Many governments around the world understand that the push to introduce legislation combating “hate speech” is gaining momentum, and are eager to join in, facing little opposition. The risk of such laws ending up suppressing speech in general is mostly an afterthought, if a thought at all.
Now reports out of Austria say this EU member is preparing to take steps to remove the right of users of social media and online forums to remain anonymous.
Instead, large social platforms and traditional media would have to provide a registration process that would allow courts to identify users in case they are prosecuted for hate speech, Austrian Culture and Media Minister Gernot Blumel said.
The draft proposes forcing only social media companies with more than half a million users, or half a million in revenues to comply.
Unlike in the United States, “hate speech” is criminalized across most European jurisdictions. Even so, Austria’s new law – expected to come into force next September – will be the first of its kind in the EU, Reuters quoted Blumel as saying.
Austria’s state broadcaster ORF said that under the proposal, commenters will still be able to use pseudonyms – but their identity, including names and addresses, will be known to media and social platforms, and by extension, to the authorities.
The report added that a similar move flopped in South Korea, as hackers stole personal data of millions of users, while early critics point out that the Austrian draft may violate both EU’s e-commerce rules, and the country’s Constitution.
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