Australia Considers Social Media ID Requirement

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Australia is mulling the introduction of a compulsory points-based ID verification system for users of social media and online dating sites. 

Under the new proposal, individuals would be required to prove who they are by submitting 100 points of ID before they are allowed to use a service. Permissible forms of identification could include a driver’s license, Medicare card, birth certificate, or passport.

The solution was devised on the premise that removing users' anonymity would decrease instances of online abuse, trolling, and cyberbullying. 

Currently, Australians are not required to provide ID to use most online platforms; however, some ask users to verify their identity by supplying a phone number and/or an email address.

The ID rule was one of 88 recommendations made in a recent federal parliamentary committee report proposing a range of strategies to decrease family, domestic, and sexual violence.

"In order to open or maintain an existing social media account, customers should be required by law to identify themselves to a platform using 100 points of identification, in the same way as a person must provide identification for a mobile phone account, or to buy a mobile SIM card," states the report. 

"Social media platforms must provide those identifying details when requested by the eSafety Commissioner, law enforcement or as directed by a court."

A “substantial increase” in criminal penalties and fines for technology-facilitated abuse was also called for in the report, as a way to deter netizens from "errant behavior.’’ 

Swinburne University senior lecturer in digital media Dr. Belinda Barnet was skeptical about the effectiveness and wisdom of placing large quantities of sensitive personal data in the care of social media companies and online dating websites.

“It’s a long bow to draw that if we give our passport to Facebook then suddenly people will not be abusive. There’s no research to support that assumption,” Barnet told the Sydney Morning Herald.

She added: “We’d be giving over these identity documents to proprietary platforms that do not have our best interests at heart.”

A spokesperson for Facebook said the company was currently reviewing the suggestions included in the report and would “continue to work with the government as they consider the recommendations.”

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