Australia’s Draft Social Media Defamation Bill

Today we finally saw the actual text of the draft social media defamation bill, misleadingly called the Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill.

As I suspected, the actual purpose of the Bill was quite different to what the strategically arranged leaks and drops to friendly media said it was about. Getting continuously misinformed about legislation by lazy media is one reason I mostly ignore what the government says it is going to do and watch what it actually does.

Maybe some of the more credulous journalists could try it, if just for the sake of novelty.

I wrote a quick Twitter thread on my thoughts about this (horrendous!) legislation as I scanned it to see what it was about.

tl;jr

ah, now that we have an actual draft of the troll bill, we see what it’s actually about: Fairfax v Voller https://www.ag.gov.au/legal-system/social-media-anti-trolling-bill

“The Voller decision shows that Australians who maintain a social media page may be exposed to defamation liability for defamatory comments posted on the page by others – even if they are not aware of those defamatory comments.”

This is to protect Ninefax and News from defo by commenters on their posts. They want to have a Letters page (because outrage clicks) but without the liability of having to employ editors/moderators.

They reckon they’re going to use “geolocation technology deployed by the provider of the service” to figure out if you were in Australia for every comment. ahahahaha @NewtonMark you gotta see this

The bill will explicitly make page owners “not a publisher” for defo law purposes, but explicitly *does* make the social media service a publisher. To maximise the payout potential for people hungry for defo money.

ah, and it explicitly removes the defence of innocent dissemination for online services, *and* makes state and territory law live again (which was turned off by s 235 of the Online Safety Act).

This is all working very hard to create massive incentives for Facebook (or Twitter, or Insta or whichever socials thing has deep pockets) to over-censor anything that might possibly be even vaguely defo-adjacent in Australia.

Ah, and there’s a side of doxxing, as predicted. “a request by the complainant to disclose the relevant contact details of the commenter to the complainant”

“relevant contact details” means:

  • name
  • email address
  • phone number
  • “other details (if any) as are specified in the legislative rules”

Facebook will be over the moon that AusGov is forcing Australians to hand over their personal details so they can track us even more.

The socials service doesn’t *have* to disclose this information without a court order, but there’s nothing stopping them, either. Oh, but they do get a defence from expensive defo payouts if they doxx you to your accuser.

What completely predictable outcome do you think is going to happen here?

There’s a Russia-style “you must have someone in-country we can kidnap” clause! Section 20: “Nominated entity of the provider of a social media service”

Threshold is 250,000 Australian accounts, or being big enough to be in the legislative rules. ahahaha this thing is going to be such a mess.

S 23 “Attorney-General may intervene in a proceeding” This is the “use public money to silence my accuser” clause.

it gets better! s 23 (5) is designed to let the government do litigation funding for private individuals.

This is abusive bullshit created by cowards and bullies who preside over the worst workplace for harassment in the nation, designed to silence their critics and shield their mates.

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