Twitter and Snap Inc. have put forward submissions to the Government Inquiry into Social Media and Online Safety outlining the potential damages of enforcing online users to verify age and personal details in order to access websites.
American listed platform, Snap – which has more than five million users in Australia – argues in its submission that the new proposed measures, if approved, would “essentially mandate, tech companies to collect and store people’s IDs as a requirement for using online platforms”.
Snap’s recommendation to the inquiry states that “the Government should abandon proposals that seek to end the freedom to anonymity online, and instead focus on requiring platforms to take systemic measures which will help ensure the safety and security of Australians online: the implementation of age assurance, parental controls, and systems and processes to help keep users safe.”
It stated that its design is driven by two principles, those being “safety by design” and “privacy by design”, the latter focusing on data minimisation and protecting user data.
“Unlike traditional social media, Snapchat does not offer an open news feed where unvetted publishers or individuals have an opportunity to broadcast hate, misinformation, or violent content, nor do we permit public comments that may amplify harmful behaviour”, the brand wrote in its submission.
Twitter similarly argued in its submission to the inquiry on 12 January that anonymity online “provides space for more people to express themselves freely, in ways that actually engender that sort of trust-building connection.
“Simply put, in addition to providing safety, anonymity and pseudonymity provides people with the agency and control to choose how they present themselves. This has been a core tenet of the internet since its inception and is essential to a society that promotes individual choice and freedoms.”
Twitter also put forward that there has yet to be conclusive evidence that requiring the display of names and identities reduces social problems.
“Personal identification can pose risks to vulnerable groups who are not able to safely use services under their real name, such as those seeking information or support for domestic violence, whistleblowers, or LGBTQIA+ people.”
Requiring a form of official identification would also create a ‘digital divide’, according to the platform, in terms of limiting access.
“According to the World Bank, an estimated 1 billion people worldwide do not have an official form of identification. It is often the marginalised, vulnerable, and impoverished who lack government-issued IDs, leading to larger inequalities amongst people being able to access online services.”
Social media regulation has been in focus in recent years in Australia, in attempts to clamp down on online harassment, misinformation and defamation from “online trolls”, as outlined in a bill proposed in November last year.
Both companies have stated that they welcome regulation, however that implementing it is complex.
“There is clearly a need for online regulation in Australia, but we do not consider that the current, highly complex and crowded landscape is the best way to achieve a safer, healthier and more civil online experience for Australians,” read the submission from Snap.
Twitter founder Jack Dorsey stood down as CEO in November, with Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief technology office replacing him in the role.