Review flagged for Tas comment law

Tasmanian Greens Party Leader Nick McKim and Liberal Leader of the Opposition Will Hodgman both called for a review on laws requiring people to disclose personal information when they comment online about elections.

update Tasmanian Greens Party Leader Nick McKim and Liberal Leader of the Opposition Will Hodgman both called for a review on laws requiring people to disclose personal information when they comment online about elections.

Section 191 of the state's 2004 Electoral Law currently requires all election material posted on the internet to be accompanied by a name and address. Consumer action group Digital Tasmania last week condemned the Tasmanian regulations in a statement backed by Electronic Frontiers Australia, Civil Liberties Australia and the Australian Privacy Foundation.

Tasmanian Greens Party Leader Nick McKim said today at an event hosted by the Australian Computer Society in Hobart that he would like the law to be reviewed, but not until after the coming election.

"I can assure you that we did not foresee things like Facebook and Twitter back then," McKim said, referring to 2004, when the law was created. "And I believe that given how fast these technologies and particularly social networking are moving, I think it's well beyond time that the act is reviewed."

Liberal Opposition Leader Hodgman agreed. "We really need to address this as soon as possible," he said, labelling the laws as "unpractical, unreasonable and in many respects undesirable".

Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett was not able to respond to questions on the issue as he had left the forum early to attend an appointment. However, earlier in the day on ABC Radio the Premier said he would also welcome a review.

"I believe our laws do need to be revamped but we also need to get the balance right between responsible public comment — non-defamatory public comment for example — and freedom of speech," Bartlett said.

He suggested pushing the responsibility of online comment to publishers.

"So if you go to a website and write something terrible about Tim Cox [the radio presenter] if the publisher of the website chooses to accept your comment and put it up [then] they need to have more responsibility about what the ramifications of that are."

The Mercury, one of Tasmania's newspapers which is attempting to abide by the law, has started publishing online comments on election stories only if a "real" name and suburb is attached.

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