavior caused innumerable harm, including suicides, psychological problems, and real life bullying. Local and international governments have taken measures to prevent cyber bullying, but ABC Australia says the country continent is taking a stand: “Social Media Companies Could Be Forced To Give Out Names And Contact Details, Under New Anti-Troll Laws.”

Australia’s federal government is drafting laws that could force social media companies to reveal trolls’ identities. The new legislation aims to hold trolls accountable for their poor behavior by having social media companies collect user information and share it with courts in defamation cases. The new laws would also hold social media companies liable for hosted content instead of users and management companies. Australia’s prime minister stated:

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he wanted to close the gap between real life and discourse online. ‘The rules that exist in the real world must exist in the digital and online world,’ he said. ‘The online world shouldn’t be a wild west, where bots and bigots and trolls and others can anonymously go around and harm people and hurt people.’”

The new law would require social media companies to have a complaints process for people who feel like they have been defamed. The process would ask users to delete defamatory material. If they do not, the complaint could be escalated to where users details are shared to issue court orders so people can pursue defamation action.

One of the biggest issues facing the legislation is who is responsible for trolls’ content. The new law wants social media companies to be held culpable. The complaints system would allow the social media companies to use it as a defense in defamation cases.

The article does not discuss what is deemed “defamatory” content. Anything and everything is offensive to someone, so the complaints system will be abused. What rules will be instituted to prevent abuse of the complaints system? Who will monitor it and who will pay for it? An analogous example is YouTube system of what constitutes as “appropriate” children’s videos and how they determine flagged videos for intellectual theft as well as inappropriate content. In short, YouTube’s system is not doing well.

The social media companies should be culpable in some way, such as sharing user information when there is dangerous behavior, i.e.e suicide, any kind of abuse, child pornography, planned shooting attacks and other crimes. Sexist and abusive comments that are not an opinion, i.e., saying someone should die or is stupid for being a woman, should be monitored and users held accountable. It is a fine line, though, determining the dangers in many cases.

Whitney Grace, December 16, 2021


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