Social media giants will be forced to help users block trolls in new crackdown on toxic posts
- Users will be able to block unverified anonymous accounts in new crackdown
- These new measures have been added to the upcoming Online Safety Bill
- Individuals will be allowed to choose whether or not to participate in the verification process
Social media users will be given new powers to control who can interact with them in a major crackdown on hate-filled internet trolls.
Platforms like Facebook and Twitter will, by law, have to give users the tools to block unverified anonymous accounts.
Users will also have the option to verify themselves. It will be up to businesses to find a suitable method of verification, but this could range from taking a selfie to providing proof of a passport or driver’s license.
Platforms like Facebook and Twitter will by law have to give users the tools to block unverified anonymous accounts (file photo used)
The new measures have been added to the upcoming online safety bill, which will impose a duty of care on tech companies to protect users.
However, individuals will be allowed to choose whether or not to join the verification process – despite calls from some campaigners to make it a requirement.
Ministers were concerned that this could compromise the security of vulnerable users. Online anonymity can be crucial for victims of domestic violence, activists living in authoritarian countries, and young people exploring their sexuality.
The government has also announced a measure that will require platforms to provide adult users with tools to block “legal but harmful content” such as racist abuse and Covid misinformation.
This could include allowing users to enable settings that prevent them from receiving recommendations on certain topics or placing sensitivity screens on that content.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the new measures would “put more power in the hands” of social media users by giving them more choice over who they communicate with .
Online anonymity can be crucial for victims of domestic violence, activists living in authoritarian countries and young people exploring their sexuality (file photo used)
Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “Tech companies have a responsibility to stop anonymous trolls from polluting their platforms.
“We have heeded calls for us to strengthen our new online safety laws and announce new measures to empower social media users themselves.
“People will now have more control over who can contact them and be able to stop the tidal wave of hate being served up to them by rogue algorithms.”
It follows calls from MPs, footballers and celebrities to take action against internet trolls after highlighting the horrific abuse they have suffered.
The government has already announced tougher penalties for trolls, with those convicted of the worst abuses facing up to five years in prison under the new bill.
The latest measures will only apply to the largest social media platforms considered “Category 1” such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as they pose the most serious risk.
Watchdog Ofcom will have the power to fine them up to 10% of annual worldwide turnover for any breach or even prevent the use of the sites in the UK.
A DCMS spokesperson said of the new measures: “While this will not stop Anonymous trolls from posting abusive content in the first place – provided it is legal and does not violate the terms and conditions of the platform – this will prevent victims from being exposed to it and give them more control over their online experience.
However, individuals will be allowed to choose whether or not to take part in the vetting process – despite calls from some campaigners to make it a requirement (file photo used)
The bill will also require social media giants to remove illegal content such as child sexual abuse images, promotion of suicide, hate crimes and incitement to terrorism.
But there is a growing list of toxic social media content and behavior that falls below the threshold of a criminal offense that still causes significant harm.
The spokesperson added: “Much of this is already expressly prohibited in social media terms and conditions, but too often it is allowed to remain in place.” Companies will need to make tools available for users to block this on news feeds.
Three Ways to Repress Hate
New measures added today to the Online Safety Bill will require social media giants like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to ensure users can:
Users must be given the opportunity to verify. It will be up to the platforms to determine which methods they use, but this could range from uploading a selfie that matches their profile picture or providing government-issued proof of identity, such as a passport. .
ANONYMOUS BAR TROLLS
Tools should be provided to allow individuals to block other users who choose to remain anonymous. This may include checking a box in the settings that allows direct messages or replies to messages to be sent only by verified accounts.
FILTER HARMFUL CONTENT
Users also need to have a way to block content that falls below the criminal threshold but still causes significant harm, such as racist abuse. The tools could include the ability for users to change settings so that the site does not recommend certain topics or to place sensitivity screens on that content.