Focus on the company when combating hate, not the individual, says Reset Australia
Reset Australia is calling for an overhaul to policy regulation when combating extreme content online, saying the proposed plan from the federal government is focusing on the wrong issue.
The government plans to expose online trolls individually, but according to Chris Cooper, executive director of Reset Australia, the focus needs to shift to the algorithms of social media companies, and how they amplify extreme content.
“Social media companies promote, amplify and profit from hate – catching trolls won’t end online hate,” says Cooper.
“The most pressing problem here is not trolls, it is the disproportionate reach of their content enabled by the algorithms of social media companies that prioritise sensational, outrageous and conspiratorial content – the form which defamatory content usually takes.”
Reset Australia, the local think tank arm of the global initiative tackling digital threats to democracy, says anonymity is an important tenet of the internet, and helps to keep leaders accountable.
“We cannot throw away anonymity and the protection it provides vulnerable communities, for the sake of reining in trolls who mostly are only able to cause harm because of social media platforms that profit from amplifying their content,” Cooper continues.
Reset Australia are calling for the three following policy directions:
- Increased transparency so evidence-based solutions can be found. This would include the introduction of “live lists” of the top trending issues during contentious periods – such as pandemics and elections.
- A shift towards systemic issues, rather than focusing on content takedowns and user identification. Design features and algorithms that promote harmful content are at the root of the problem, and need to be tackled.
- A ‘Black Letter Law’ by default approach which develops robust, legislated regulation which is enforced by independent arbitrators and written by policymakers, not the industry.