[Published 15 May 2016]
Ending the plague of anonymity on the Internet seems closer to fruition following moves this week by the UN Security Council.
Re-affirming its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security the President of the Security Council re-iterated:
“the urgent need to globally counter the activities of ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities to incite and recruit to commit terrorist acts”
by a variety of measures including:
“developing the most effective means to counter terrorist propaganda, incitement and recruitment, including through the Internet, in compliance with international law, including international human rights law;”
The President called on its Counter-Terrorism Committee in close consultation with other relevant United Nations bodies and international and regional organizations as well as interested Member States to present a comprehensive international framework to the Security Council by 30 April 2017.
Steven A Crown, vice president and deputy general counsel of Microsoft told the Security Council:
“there is no silver bullet that will stop terrorist use of the Internet.”
Crown was quick to acknowledge:
“For the internet industry, the scale of the terrorist challenge is daunting. We know that there are tens of thousands terrorist internet accounts that refuse to die. As one is taken down, another quickly springs up in its place.”
Crown’s appearance marked the first time a representative of a technology company has addressed the U.N.‘s most powerful body.
Crown was surely being naïve in expressing this opinion.
The use of the Internet as a communications tool has been fuelled by the anonymity afforded to those who use it – enabling all kinds of hate and incitement to be spewed out daily without recourse to those who claim to have been legally affected by those who make their vile and outrageous statements.
Surely the first step in any move by the Security Council to combat this “Internet Intifada” is to insist that all member States impose laws in their jurisdictions compelling all Internet providers to insist on the names , addresses and contact phone numbers being provided by all registered users of their websites - including those seeking to post comments.
These details would be held by the Internet provider and could be subpoenaed in any proceedings brought in a competent court of law by persons claiming to have suffered as a result of any offending publication.
Large penalties would be prescribed for those providers who failed to check the bona fides of those using the internet.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power correctly said it was important to protect free speech.
"As we consider the task of countering violent ideologies we all must recognize that the common goal of countering terrorist ideology should never be used as an excuse to suppress political dissent. Legal action is a critical tool in the campaign against ISIL but it must not be wielded like a cudgel against those who voice unpopular speech or criticize authorities. Such behavior doesn’t prevent violent extremism, it fuels it.”
Ending anonymity on the Internet is not a threat to free speech. It does not prevent anyone saying whatever they want to say within the bounds of what is legally acceptable.
Anonymity has been widely rejected by most newsprint around the world.
Popular talk back radio shows have a seven second delete button to filter calls deemed to be outside what is legally permitted.
Ending anonymity on the Internet – if prosecuted by all UN member States - will lead to those tens of thousands of terrorist internet accounts currently in existence and their would-be successors being quickly and effectively eliminated.
If people are not prepared to reveal their identities – don’t publish.