New Bill Allows Social Media Users To Block All Anonymous Accounts

Posted February 25, 2022 by with 2 comments

The “Online Safety Bill” gives users the option to only receive messages and replies to posts/tweets from verified users. In other words, anonymous users will no longer be able to reply or interact with anyone who’s chosen to block anonymous users. Twitter does have an option now that allows you to limit replies to your tweets (either by only allowing people you follow to reply, or only allowing people you’ve tagged to reply), but this takes it a step further. While the legislation is only in the works in the UK right now, social media companies like Twitter and Facebook/Instagram may eventually implement the same blocking capabilities here in the U.S. Via TechCrunch:

Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport says the latest additions to the Bill will make it a requirement for the largest platforms (so called “category one” companies) to offer ways for users to verify their identities and control who can interact with them — such as by selecting an option to only receive DMs and replies from verified accounts.

“The onus will be on the platforms to decide which methods to use to fulfill this identity verification duty but they must give users the option to opt in or out,” it writes in a press release announcing the extra measures.

Commenting in a statement, Dorries added: “Tech firms have a responsibility to stop anonymous trolls polluting their platforms.

“We have listened to calls for us to strengthen our new online safety laws and are announcing new measures to put greater power in the hands of social media users themselves.

“People will now have more control over who can contact them and be able to stop the tidal wave of hate served up to them by rogue algorithms.”

Twitter does already offer verified users the ability to see a feed of replies only from other verified users. But the UK’s proposal looks set to go further — requiring all major platforms to add or expand such features, making them available to all users and offering a verification process for those who are willing to prove an ID in exchange for being able to maximize their reach.

DCMS said the law itself won’t stipulate specific verification methods — rather the regulator (Ofcom) will offer “guidance”.

“When it comes to verifying identities, some platforms may choose to provide users with an option to verify their profile picture to ensure it is a true likeness. Or they could use two-factor authentication where a platform sends a prompt to a user’s mobile number for them to verify. Alternatively, verification could include people using a government-issued ID such as a passport to create or update an account,” the government suggests.

Ofcom, the oversight body which will be in charge of enforcing the Online Safety Bill, will set out guidance on how companies can fulfil the new “user verification duty” and the “verification options companies could use”, it adds.

“In developing this guidance, Ofcom must ensure that the possible verification measures are accessible to vulnerable users and consult with the Information Commissioner, as well as vulnerable adult users and technical experts,” DCMS also notes, with a tiny nod to the massive topic of privacy.

Digital rights groups will at least breathe a sign of relief that the UK isn’t pushing for a complete ban on anonymity, as some online safety campaigners have been urging.

[TechCrunch: UK wants to squeeze freedom of reach to take on internet trolls]