Sunday, 28 Nov, 2021


'Online abusers must be held responsible'

Social media a coward’s palace: Australian PM

Technology Desk |
Update: 2021-10-07 19:09:33
Social media a coward’s palace: Australian PM [photo collected]

  • Australian PM says he is planning further action to deal with anonymous abuse online
  • He also says social media companies should have to identify anonymous trolls or be held accountable

Australian Prime Minister has called online trolls "cowards" and indicated the government will look at ways to ensure people are held responsible for their actions.

Scott Morrison on Thursday described social media as a "coward's palace" that allowed people to write foul and offensive comments with no repercussions.

"Cowards who go anonymously onto social media and vilify people and harass them and bully them, and engage in defamatory statements, they need to be responsible for what they're saying," he said.

"I can't come out here and you can't come here and start doing things like that … we're responsible for the things we say and do."

His comments came after Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said it was "essential" the government pushed tech companies to crack down on misinformation.

"We now have companies that make billions of dollars … but they don't own responsibility for what is happening on their platforms," he told RN Breakfast.

Mr Joyce's daughter has been the subject of "malicious rumours" online, which the Nationals leader says is every parent's worst nightmare.

"We put all these billions of dollars into mental health and one of the greatest mechanisms of the destruction of young people's mental health is sitting on the kitchen table or in the corner of the room," he said.

"If you go to any school and talk to any parent, this is one of the greatest fears: the destruction of their children by innuendo, by slur."

'Expect more' on holding tech giants accountable
Mr Morrison said he wanted to add his voice to what Mr Joyce had said and urged tech giants to take more responsibility for what was published on their sites.

"[The] lack of accountability that sits around it is just not on," he said.

"You can expect us to be leaning further into this."

Mr Joyce urged his colleagues to consider what could be done to fix the problem in a timely manner.

"There's a congressional inquiry in the United States looking into this," he said.

"I think Australia should be looking into this.

"The idea that someone can have a pseudonym on Twitter and say the most outrageous things and we in 2021 sit back and say that is fair enough, that has got to stop."

PM says platforms should identify anonymous accounts or be held responsible
One way governments at a state and federal level could tackle online trolls is through defamation action, which the Prime Minister alluded to. 

"They [anonymous online trolls] should have to identify who they are," he said.

"And the companies? If they're not going to say who they are, well, they're not a platform any more — they're a publisher."

"And you know what the implications of that means in terms of those issues."

Mr Morrison's comment referred to last month's High Court ruling that media organisations could be liable for defamatory comments left by members of the public on posts to their stories.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher recently suggested Australia's defamation laws needed to be reformed to ensure social media giants faced the same rules as traditional media.

Defamation laws are mainly the responsibility of state and territory governments, and attorneys-general are considering consistent reforms across the country.


BDST: 1910 HRS, OCT 07, 2021

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