The Government’s Idea To Remove Anonymity Won’t Stop Online Abuse

The Government’s Idea To Remove Anonymity Won’t Stop Online Abuse
A proposal to force Australians to identify themselves when they sign up for a social media account. (Images: Getty Images)

A proposal to force Australians to submit identification to use social media platforms in order to curtail trolling and abuse is being considered by the federal government.

Late last week, the Parliamentary House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs published a report on its inquiry into family, domestic and violence.

One of the committee’s recommendations called for social media platforms verifying their users to stop online abuse.

“In order to open or maintain an existing social media account, customers should be required by law to identify themselves to a platform using 100 points of identification, in the same way as a person must provide identification for a mobile phone account, or to buy a mobile SIM card,” the report reads.

The report also called for social media to provide those details to police, the eSafety Commissioner or courts.

The proposal to remove anonymity online gets floated every couple of years as a panacea to all of the internet’s failings.

It’s so common, as Australian researcher Emily van der Nagel points out, that it has a name: the white man’s gambit, because it’s often white males (who don’t face the same online abuse as other marginalised groups) who suggest it as a solution.

Digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jillian York criticised the idea a decade ago, arguing that anonymity actually protects against abuse and trolling.

“There are myriad reasons why individuals may wish to use a name other than the one they were born with. They may be concerned about threats to their lives or livelihoods, or they may risk political or economic retribution. They may wish to prevent discrimination or they may use a name that’s easier to pronounce or spell in a given culture,” she wrote.

In short: anyone who thinks tying someone’s real name to their online persona will cure all of the online world’s ills needs only to look at a Facebook comment section to change their mind.