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Social Media Platforms Need Complaints Systems To Avoid Defamation Under Australia’s Anti-Troll Bill

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The Federal Ministry of the Attorney General has given a first look at Australia’s anti-trolling social media legislation, which aims to force social media platforms to disclose users’ personal information if they make potentially defamatory comments.

Under the law, entitled the Social media bill 2021 (anti-trolling), tech companies would be classified as the editors of any comments posted on a social media platform if they are posted on a page managed by an Australian, according to an Australian. exposure draft of the bill. The technology companies mentioned in the bill, and which fall under its purview, are those that operate social media platforms with more than 250,000 Australian accounts.

With the bill seeking to formally classify tech companies as publishers of any comments made on their social media platforms in Australia, those companies could potentially face defamation for those comments.

To avoid defamation under the bill, if it were to become law, the federal government wants to make it mandatory for social media platforms to set up a complaints system that allows victims of defamatory comments both to file a complaint and to request the personal information of the creator of these comments.

Another feature of this proposed complaints system is that if a complaint is made, social media platforms must notify the accused commenter that they are the subject of a complaint within 72 hours of filing. If the accused commentator gives consent for their personal information to be provided, then social media platforms must provide that information to complainants and assist them with possible defamation lawsuits.

This personal information would include contact details such as name, email address, phone number as well as country location data to determine if the user is in Australia.

While social media platforms reasonably believe that the defamation complaint or claim is not genuinely related to the potential initiation of a defamation lawsuit, however, they would not be required to provide this information to the complainant, according to the Bill’s exposure draft.

In addition to requiring social media platforms to allow people to file comment complaints, the bill also seeks to give Australian courts the ability to issue end-user information disclosure orders requiring platforms to disclose this personal information of a commentator who may have defamed another person.

These orders would be used primarily in situations where the commentator does not give consent for their personal information to be shared and where the court finds that there are reasonable grounds that the commentator may have defamed the complainant.

Even if there are reasonable grounds, the bill provides that the courts could still refuse to make an order if the disclosure of personal information is likely to pose a risk to the safety of a stakeholder.

Outside of those exceptions, failure to provide this personal information to alleged victims – whether as part of a complaints program or by complying with a court order – would make social media platforms liable to defamation, according to the exposure draft.

The bill also seeks to give the federal attorney general the power to intervene in any legal action for defamation arising from a process for dealing with complaints or orders for the disclosure of end-user information.

The bill also seeks to give the federal attorney general the power to intervene in any legal action for defamation arising from a process for dealing with complaints or orders for the disclosure of end-user information. Of particular note in this set of powers is that the bill would allow the Attorney General to fund prosecutions for potential victims of defamatory comments if it settles an uncertain area or question of law or affects the rights of an individual. part of the public who are socially or economically disadvantaged.

The proposed laws were announced over the weekend by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who called on tech companies to be held accountable for content that resides on their social media platforms.

“Digital platforms, these online companies, need to have proper processes in place to allow removal of this content. There has to be a simple, quick and quick way for people to raise these issues with these platforms and remove them, ”the Prime Minister of Australia said. Scott Morrison said Sunday afternoon.

The public release of the new bill’s exposure draft comes hours after the federal government announced it would begin a parliamentary inquiry into big tech companies and the “toxic material” on their online platforms .

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, who announced the investigation alongside Morrison, said the investigation was fueled by disclosures from a Facebook whistleblower in a similar investigation currently underway in the United States. United.

“This survey will give organizations and individuals the opportunity to voice their concerns and big technologies to report for their own conduct,” said Fletcher.

The crackdown on big tech has been at the heart of Morrison’s agenda so far, with the PM saying two months ago that social media platforms are a “coward’s palace” and would be considered. like editors if they didn’t want to identify users who post wrongdoing and offensive content.

Social media has become a palace of cowards where people can just go on, not say who they are, destroy people’s lives and say the grossest and most offensive things to people, and do so with impunity,” he said. Morrison said at the time.

In March, the federal government also passed the Online Security Act which gave Australia’s Electronic Security Commissioner increased powers to order the removal of violent and heinous content from online platforms.

Updated at 4:25 p.m. AEST, December 1, 2021: added more details from the exposure draft.

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