Unless Twitter coughs up the identities of those using 140 characters to abuse, slander and otherwise troll victims, a newly proposed UK law would see the company hauled into court to pay hefty fines.
Justice Secretary Ken Clarke is looking to unmask bullies who hide behind internet anonymity, reports the Daily Mail.
He has proposed a new law regulating the identities of trolls using social networks to harass their victims.
Internet companies like Twitter and Facebook would be required to reveal the identities of the bullies to their victims. If they comply, they will not be held responsible for the actions of these users.
If they refuse to comply, however, they might be brought into court and fined thousands of pounds – even though they were just the medium through which the bully sent his or her hateful messages.
The new law is meant to help victims identify their online attackers and use their names and email addresses to file libel lawsuits, as well as act as a deterrence for future bullies.
Clarke explains that the new law is also meant to protect internet companies from the sometimes slanderous actions of its users:
“As the law stands, individuals can be the subject of scurrilous rumour and allegation on the web with little meaningful remedy against the person responsible.
Website operators are in principle liable as publishers for everything that appears on their sites, even though the content is often determined by users. But most operators are not in a position to know whether the material posted is defamatory or not and very often, faced with a complaint, they will immediately remove material.
Our proposed approach will mean that website operators have a defence against libel as long as they identify the authors of allegedly defamatory material when requested to do so by a complainant.”
The law would include a one-year timeframe on slanderous online postings, so that old tweets and blog posts couldn’t be dug up and used in a lawsuit, as well as provisions to ensure that people do not falsely claim that critical social posts are defamatory just to get them taken offline.
Do you think requiring Twitter to divulge the identities of bullies is a positive step towards protecting victims of online abuse? Or does this go too far in prying into people’s privacy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
(No bullying image via Shutterstock)