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Tim Kiely responds to the Social Media Bill

7. Feb 2022

As online abuse and disinformation become more commonplace, the debate grows over whether anonymity on social media protects people from harm or restricts their rights. Tim Kiely was interviewed by human rights online magazine Each Other.

In November of 2021, Siobhan Baillie MP tabled a ten-minute rule bill (TMRB) called the Social Media (Identity Verification) Bill which called for all social media platforms to transform their approach to account verification. The Bill, which has its second reading due to be heard on the 18 March has been drawn up "to make provision about hate speech on social media; to require social media platforms to verify the identity of their users; and for connected purposes." However, what are the drawbacks to removing social media anonymity and does the culture of online abuse go deeper than simply protecting online anonymity?

Tim Kiely commenting on social media abuse said:

“They are the products of a degraded political and public discourse which social media companies have done a great deal to foment, not primarily because of their ability to make users anonymous, but because of their need to drive engagement for the sake of generating advertising and data-harvesting revenue incentivises them to push users in the direction of increasingly extreme and polarised content.”

Moreover, implementing a regulatory system for social media giants would be a legal minefield requiring intensive collaboration between public bodies and corporations. The article questions whether it is even possible to introduce the Bill without infringing on people’s rights? Tim responds:

“The problem of how to practically enforce the verification of user details without intrusive measures like details of passports, driving licences or other documents strikes me as insurmountable in any society with a reasonable respect for privacy and civil liberties...The bill in its current form seems to recognise this. It proposes only to require social media companies to ‘offer identity verification processes to all users’, with no general compulsion to disclose such details. Attempting to implement anything more far-reaching than the current, quite limited form of the bill would be likely to infringe unacceptably on peoples’ rights to privacy.”

Read more here: [EachOther]

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