When John Venn first wrote about the different ways of representing propositions by diagrams in 1880, I am pretty certain that he didn’t have ID proof on social media at the forefront of his mind, but a Venn diagram of the current proposal before government shows what a difficult task faces our leaders.

In one corner we have a report that recommends a one-hundred-point ID check before being allowed to create a social media account. In the same way that we are not allowed to open a bank account without our ID being verified, adoption of this proposal would mean that every Australian resident would have to verify their ID before being allowed to participate in various social media channels.

Governments love to keep everyone happy but in the other, mutually exclusive corner, we have the argument that complete anonymity encourages freedom of speech. Some experts are arguing that forcing people to expose who they are will further harm already vulnerable groups.

The battle lines have been drawn. Just to spice it up a little, we have just had another security breach of a social media platform. Facebook had a massive data breach which exposed the personal information of 533 million Facebook users. If your information was included in the data dump, it means that right now there may be some nefarious individuals with access to your full name; date of birth; mobile number; location and Facebook ID. More than enough for cybercriminals to impersonate you or try to trick you in to handing over passwords. Possibly even enough for identity theft.

In the argument against the ID check, the data breach is a powerful tool. Social media sites have an incredible amount of information about many individuals. Data breaches seem to occur way too regularly. Imagine if that leaked data included the details of your one-hundred-point check. Accessing bank accounts or incurring significant debts in your name would be even easier.

Flip back over to the argument in favour of the ID check. There are people who will sometimes admit to creating multiple social media accounts for typically one of two reasons. Firstly, they may want to try and influence public opinion. An article is published on social media and suddenly there are twenty comments from twenty different people in favour of the opinion in the article. I am often amazed how so many people found this article so quickly and how they could all form these strong opinions just a few moments after an article has been published. Except ‘they’ sometimes is just he or she. One person with multiple accounts, appearing to be multiple people, can post all of these comments. Other people read it and assume that everyone else is in favour of this idea and they may stay quiet if they have a dissenting view.

The second reason is outright bullying and intimidation. Imagine the same situation above and a real person posts an opinion that is different to all the other posts under the article. Then, like a ton of bricks, a barrage of negative commentary is thrown at this person, possibly including threats and unsavoury comments. That person feels intimidated and is unlikely to add to the social discourse and anyone else reading it would keep their opinion to themselves.

The arguments could go back and forth all day but it has to stop somewhere. The report is before the government. I am incredibly interested to see which way they go.

Tell me whether you think an ID check before being allowed to use social media sites is a good idea at ask@techtalk.digital.

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