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Australia’s Social Media Anti-trolling Bill Raises Alarm for Big Tech

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Big Tech companies like Meta, Twitter, and YouTube have decried Australia’s proposed social media anti-trolling bill, stressing that it would put an “unprecedented level” of defamation risk on social media platforms.

The Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill 2022 seeks to remove the right of social media platforms to use the innocent dissemination defense for potentially defamatory material posted by users based in Australia, reports ZDNet.

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“The removal of the defence of innocent dissemination for providers of social media services exposes social media providers to an unprecedented level of defamation risk while being wholly unnecessary to achieve the Bill’s objectives,” according to Google-owned YouTube.

Meta (formerly Facebook) said it is not clear that social media providers “would only lose the innocent dissemination defence in instances where the potential defamatory material was posted by a user located in Australia”.

It is not clear why a different liability regime should apply to a social media provider, depending on where the poster is located. Especially because defamation law is focussed on the place of publication and not the location of the author or originator of the content, – Meta said in its submission.

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The anti-trolling Bill, if cleared, would require social media platforms to provide personal information of users who post potentially defamatory material to a complainant.

This includes the user’s name, email address, phone number, as well as country location data to determine if the user is in Australia.

The removal of anonymity will have a regulatory and social cost well beyond the problem the government is seeking to solve, and it needs to be balanced against legitimate opportunities for people to exchange information, ideas, and express their opinions and beliefs, – Twitter said in its submission.

The anti-trolling bill review is set to be completed before May.

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