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Social media users receive new protections under Anti-troll Bill

With the recent announcement of the Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill, online users will be granted the ability to unmask anonymous trolls.

In late 2021, the federal government proposed the Social Media (Basic Expectations and Defamation) Bill 2021. This defamation Bill was designed to protect social media users from defamation from other users when engaging on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. The defamation Bill was introduced to enable the Communications Minister to make unilateral determinations on what users are to expect when using social media. Moreover, it will permit users to make formal complaints to eSafety Commissioner about defamatory material online.

To further protect online users, the federal government recently announced the Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill following the decision of Fairfax Media Publications v Voller [2021] HCA 27. This anti-trolling Bill will create a novel framework to allow Australians to respond to defamatory content posted online. Additionally, the relevant ministers will be able to request user names, email addresses, and phone numbers from individuals on social media platforms. As such, online individuals wronged by defamation may unmask anonymous users through formal complaints about defamatory posts on the social media site or through an end-user information disclosure order from a court.

By combining the powers of these Bills, social media users who are defamed online will have the ability to not only remove the defamatory content but unmask the true identities of the perpetrators. These powers become extremely useful for political figures or internet personalities who are frequently belittled by internet trolls.

The scope of these Bills is also intended to reach every external territory and extend to acts, omissions, matters and things outside Australia. It will be interesting to see how this will apply in practice to international offenders.

For the full reading of the exposure Bill, see here.

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