Anti-trolling Bill will do nothing: Electronic Frontiers Australia

The EFA has labelled the federal government's anti-trolling Bill as a cynical attempt to use community concerns about online abuse to improve the circumstances of a privileged few.

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Image: Asha Barbaschow/ZDNet

Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has blasted the anti-trolling legislation proposed by the federal government, saying its powers would only be available to those who are powerful and well-funded.

The anti-trolling laws, which were introduced into Parliament last month, seek to compel social media platforms into creating complaints schemes that allow people to issue complaints about potential defamatory material and receive information about the poster of that material for the purposes of initiating legal proceedings.

According to the EFA, bringing a defamation lawsuit in Australia costs between AU$20,000 to AU$80,000, which it said is prohibitively expensive for most Australians and only an option for a "privileged few".  

"Instituting defamation action is costly, and available in practice to only a powerful and well-funded few. The anti-trolling Bill will further increase the opportunity for the already-powerful to threaten those who criticise them, and provide a mechanism for extracting personal information that could, in turn, be used to apply further pressure," the EFA said.

"The anti-trolling Bill will do nothing to stop abuse, and a great deal to allow powerful individuals to bully those who attempt to criticise them."

The organisation's comments were submitted to the standing committee on legal and constitutional affairs, which has been tasked with reviewing the anti-trolling legislation.

The organisation also reiterated comments made by Australia's eSafety commissioner last month that the Bill does not deal with online trolling behaviour and is really only about defamation.

It added that the Bill's requirement for social media platforms to have the ability to identify all Australian users poses problems for Australians' democracy and risks the safety of various users.

"The very people anonymous users most fear discovering their identity are exactly the people most likely to try to use the powers under the draft to unmask their anonymous critics. Even if the complaint is subsequently found to be meritless, the consequences of being unmasked could be potentially career-ending or similarly catastrophic," the EFA wrote in its submission.

Large social media companies have shared similar concerns about the Bill with the committee, with Meta, Twitter, and YouTube all writing their own submissions to the committee disavowing the personal information collection requirements

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