Twitter concerned Australia's anti-trolling Bill leaves minority communities vulnerable

Twitter joins Meta in warning the federal government that the anti-trolling Bill could have adverse effects on privacy.

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Twitter has joined other social media companies to call out Australia's anti-trolling laws as an extreme risk to the privacy of Australians, particularly minority communities.

Kara Hinesley, Twitter Australia's director for public policy, appeared before a Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee hearing on Tuesday afternoon to speak about its privacy concerns regarding the federal government's anti-trolling Bill.

The Bill, currently before Parliament, seeks to remove the liability held by owners of social media pages for any defamatory material posted on those pages. If passed, it would also create the requirement for social media companies to identify people if they post potentially defamatory material.

"Under this bill, online platforms choose between facing liability in court or turning over private sensitive information about users without a legal determination as to whether the content is in fact defamatory under the law," Hinesley said.

Hinesley added the requirement to identify people, even those using anonymous accounts, would adversely affect minority communities.

"We've seen a number of people both from a whistleblower space to even domestic violence situations, people that identify within the LGBTQIA community, utilising anonymous or synonymous accounts as ways and basically entry points into conversations about important matters," Hinesley said.

"We do think that there are potential safety concerns which would be the opposite result of the stated intention of the Bill."

Twitter senior public policy director Kathleen Reen, meanwhile, said the anti-trolling Bill would not help social media companies protect users and that the platform was unsure whether it could meet the Bill's information collection requirements.

Liberal Senator and committee chair Sarah Henderson was not convinced by Twitter's argument, however, with the Senator referring to her own ongoing dispute with Twitter as evidence that the anti-trolling legislation is required.

"Obviously, I've experienced this personally, where a police search warrant issued by Victorian Police has been met with a brick wall from Twitter," Senator Henderson said.

"And you're now saying that Twitter is re-examining the way the data was held, and it tends to make data held offshore available under circumstances where an end-user disclosure order is issued against Twitter, requiring them to hand over identifying information."

Twitter's concerns echoed those of Meta, who told the committee last Thursday it would be extremely difficult, even for online companies as large as Meta, to collate content to meet the Bill's requirements.

"It might not actually be possible to maintain a constantly updated contact list of both email and phone numbers of all Australians and all people who might be visiting Australia," said Mia Garlick, Meta APAC policy director.

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