Austrian Government Wants To Outlaw Online Anonymity

from the it's-just-going-to-hurt-those-most-in-need-of-protection dept

In response to who knows what — maybe just a desire to make it easier for the government to track/investigate internet users — the Austrian government wants to eliminate online anonymity in its country by 2020. The proposed law says pseudonyms are still allowed, but they’ll be linked to accounts that require users to provide site operators with a ton of personal information.

Those in Austria wishing to post a comment on the internet in the future will no longer be able to do so anonymously. According to the Government’s new draft law on “Diligence and Responsibility on the Web,” users want to provide their first name, last name and address to platform operators. In the event of an investigation, operators would have to provide information to government agencies or, in some cases, to private persons in cases of insult or defamation.

How this will be accomplished is anyone’s guess. One theory is this will rely on two-factor authentication linking users’ accounts to their phones. In Austria, the purchase of a phone or SIM card requires the purchaser to turn all of this information over to the retailer. More security but less privacy, I guess.

This law would apply to any site that has more than 100,000 registered users or exceeds 500,000 euros in annual revenue. Good thing there’s that much revenue involved, considering violators could be hit with 500,000 euro fines, which rise to one million if there are repeated violations.

The deployment and enforcement logistics are only part of the problem. The other hurdle the proposal faces is being upheld by the European Commission, which may take a dim view of a law that does so little to protect the privacy of internet users.

Tech law expert Lukas Feiler from the Baker McKenzie law firm believes that the draft law is a violation of the EU e-commerce directive. Feiler recently told STANDARD that service providers on the web only have to the laws of the country in which they are located. As such, Austria may not impose laws that are stricter than those in an operator’s country of origin.

The law also imposes more costs on site operators, requiring sites to staff a liaison position — one that must be receptive to government requests 24/7. This includes sites not located in Austria but which have enough registered users — or earn enough revenue from Austrian users — to be subject to the law’s coverage. There likely will have to be additional compliance personnel hired to ensure the law is being followed and vet info provided by users registering for accounts.

And to what end? The proposal’s backers suggest the single beneficiary of this proposed law will be the Austrian government, which will find it much easier to unmask internet users for purposes of law enforcement. The public receives no benefit, unless making it easier to engage in defamation lawsuits can be considered a net benefit for the public at large.

Opponents of the law see it for what it is: an attack on the free and open exchange of ideas under the protection of anonymity. This law will hit the most marginalized members of Austria hardest and make it prohibitively expensive for local sites to continue to do business in the country. There’s no societal good being proposed here, just a way to give the government a bit more control of the greatest communication tool ever invented.

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Comments on “Austrian Government Wants To Outlaw Online Anonymity”

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93 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

This law would apply to any site that has more than 100,000 registered users or exceeds 500,000 euros in annual revenue. Good thing there’s that much revenue involved, considering violators could be hit with 500,000 euro fines, which rise to one million if there are repeated violations.

Is it the sites that could be hit with fines for allowing anonymous posts or the posters themselves? I presume it’s the former since the EU has declared war on the internet rather than going after the actual persons committing crimes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Is it the sites that could be hit with fines for allowing anonymous posts or the posters themselves? I presume it’s the former since the EU has declared war on the internet rather than going after the actual persons committing crimes.

The internet is the weapon these actual persons use.

Sweeney-Glow Sweet Chariots - Custom Cars says:

It's a logical reaction to just unnecessary vileness like here.

First, note the focus tucked away up there:

in cases of insult or defamation.

So long as you "woke" SJW NPCs keep casting "conservatives" as outright Nazis — as was done in Techdirt headline just this week — instead of merely ordinary people reluctant to fully go along with your pushed agenda, then this is almost necessary. You kids won’t tolerate any disagreement here, won’t stay on topic, but jump to so vile of ad hom as can think off, with intent to run off the few reasonable who drop in.

Your "free speech" doesn’t have to be vile. You wouldn’t speak so in person. You wouldn’t tolerate a bar that enforces the orthodoxy of here. The Internet is not separate, doesn’t need relaxing of rules.

So this is reasonable reaction from reasonable people.

YOU are the problem and the cause of this. — Now you’ll prove it with ad hom and censoring.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's a logical reaction to just unnecessary vileness like he

YOU are the problem and the cause of this.

