Hodge wants ban on social media anonymity – what a great idea! It will curtail fake anti-Semitism claims

It’s the first time This Writer has agreed with Margaret Hodge in years.

She has said the government must ban online anonymity or make social media directors personally liable for defamatory posts, revealing that she receives tens of thousands of abusive tweets a month:

Hodge accused the government of deliberately delaying the online harms bill in order to avoid difficult conversations with powerful social media companies, and said she was prepared to take up a campaign to make sure the law was tough enough.

The Online Harms Bill arises from a White Paper produced last year – and This Site commented on it at the time.

The White Paper – and now the Bill (I expect; I haven’t actually seen any information on it since April last year) proposed a statutory duty of care, to be conferred on media companies including platforms such as Facebook and Google, online messaging services like WhatsApp and file hosting sites.

They would be required to comply with a code of practice, setting out the steps they must take to meet the duty of care. This may include designing products and platforms to make them safer, directing users who have suffered harm towards support, combating disinformation (for example by using fact-checking services), and improving the transparency of political advertising.

They would be expected to co-operate with police and other enforcement agencies on illegalities including incitement of violence and selling illegal weapons.

And they would have to compile annual “transparency reports” detailing the amount of harmful content found on their platforms and what they are doing to combat it.

The government would have powers to direct the regulator – initially Ofcom, with a dedicated regulator to follow in the future – on specific issues such as terrorist activity or child sexual exploitation.

I pointed out last year that the White Paper did not include any measures to stop people creating anonymous accounts.

If Ms Hodge wants to see that happen now, then I am all for it.

It will stop me receiving much (but not all) of the abuse I get from people wrongly accusing me of anti-Semitism after the Labour Party expelled me under false pretences (as shown in court).

But that’s not what was on offer in April last year. As I made perfectly clear, “regulating online media platforms will not stop people posting “harmful” content to them, if there is nothing to stop them from doing so. It is farcically easy to create anonymous accounts, from which to post objectionable and/or abusive content.

“Shut one down? That’s fine – the individual responsible can have another up and running in a matter of minutes, if they don’t have multiple aliases working already.”

And I made that point that “it has been argued that people must have a right to be able to post anonymously, because of personal circumstances that make it important – possibly for their personal safety.”

My response: “Fine. A system can be devised in which people apply for anonymity and the number of people or organisations able to ascertain their real identity is strictly limited. That would allow these individuals to continue functioning in the online world. And it would prevent others from abusing social media platforms. Any posts from an unrecognised anonymous account would be easy to flag up and isolate.”

If Ms Hodge is proposing such a system then I am behind her every step of the way, and never mind all the other differences we have.

Although – as a staunch witch-hunter herself – I wonder whether she would approve of that outcome.

Source: Margaret Hodge calls for ban on social media anonymity | Online abuse | The Guardian

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6 thoughts on “Hodge wants ban on social media anonymity – what a great idea! It will curtail fake anti-Semitism claims

  1. Thomas Madden

    What about whistleblowers who don’t want to be blacklisted or worse if they speak online?

  2. Gary Bowman

    I hate to admit it but I agree with her, not on child abuse, obviously, but on the subject of anonymous posting, if you are going to say something 1, Put your name to it and 2, Take responsibility for it. Whether it’s vaccinations, response to the pandemic, hatred for a politician for being responsible for thousands of deaths, envy of a “celebrity” admiration for someone, claims of antisemitism, racism, sexism, genderism or disabilityism. Have the decency to own it and have your case prepared for the time any lies, misrepresentations or inaccuracies, are exposed and challenged.

  3. Jeffrey Davies

    Oh dear just like labour hay they are the cause of but then she and her erk wouldn’t play by the book

  4. Mathilde Vhargon

    While I am as disgusted as anyone about the way rampant bullying and hate speech is allowed to continue on social media, many people, like myself, have valid reasons NOT to reveal our names and identities online. It is a matter of safety for those who have fled violence or witnessed crimes.or who are involved in legal activism that is attacked. In demanding, as Facebook used to do, that people’s accounts be in their real name, they set people up to be found by those who do harm and bully and harrass. I am no longer a user of FB, Twitter, etc. But I follow progressive channels on YouTube and use Skype. Much of my online activity would need to be stopped if I could not use an alias. As you know, many crimes are never prosecuted, and victims have to protect their own online identities. So in legislating against anonymity for the purpose of exposing trolls, you would expose victims of trolling and much worse crimes to more danger. It is too easy already for stalkers, scammers, fraudsters and criminalsto access our identities and hack our computers. But we need online contacts with others close to us and with the world in general, especially with many living far away, mental health problems, disability limitations and this pandemic.

    Is there a solution to this?

Comments are closed.