The Austrian Federal Minister proposed a draft being called the “Federal law on care and responsibility in the network”, also known as the “Digital mummification ban”. The proposal was made by Federal Minister Gernot Blümel and published on April 10th, 2019, along with a formally submitted draft that’s available for viewing on the Austrian Government website, where it will be peer reviewed over the next six weeks before the National Council votes on it.
The gist of the proposal states…
“The internet can not and must not be a lawless area. The crossing borders, degrading, humiliation and attacks in the digital space should be opposed and this act is a possible effective counter measure. […]
“What is punished in the analog world, must also in the digital world have consequences. To be able to hide in the anonymity of the Internet, at least in cases where crimes are committed, will no longer be possible. An effective authentication to confirm the user data is inevitable.”
The bill would dictate that Austrian internet users have to register with their real first and last names, along with their home addresses on any social media website or platform servicing Austrian citizens that hosts more than 100,000 registered users or has an annual turnover rate of more than €500,000.
According to Spiegel Online, this measure would affect all major media outlets, large forums, and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
The idea would be that users who engage in what the Ministry of Culture deems as “hate speech” could be directly identified and penalized for their comments, memes, images, videos, or other content.
According to Austrian IT lawyer Walter Korschel, he criticized the measure – even though he felt that something must be done about “hate speech” from commentators – saying…
“If I express my opinion in real life, I do not have to present my identity card in advance. […]
“The state outsources the task of the courts to find out whether something is punishable on private service providers.”
This was also coupled with questions and criticisms of whether or not this Austrian initiative would violate the GDPR laws, which are designed to protect users’ privacy. If this draft was voted on and pushed through by Parliament, then users would essentially be giving up their privacy in Austria so that they could be tracked down and punished for a comment they made online, or platform holders fined for not removing said content.
Obviously, there are groups opposed to this measure due to the wide-sweeping consequences it could have on how people are able to interact with one another on the internet, and the freedom-inhibiting stakes that come along with it.
This comes on the heels of the U.K., also proposing a regulator to oversee online content, while separately both Microsoft and Facebook have also advocated for stricter censorship on “harmful” content.
All of these aggressive policies for censorship come in the wake of the Christchurch, New Zealand shooting. The shooter actually outlined in his manifesto that he wanted this very thing to happen, as the increase in censorship, gun control, and restrictions on freedom of speech would eventually create enough tumult within certain segments of society to incite a civil war.
(Thanks for the news tip Gemma Ham)
(Main image courtesy of TheRossCam)