Wrong, it is people with thin skins, like you, who are the cause of this, the rest of us are capable of shrugging off insults, and allowing other people to have different political views.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

At this point I’d say it’s fair to dismiss as a hypocrite anyone who argues against anonymity while posting anonymously.

If they think that others shouldn’t be allowed to speak anonymously then they should have no problem attaching their real name to anything they post, and refusal to do so should be treated as justification to just ignore and/or dismiss anything they said as grossly hypocritical and/or dishonest.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It's a logical reaction to just unnecessary vileness

This is just a check and balance against that.

We don’t have to adapt to you for you to be here. You have to adapt to us. If you cannot do that, then get off of the internet.

If you cannot deal with an everyday occurrence of someone calling you names, or claiming BS about you, then you have no place here. GTFO.

If others take what is written on the net seriously, then point them to 4chan and let nature take it’s course. They’ll either never trust a computer screen again, or become so fucked up that they gain the title of "delusional child."

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: It's a logical reaction to just unnecessary vileness like he

So long as you "woke" SJW NPCs keep casting "conservatives" as outright Nazis — as was done in Techdirt headline just this week — instead of merely ordinary people reluctant to fully go along with your pushed agenda, then this is almost necessary.

No headline said that conservatives were nazis.

Don’t lie.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It's a logical reaction to just unnecessary vileness

The only Fascists I see is the left wing party. it’s their way and shut the F up!!! Their right, you’re wrong. You can’t speak!!! The ones undermining Democratic values are from the left along with Mainstream media flat out posting lots of lies.

If you’re not on the left, you’re a radical Republican right-wing Nazi. So That’s at least half if not more of the U.S. population. Even JFK would be thrown right into that group.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "Fascism is the way of the left wing."

Um, no.

Though it’s really easy to get caught up in monolithic classification, such as sorting people into left and right and deciding that all people of one of those agree with the same principles.

I commonly point out that some of our more prevalent identities (feminist, conservative, Christian, Californian, atheist, capitalist, etc.) are such diverse groups that it’s dangerous to universally attribute to them any notion, even ones that are axiomatic or seem to be by definition. Not all Californians live in California.

This refers, by the way, to those who identify themselves according to these labels. Generally it’s not a good idea to label others and presume their belief systems based on one facet. Human beings are a complicated lot.

And if you want to accuse someone of fascism (or anything else similarly hyperbolic), be specific as to whom, and what they did. That way we can better assess whether we agree with you, than presume as a matter of self defense you’re a hysterical crackpot and we should ignore you.

For instance, recently there’s been news that the DHS has been considering sending child detainees from the border to be held long term at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. I don’t know from who this specific idea came, whether from Steve Miller or Trump himself, but that seems like a cruel thing to do. Sending children to an extrajudicial detention camp is pitiless even before we regard whether they are militant or dangerous.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "Fascism is the way of the left wing."

Sending children to an extrajudicial detention camp is pitiless even before we regard whether they are militant or dangerous.

Hey, the next generation of people who hate the USG with a burning passion and can be used to justify fearmongering about how those in authority need even more power in order to ‘protect the american public’ isn’t going to create itself, and locking them up in an isolated prison is a hell of a lot cheaper than dropping bombs on them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It's a logical reaction to just unnecessary vileness lik

Of course the difference between nazis and fascists is like the difference between pedophiles and epiibophiles. Technically in both cases they are two distinct terms but despised enough that most people don’t care about the distinction and consider them synonomous as they refer to type of vile people who do essentially the same thing. Most wouldn’t object to referring to a knife murderer as both a slasher and a stabber regardless of the precise circumstances.

Which brings to mind a not untrue joke that the two biggest group who care about the label are practitioners and academics who are trying to understand precisely what is wrong with them aside from the obvious and are cataloging the gory details.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: It's a logical reaction to just unnecessary vileness like he

"SJW NPCs keep casting "conservatives" as outright Nazis — as was done in Techdirt headline just this wee"

First off, the incel trend of casting people who disagree with them as not being human is kinda disturbing. It’s only so long before you people start actually killing people because they have different views, as you prove time and time again.

Anyway, the TD headline said no such thing. It did note that SOME conservatives were being blocked because they were agreeing with neo-Nazis. It did not say that all of them were. If that offends you, get rid of the Nazi fucks from within your ranks rather than complain that other people are correctly identifying them.

