Australian Government Proposes Stripping Internet Users Of Their Anonymity
from the another-fix-for-what-isn't-even-broken dept
I thought we had put this sort of idiocy behind us, but I see it’s back again. In 2011, some German politicians suggested the country’s youths be required to obtain some sort of internet driver’s license following a party that got out of hand after a private Facebook invite was accidentally made public. Somehow, obtaining an ID to use social media services would prevent this from happening in the future, but officials were extremely light on details.
Five years later, our own DHS came up with pretty much the same idea. The DHS’s attaché to the European Union suggested the online presence of terrorists and child pornographers demanded an across-the-board reduction in privacy for everyone. The only difference here was the analogy: rather than a driver’s license to use the internet, all internet “travelers” would have to display some form of internet “license plate,” making them readily identifiable to the government.
Two years later the idea resurfaced again, with the UK security minister pretty much repeating the DHS’s suggestion from 2016: an internet driver’s license that would allow law enforcement and other government agencies to readily identify anyone online, like predators grooming children in chat rooms or perpetrators of harassment.
But that was the last decade. Surely, we’ve seen the folly of demanding ID to use the internet, what with the serious complications it can cause for plenty of people who aren’t engaged in criminal activity. Anonymity protects more than just the worst internet denizens. If this idea has had a decade to stick and still hasn’t, perhaps it’s time to finally let it go… oh never mind. Just last month, Senator John Kennedy announced his plan to introduce a online anonymity ban. If you need a list of reasons why this is a bad idea, Mike Masnick helpfully included a very long one in this post.
Less than two months later, the Australian government is pitching its own anonymity ban.
The cross-party report – chaired by Queensland LNP MP Andrew Wallace – called for users to be required to present 100 points of identification – which could include a driver’s licence, birth certificate, Medicare card, or passport – in order to open or maintain an existing social media account with companies such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
The suggestion is that the measure would prevent people from using anonymous accounts to abuse and harass others.
This is the same report that notes plenty of people who benefit from online anonymity (LGBTQI persons, victims of domestic violence, minors, etc.) are in need of more protection and services. The report still somehow fails to recognize the damage stripping these users of anonymity would cause.
It also fails to recognize the simple fact that plenty of people using their real names engage in abusive and harmful behavior online all the time. There’s a whole cottage industry of “conservative” figureheads complaining about being deplatformed for the terrible things they’ve posted using their real names.
The other justification for this bizarre push for mandated deanonymization is existing laws in Australia that also strip the country’s residents of their privacy.
“In order to open or maintain an existing social media account, customers should be required by law to identify themselves to a platform using 100 points of identification, in the same way as a person must provide identification for a mobile phone account, or to buy a mobile SIM card,” the report suggests.
Two wrongs make a right, I guess. But it will be Australia’s most marginalized residents who suffer the most if this becomes law. That’s completely at odds with the aim of the entire report, which suggests the government should do more to protect these people. The government’s cognitive dissonance is going to cause more harm than it prevents.