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Australia’s Opposition Calls for Extended Online Age Verification, Digital ID, to Combat Anonymity

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The federal opposition in Australia is giving the government a run for its money when it comes to initiatives that in one form or another restrict online freedom of expression.

In addition to speech implications, the right to remain anonymous on the internet has long been supported by digital and civil rights advocates as fundamental for people’s privacy and security.

But now the age verification digital ID push in Australia is bringing the issue to the fore and has produced a parliamentary motion coming from opposition Liberals aimed at getting the government to implement a mechanism that enables the blocking of anonymous accounts.

This would be done as an addition to the age verification tools currently undergoing trials, where social media companies would collect 100 points of ID from their users – to unmask them.

During a House of Representatives debate, the government was also criticized as being beholden to Big Tech since it is (still) unwilling to make online ID verification mandatory – a bipartisan recommendation dating back to 2021.

Even the Australian government (and it’s the one with Michelle Rowland as Communications Minister, and eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant) whose ID verification trial is presented as a way to prevent minors from accessing age-inappropriate content, seemed taken aback by the radical nature of the proposal to end anonymous posting on social platforms.

Dangerous to the privacy of all social media users, children included – is how MPs from the ruling Labor sought to dismiss the idea, presented by MP Andrew Wallace.

But Wallace thinks that the right to post anonymously is the source of pretty much all online evil: bullying, harassment, grooming, trafficking of children, creation of bot networks, and radicalizing, terrorizing, and “stealing from vulnerable Australians.”

Judging by reports citing Wallace, the MP is inordinately bothered by people being able to post on social sites without disclosing their government-issued IDs.

The way things stand, users are free to express themselves, and if the government doesn’t extend the verification scheme the way Wallace proposes – then how can users expect to have police knock on their door?

In his own words: “If you hide behind anonymity, you can say whatever you like without fear of being sued for defamation or having the police knock on your door. The identification of people who use social media accounts is as important as age verification.”

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