"Your "free speech" doesn’t have to be vile."

Actually, the only free speech that really needs defending is the "vile" stuff. Bland, inoffensive speech does not need defending, only the stuff that other people would wish to silence.

However, non-government entities do not have to put up with your crap.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: It's a logical reaction to just unnecessary vileness lik

Ah, Paul…! While right-wingery and conservatism often go hand-in-hand, neo-nazism is a bit too much for most of them.

The problem here is that neo-nazis have successfully cast themselves as conservatives when "Right wing nutjob" is a more appropriate description. I hate being lumped with these people so can you please describe them as nutjobs or something? Ta.

Agreed on every other point.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It's a logical reaction to just unnecessary vileness

"While right-wingery and conservatism often go hand-in-hand, neo-nazism is a bit too much for most of them."

Most of them… but certainly not all. I appreciate that the right/left divide oversimplifies things somewhat and most sane moderates would not like to be lumped in with extremists no matter which part of the spectrum they associate with. However, when you have literal neo-Nazis running for office under the banners of mainstream conservative political parties, it becomes hard to ignore the association.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Your "free speech" doesn’t have to be vile.

That’s true, but sometimes some "adult words" are needed to drive a point across to willfully obtuse assholes.

You wouldn’t speak so in person.

I surely the fuck would.

You wouldn’t tolerate a bar that enforces the orthodoxy of here.

You don’t get out much, do you?

The Internet is not separate, doesn’t need relaxing of rules.

Nor does it need ADDITIONAL rules, either. I can tell someone that they are a fucking idiot and their notions are as dumb as a box of rocks at a bar, on the sidewalk or in a mall without giving anyone my name, address or any other personal information.

Once again, you are claiming that because the internet isn’t different than real life it needs special rules and laws. How does that make any sense?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Promoting commerce in other countries

"In Austria, the purchase of a phone or SIM card requires the purchaser to turn all of this information over to the retailer. "

I bet that there are many Austrians walking around with cellphones purchased in bordering countries. What a way to move business away from your constituents.

ECA (profile) says:

Comment on USA suggesting this....

From a congress, that loves to HIDE who is voting for what..

Love’d my monikor on FB, until they DEMANDED I use my own name.. it was NotEd..not ed(noted).. funny part is that my OLd school friends found me under that name..

Now for a special comment..
DO we really care if an A-hole is an A-hole, or just a idiot??
Knowing who they are, WHO CARES??
If someone spouts the truth about you, it would nave been WISE to let everyone know in the FIRST PLACE.

Big #1..
we are all idiot, we were all Young, we all are stupid, we were all young, We dont know everything, and a GREAt person listens MORE then he speaks..

The only reasons SOME use anon. tends to be repercussions, and being afraid of WHAT YOU ARE STUPID ENOUGH TO DO…

Bobvious says:

Re: Re: Re:2 misread Austria as Australia

That’s what the Psychic Platypus WANT you to believe, which is a distraction to prevent you from noticing a rear-guard action by the Wombat Bilby Currawong Collective, who are allegedly in secret talks with a vote-whisperer who has the ear of Senator Hanson.

Apparently only Antony Green has true immunity from the mind melding of the Anning-Palmer-United Get-Down joint ticket, who are running a close second to the Tony Abbott Wind Power Forever No-to-Adani Party.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

https://www.jdjournal.com/2018/02/09/partner-at-baker-mckenzie-accused-of-sexual-assault/

This is the recent one. Like I said, men who marry women who work in law offices are very dumb.

Censoring someone for saying this doesn’t change the reality, and if anything, prevents men from hearing this message.

Too bad some ugly woman doesn’t sue for discrimination for not being hired.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The law firm was mentioned here, so it’s relevant.

This is what I mean about some topics hitting too many nerves for social media not to censor the speaker.

A woman who is sexually harassed has pretty much admitted to why she was hired (and why unattractive women were not), and what her husband has married. #metoo is going to have to confront this eventually. That’s liberals for you: they want open discussion and debate as long as they can control it.

bob says:

What?!?

According to the Government’s new draft law on "Diligence and Responsibility on the Web," users want to provide their first name, last name and address to platform operators.

Who decided that users want this? Seems like it could be a typo or translation error but I doubt the Internet user base wants to provide this info.

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