Austrian government wants to limit online anonymity

Austrian government wants to limit online anonymity

Table of Index

  • To whom does the law apply?
  • Fines
  • European approval
  • Criticism

The Austrian government has made a new bill to make it more difficult for people to do anonymous statements online. The law would ensure that not everyone can say everything just like that on online platforms. Before you want to respond to something online you will have to make your full name and address known to the website. You can still leave a message under a pseudonym but the website must know your true identity. The owners of websites will also have to share this information with government institutions when they request it.

To whom does the law apply?

The rules would not apply to just any platform. The new law is primarily aimed at larger online platforms. Only websites that have more than 100,000 registered users must keep all this information from users. Websites that earn more than 500,000 euros per year and platforms that receive more than 50,000 euros in subsidies must also comply with the new rules. In this way, small websites are spared that would most likely not be able to pay for the costs of the checks. The law also does not apply to web shops or websites without a business model.

For the large websites, the new law will have many feet in the ground. This is because the bill states that websites themselves are responsible for checking whether the information provided is correct. One way to do this would be two-step verification with the user’s mobile phone number. This is because in Austria since this year it is mandatory to register every SIM card with a photo ID. In this way, the websites could check whether the personal information provided is actually correct. All this does not mean that it would be a considerable investment for these companies.

Fines

Large online platforms will also need a contact person in Austria who can provide information about users when needed. If the rules are not properly followed, this person can even be fined no less than 100,000 euros.

The fines for companies that do not comply with the rules can amount to 500,000 euros and even millions of costs if things go wrong repeatedly.

European approval

The European Commission will still look at the bill to check whether the law does not violate European legislation on E-commerce.

The government is aware of European legislation in this area, but points to the clauses that indicate that exceptions can be made when it comes to maintaining public order. However , experts indicate that this is not relevant to the current situation in Austria and that it is therefore likely that the proposal will not pass the European Commission.

Criticism

The bill faces a lot of resistance in Austria. Privacy activists and the opposition disagree with the bill and warn against censorship. Many see the law as an attack on the internet freedom of the Austrians. There are also major concerns about protecting personal data. If this law became reality, it would mean that even more different websites have the personal information of citizens. In this way, the risk of theft of this information is greater, which in turn can pose a danger to users.

It is therefore very doubtful whether this bill will be approved by the EU. Criticism at home may also lead the government to change its mind.

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