Ban Anonymous Social Media Accounts Under 'David's Law', Murdered MP’s Friend Says

Ban Anonymous Social Media Accounts Under 'David's Law', Murdered MP’s Friend Says

What just happened?

Home Secretary Priti Patel announced at the weekend, in the wake of Sir David's murder, that she would consider changing the law against online hate, hinting that she would go further than the current bill on online safety in parliament.

What does this mean?

Police are investigating the murder of Sir David who is investigated for alleged radicalized Islamist extremist links, but the wider problem of online trolling is also being investigated, with MPs receiving daily abuse and threats of death online. In the wake of the MP's murder, the Home Secretary said this weekend she would consider amendments to the new David Act that would go beyond the online safety bill submitted to Congress.

MPs have called on Westminster to tighten social media laws in memory of Sir David Amess and politicians to ban anonymity online. Mark Francois, MP for Rayleigh and Wickford said that Sir David was increasingly concerned about the toxic environment in which MPs had to operate online and suggested banning the anonymity of social media to tackle the problem. Francois, who described Amess as one of his closest friends and political mentor, said that MPs should tighten the pending Online Damage Law to prevent trolls and other perpetrators hiding behind pseudonyms.

How does it impact the legal sector?

Boris Johnson is facing calls to pass a "David law" to crack down on social media abuse of public figures and end online anonymity following the murder of Sir David Amess. The tragic stabbing attack on the MP, the second murder of an MP in five years, has become an issue of online behaviour and anonymity on social media. Many in Britain have expressed concern about the future of the internet freedom with a group of MPs calling for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ban anonyme social media accounts after his death.

The government intends to pass the Online Security Act that would introduce new obligations for social media companies to regulate illegal and harmful content, although there is considerable controversy over how to define it. The law would impose due diligence on users, but companies would not be able to enforce a ban on anonymous accounts.

Inflating new legal requirements for checking users on social media would limit the fundamental rights of people to freedom of expression and access to information in a liberal democracy by forcing vulnerable users to reveal their identities. People have suggested that social media platforms should encourage their users to sign up for formal identification, such as a driver's license or passport, to help police identify people who commit hate crimes and to discourage people from posting abuse in the first place. There is a middle ground option that could move people in the right direction and send a clear message that the right of abuse must be brought, not an absolute requirement of user verification if it is at all needed.

Such high usage rates and rapid growth have led platforms to look for solutions to the problems they face with anonymous users on their social networks. Despite cross-party revulsion at section 230, the liability shield which protects online platforms from being responsible for their users' contributions, policymakers are considering ending user anonymity on social media platforms. Removing users From the Internet Anonymity creates a more inclusive online environment and sets the stage for governments and dominant institutions to use surveillance tools to monitor citizens, suppress free speech and shape social debate.

Given the scale of the problem and the time it would take to track down anonymous social media users, especially if they use a VPN, it is hard to imagine that police resources would have a meaningful impact on the current situation. Subsequently, this is also a major talking point in the football community who have called on social media companies to do more to combat racism and anonymous accounts on their platforms. Twitter said last week that it would not end the practice of allowing people to post anonymously after a number of prominent sports stars received a slew of racist abuse on social media in recent weeks.


The Legists Content Team

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