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5 Nov, 2021 16:45

Banning anonymity online won’t curb hate, Twitter official says

Banning anonymity online won’t curb hate, Twitter official says

Twitter has warned that governments’ attempts to tackle anonymous accounts on social media would be “ineffective” at reducing online abuse, which it described as a “social problem” that can’t be fixed with “tech solutions.”

Speaking at a panel co-organized by Twitter on Friday, Kara Hinesley, the site’s public policy director in Australia and New Zealand, warned that concerns around anonymity have been “over-simplified” and that system design changes can’t solve social problems “without actual social change.”

The comments come after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison denounced social media as a “coward’s palace” where anonymity allowed trolls to “destroy people’s lives ... with impunity.” He warned social media firms that regulations would make them “accountable” for toxic content and hate speech on their networks.  

Hinesley argued that identifying users “could damage [those] who rely on anonymity and pseudonymity online,” such as whistleblowers, dissidents, and domestic abuse victims, among others, ZDNet reported.

It’s not clear that anonymity is the primary driver of abusive and antisocial behaviour online. It’s even less clear that requiring government identification for social media would do anything to fix the situation.

She added that anonymity “can be a form of protection and a critical tool for people,” and pointed to an overturned 2004 Korean law that required large websites to collect identification from posters in an effort to reduce cyberbullying and misinformation.

Also on rt.com Aussie PM Morrison labels social media ‘coward’s palace’ as he mulls further crackdown on IT giants

With the Online Safety Act, the Australian government will empower an e-safety commissioner with clout to force social media giants to disclose the personal information of those accused of online bullying. The new powers are expected to come into force in 2022.

Citing Twitter research about racist abuse toward England players during the Euro 2020 final, Hinesley said the company found 99% of accounts banned for over 1,600 tweets were not anonymous.

“Anonymity and abuse are not connected in a way that they’re being connected right now, both through legislation and the public debate,” Hinesley said. 

Also on rt.com Social media trolls could face two years in prison over posts intended to cause ‘psychological harm’ – reports

The UK government is also expected to introduce its Online Safety Bill this year, which reportedly looks to punish the potentially “harmful effect” of social media trolling. 

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