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Coalition bill would force social media companies to reveal identities of online bullies

The Morrison government will introduce legislation this week to crack down on abuse and bullying on social media platforms.

Under the laws, social media platforms will be forced to expose the identity of individuals who post defamatory or damaging material anonymously.

“The online world provides many great opportunities but it comes with some real risks and we must address these, or it will continue to have a very harmful and corrosive impact on our society, on our community,” Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

The government is seeking a complaints mechanism where if somebody thinks that they are being defamed, bullied or attacked on social media that they will have an opportunity to require the platform to take it down.

If the platform fails to comply, there will be a court process that would allow that person to require the platform to provide details of the identity of the abusive or defaming identity.

“The online world should not be a wild west where bots and bigots and trolls and others can [be] anonymously going around and can harm people and hurt people, harass them and bully them and sledge them,” the prime minister said.

He said online companies must have proper processes to enable the removal of this content.

“There needs to be an easy and quick and fast way for people to raise these issues with these platforms and get it taken down,” he said.

“They have that responsibility. They have created this world.”

Morrison said the government will be looking for test cases to reinforce these new laws, and will back people who have been wronged if they are someone of little means.

“We will back them in the courts and we will take them on. We will take them on in the parliament, and we will take them on in the courts because I want to ensure our kids are safe,” the prime minister said.

Liberal minister Anne Ruston said it would be “absolutely unacceptable” for a platform to think it could shirk responsibility.

“I would really like to see any of these platforms stand up and say that they think it’s acceptable that they hide behind the anonymity of bots and bullies and bigots online,” Ruston told ABC’s Insiders program.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese agreed with the sentiment of the government’s announcement but said it must be delivered on.

“The government needs to explain how it can deal with the fact that domestic controls have limitations for what is a global industry,” he told reporters in Melbourne.