Stop pseudonyms, and nicknames on major internet sites. In Austria, the government has presented a bill that, if approved, will require the use of your real name and surname to upload a comment on sites and social networks. In other words, goodbye to online anonymity.
The intention of the authorities is to stem the phenomenon of those who sometimes call themselves keyboard lions, that is, users who, protected by the anonymity of the Internet, abuse and mistreat other users.
But among the objectives of the Austrian legislators there are also blocking the illegal activities related to spambots and putting down speeches related to hatred.
This rule would apply to all sites that have a catchment area that exceeds 100 thousand registered users, those that bill more than 500 thousand Euro per year or, again, those that receive press subsidies exceeding 50 thousand Euro.
At the moment the rule is only a proposal and must be approved first by the Austrian parliament and later by the European Union. Should it pass both approvals, it would come into effect in 2020.
The bill, which would allow Austria to follow China’s steps on reducing online anonymity, was greeted with skepticism by the Reddit community, which in the thread dedicated to the news gathered the conflicting opinions of forum users.
There is also a political conflict of interest related to the law. The Austrian Freedom Party, a minority shareholder in the government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, may be exempt from having to cancel hate posting on its sites.
And then there’s a question of privacy. Although requesting names and addresses could discourage harassment and hate speech, it could also limit the ability of ordinary people to disclose public information for fear of repercussions . And internet sites could turn into real mines of personal data just a click away for malicious hackers. The bill, proposed by the Austrian government, therefore risks undermining the freedom of expression rather than protecting it as intended.