Australia plans laws to make social networks identify trolls

Privacy could take a hit in the country.

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Australia could soon make life difficult for internet trolls — if at a significant cost. Reuters reports Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled plans for legislation that, in some cases, could force social networks to reveal the identities of trolls and others making defamatory comments. A complaint mechanism would require online platforms to take these hostile posts down. If they don't, the court system could order a given site to provide details of the offending poster.

Morrison likened the current internet to a "Wild West" where anonymous attackers could "harm people." If that can't happen in real life, there's "no case" for it happening online, the Prime Minister said.

The proposed laws come weeks after Australia's High Court ruled media companies could be held liable for comments on Facebook posts. CNN limited access to its Facebook pages in the country over those liability concerns. The intended legislation would take this a step further by mandating certain actions if a post is deemed harmful.

The move raises privacy questions. Anonymity might help trolls, but it also protects political dissenters and other innocuous critics — will Australia make sure any identity disclosure laws aren't used to discourage challenges to authority, as they are in China? And without examples of the legislation, it's unclear just what would constitute an offense serious enough to warrant revealing an identity.