Tasmanians have begun to speak out on draconian laws that require online political comment to include the commenter’s name and home or work address.

The laws mirror those passed and subsequently repealed in South Australia.

A consumer group, Digital Tasmania, with the backing of the Australian Privacy Foundation, Electronic Frontiers Australia and Civil Liberties Australia, has sent a letter to Tasmania’s electoral commissioner not to enforce the “unworkable” law.

The sheer impracticality of enforcing this law on thousands of people in Tasmania and elsewhere commenting on this election is overwhelming… Those who do follow the letter of the law potentially expose themselves to harassment, stalking, physical abuse or identity theft,” said Andrew Connor, a spokesperson for Digital Tasmania. It is conceivable that such personally identifiable information may, once published, remain available online forever.”

The letter was also sent to David Bartlett, Tasmanian premier, and the leaders of the Tasmanian Greens and Liberals. The letter read:

We believe that the public will either: refuse to post about the election on the Internet, stifling legitimate debate; follow the letter of the law and proceed to publish their name with electoral matter which opens them up to a range of privacy infringements; or simply disregard the law requiring them to put their name and address to any electoral matter online… Very few Tasmanians are aware of the requirement, there are literally hundreds of comments being posted all over the internet on a daily basis, and even some candidates for office are failing from a matter of practicality to comply with the legislation.”