Austria Wants To Ban Online Anonymity, And Urges The World To Follow In Its Footsteps

Convinced that Mark Zuckerberg doesn't quite yet have enough user data, Austria is now considering a new law that would require large internet platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to register their users, effectively banning anonymity on social media sites. The new law would be targeted at depriving "those behind hate posts of anonymity," according to The Local

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said: "Unfortunately there have been an increasing number of clear violations, denigrations and humiliations online in the past under the cover of anonymity. That's why we need a framework for more responsibility online."

But isn't the anonymous denigration and humiliation of others a founding principle of the internet, and part of what makes it great?

The law, if passed, would go into effect in 2020 and would make it mandatory for users of popular social media sites to register their users. The platforms would have flexibility on how they register their users, but Austria seeks to give its authorities access to a user's identity in the event of "hate postings or on suspicion of other laws being broken".

The report didn't say what, exactly, qualified as a "hate posting". 

Gernot Bluemel, minister in charge of EU affairs, art, culture and media said: "The online space should not be a space without laws." He continued, saying that Austria aimed to set a precedent for other countries in the matter.

In Austria, the law would have to be approved by both MPs and the European Commission to ensure that it is in line with EU guidelines that stipulate that member states cannot regulate a platform provider more strictly than its country of origin. The law would only apply to internet platforms with a reach of more than 100,000 users or a turnover of more than 500,000 Euros in Austria. It would also apply to platforms that get more than 50,000 Euros in state aid. 

Opposition parties claim such a law would restrict online freedom and hand over even more data to giants like Facebook, whose track record with user privacy is spotty, to say the least. Earlier this year, French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this year caused controversy by suggesting a similar law. 

So next time you're traveling through Austria and thinking about leaving that snarky comment on a YouTube video about the Green New Deal or new vegan steak recipes, think twice.