Tag: Online harms

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Mask Off: Social Media Giants to Unmask Trolls or Risk Themselves Becoming Liable for Defamation Payouts
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First reported death connected to misfired ransomware attack on German hospital
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Sharing of ‘abhorrent violent material’ now an offence under new laws

Mask Off: Social Media Giants to Unmask Trolls or Risk Themselves Becoming Liable for Defamation Payouts

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham, Warwick Andersen, Max Evans and James Gray

In a significant development in online regulatory oversight, the Australian government announced over the weekend that it will introduce new laws handing Australian courts the power to order social media companies to reveal the identities of anonymous trolls or risk themselves being liable for defamation payouts.

The so called “social media anti-trolling legislation” which the government has said will be introduced into parliament this week proposes to require social media companies stand up a functional and easy-to-use complaints and takedown process for users, who upon suspecting they are being defamed, bullied or attacked may file a complaint with the social media platform requesting that the relevant content be removed.

If that request is denied, the complainant can ask the social media company to provide the details of the “troll” so as to enable the complainant to commence an action. If this request is further denied, or if the social media platform is “unable to do this”, complainants may apply to obtain a court order requiring the social media company to release the identification details of the anonymous user so that a defamation action may be pursued. Failure to comply with such a court order will render the social media company themselves liable for the defamation claim.

Significantly, the reports indicate that these new laws will push legal responsibility for defamatory content from the author or page manager to the social media company which runs the platform. This represents a key move away from social media platforms being distributors of content but rather, in the eyes of online safety, being deemed publishers themselves. We will keep you posted as these proposed laws progress.

First reported death connected to misfired ransomware attack on German hospital

By Cameron Abbott and Keely O’Dowd

News reports have surfaced that a woman in Germany has died due to a delay in receiving medical care. What is most concerning about this death is the circumstances in which the woman tragically passed away.

According to reports, the woman needed urgent medical treatment and the hospital she presented to, Duesseldorf University Hospital, was unable to admit her as it was dealing with a ransomware attack.

The hackers exploited a vulnerability in a widely used commercial add-on software. This attack caused a failure in the hospital’s IT systems resulting in it being unable to access data and diverting emergency patients elsewhere. The woman was redirected to a hospital approximately 30km away from Duesseldorf University Hospital, which led to a delay in the woman receiving treatment. Unfortunately the delay proved fatal and the women passed away before she could be treated.

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Sharing of ‘abhorrent violent material’ now an offence under new laws

By Cameron Abbott, Michelle Aggromito and Rebecca Gill

Governments around the world are imposing more responsibilities on tech providers to deal with online harms. In response to the recent attacks in Christchurch, in which a gunman livestreamed on Facebook his attack on a mosque, the Australian Government recently enacted the Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Act 2019 (Cth) (Act). The Act, which commenced on 6 April 2019, was pushed through swiftly and has a broad reach.

Under the Act, internet, content and hosting service providers must refer details of any ‘abhorrent violent material’ that records or streams ‘abhorrent violent conduct’ to the Australian Federal Police. Abhorrent violent material is material that is audio, visual or audio-visual, and that records or streams ‘abhorrent violent conduct’. Such conduct includes acts of terrorism, murder, attempted murder, torture, rape and kidnapping.

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