“Disguise ban” for forum posters might enter into force in 2020
April 11, 2019
According to the new regulation, it will be required from users of online forums, newspapers, but also platforms like Facebook to register, so the names and addresses can be saved.
Although postings can still be written under a pseudonym (nickname), the authorities should be able to identify the users if necessary.
The government promotes recently announced plans as a “digital disguise ban” and as a measure against hate postings on the web. However, experts pointed out last year that a similar regulation in South Korea had failed in the past, when hackers accessed the online media servers, stealing the data from millions of South Koreans.
Startups not affected
As media minister Gernot Blümel announced on April 10, the law should apply from 2020 for all online platforms that have either 100,000 users, 500,000 euros in revenue per year or receive over 50,000 euros in “press subsidies”. This would mean that the new regulation would apply not only to Austrian daily newspapers, but also to platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Not affected would be smaller media outlets to avoid impeding startups.
A draft of the law will be reviewed next week. According to the plan, the registration of users could be done through an identification via mobile number. In case of violations fines might go up to 500,000 euros.
The plan violates "both EU law and Austrian fundamental rights" - Lukas Feiler, Baker McKenzie
Possible constitutional problems
However, the IT law expert Lukas Feiler from the law firm Baker McKenzie points out to possible constitutional problems. In his view, the plan violates “both EU law and Austrian fundamental rights”. This is because the EU’s e-commerce guidelines guarantee that service providers in the network are only subject to the law of the country of origin. Following that logic, Austria should not impose any restrictions on foreign providers. Should domestic providers be treated more strictly than foreign ones, this would in turn violate the principle of equality of the Austrian constitution, according to Feiler.