Online anonymity “undermines democracy” and users should be required to verify their identity on social media platforms, ministers have been told.
Labour’s Dame Margaret Hodge said she has received abusive, racist and misogynistic messages when challenging “Jew hate”.
She told the Commons: “Some are very offensive – ‘I hope she dies soon’, ‘dumb bitch’, ‘nothing but a couple of shit-stirring cum buckets bought and paid for by Israel’.”
The former minister continued reading out abuse she had received, adding: “Ending anonymity for those who promulgate hate or harm is key to effectively combating it.
“We must compel social media companies to be able to identify all users. We know that’s easily done, take the online payment company PayPal.
“Everyone using PayPal must provide their identity when setting up an account. A user’s identity is not public but it can be traced if required.
“If social media companies acted similarly, then those who use online anonymity for good – such as whistle-blowers, victims of child abuse or domestic abuse – could continue to do so, but those who use anonymity to spread harmful content would be identifiable and could be then dealt with by the appropriate authorities.”
Dame Margaret earlier highlighted the “tsunami” of racist abuse directed at footballers, including Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, telling MPs: “Far from nurturing debate, anonymity undermines democracy.”
The Government’s forthcoming online harms legislation will require tech firms, such as Facebook and Google, to abide by a duty of care to users, overseen by Ofcom as the new regulator for the sector.
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