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Austrian government seeks to eliminate internet anonymity, with severe penalties (derstandard.at)
508 points by superwayne 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 276 comments



It is surprising. Even here, in Russia, we don't have such laws working yet. And I wonder, what Austrian authorities are going to do with foreign platforms like Telegram, which are unlikely to comply? Russian government has been trying to block Telegram using DPI for a year and didn't succeed.

What about Twitter? Reddit?

> In addition, web platforms would be required to appoint a liaison in Austria who would be responsible for making information about platform users available if it becomes necessary. If this person does not ensure that the regulation is followed, he or she could be punished with a fine of up to 100,000 euros.

This will just put foreign platforms, who will ignore the law, into an advantageous position compared to local platforms. Users might switch to foreign platforms that don't require identification.


>This will just put foreign platforms, who will ignore the law, into an advantageous position compared to local platforms. Users might switch to foreign platforms that don't require identification.

Doesn't really matter, as those things move the Overton window.

Tomorrow, when the US, China, and EU adopt similar laws, there wont be any "foreign services" to use.


Yeah, the US will never adopt a law like that. Anonymity is extremely protected by the Supreme Court, because the founders wrote and distributed pamphlets anonymously in support of the Revolution.


>Anonymity is extremely protected by the Supreme Court

And yet the US has all kinds of surveillance apparatus to de-anonymize internet users...


And if that apparatus was used to prosecute US citizens for non-major crimes with any frequency it would come under scrutiny very quickly and you'd have politicians jockeying to legislate it out of existence and take credit.

Even if you take the parallel construction angle, no politician except maybe a dinosaur that is super-secure in their position (on the federal level that would be people like Pelosi, Fienstien, etc.) is going to tolerate that because if the other side can prove you knew then you're not going to have a job after the next election.

Obviously we need to remain vigilant but there are existing feedback mechanisms that generally prevent wide spread abuse.


Isn't the advantage of parallel construction that it's extremely difficult, often impossible to detect and thus scrutinize?


To do parallel construction at scale you'd need to get the information into the hands of law enforcement in a plausibly deniable way. Doing that at scale would either have a predictable pattern (if every agency starts getting "anonymous tips" then questions are going to start getting asked) or would need to involve many people in order to plant the information in a more varied manner. Involving the recipient agencies themselves is not going to happen because two people can only keep a secret if one of them is dead so a cool million is going to be a non-starter.


A simple setup is to leave local PDs in the dark as they can always ask for the FBI's help for serious cases. Then the FBI gets access to tools provided by the NSA that look innocuous. For instance, lets assume the NSA snoops enough TOR to do packet correlation attacks. Imagine a simple tool where an FBI agent can enter an IP address or two, and get a list of "associated" IP addresses. Each IP can then be followed as its own lead. Once you've found the needle in a haystack, it's very easy to construct a false narrative of how it was found.

Politically, I don't know how it's possible to look at the current climate and think it will work against mass surveillance. Politicians will just shy away from directly confronting the issue. Whenever any spotlight gets close, the agencies will continue categorize it as national security / tough on crime / etc. The best political ally is seemingly the judiciary, and that itself will only slow things down.



They are two different philosophies, and thinking about how they'll play off one another is kind of interesting.

The US philosophy is to do passive surveillance and assemble the pieces after the fact, rather than mandating ahead of time requirements. Which means that US-based services will continue to be unhindered by such requirements, appearing "anonymous" to the rest of the world.

As more people globally are turned off by ID requirements, if they're able to flee to US services, then they're actually walking into a more sophisticated passive surveillance flytrap. USG will have ever more surveillance over other countries, without even having to clandestinely place taps.

Close allies will be given access through FVEY and the like, making that relationship even more lopsided. But allies' domestic law enforcement won't be, so they'll still be clamoring for more simplistic mandates requiring ID, further driving the process.


Except the dragnet surveillers pretty much know what they're doing is illegal, or at least in a very gray area. And odds are they generally only try to deanonymize people they consider a significant national security risk (with some abuse exceptions, like LOVEINT).

This is codifying forced attribution for everyone into law.


There's a big legal difference between the government working to unmask anonymous users and making it illegal to try to be anonymous in the first place. The latter is probably brazenly unconstitutional while the former is at least a constitutional grey area.


Not American internet users, for the most part. Note that those are at least justified by being connected to foreign actors, and that some of those surveillance apparatus are illegal.


Which at least in principle are supposed to be used only in an accountable fashion under strict judicial supervision.


>Anonymity is extremely protected by the Supreme Court

To clarify, anonymous speech is protected by the First Amendment.

With certain limitations. If someone anonymously offers drugs on the 'dark web', that is not protected, of course.


In the US you have to show your ID much more often compared to other parts of the world. Every bar you enter, or alcohol or drink you buy people ask for identification. This is not the case elsewhere.

So, it wouldn't surprise me, if the current administration would at least attempt such ideas.


This is not generally the case in most parts of the US I've lived in either.

More importantly, it's purely a private business asking for your ID in this case, and only as an age check. In the vast majority of cases they don't record or really care about anything except your date of birth. No bar I've ever been to kept any kind of record that would have enabled them to tell the government that I had visited the establishment.


I’m not a lawyer, but Arizona’s age restriction law explicitly requires recording the details via mag stripe. Whether that applies to something not straightforward in the language I don’t know.

Either way, I routinely get comments about where I live, how my hair looks now, my birthday (coincides with a major date in the US). It’s very low level invasion of privacy, but most of the time I don’t want to small talk at the grocery store, I want to finish what I need to and go. N=1 and all that, but I get the point. At least no one under 21 ever drinks here.


They also stop doing it once you look old enough. I grew a full beard at 27 or so, and I haven't been carded for buying alcohol since.


Amusingly, I grew a full beard at 27 or so and started getting carded all the time!


I seem to remember that in Europe its not unheard of for police to ask to see "papers please" and fancy that its often the darker citizens that get asked that.

Not that the UK and USA don't have some problems in that area


The ID is for age verification, not Name or any other details.


It doesn’t matter what it’s intended for, it matters what it’s used for.


Ah yes think of the children the first resort of authoritarians.


ID verification of age when buying alcohol is practiced by many countries, not just US.


What a scary idea. I want to say that its unlikely to happen but with the political climate right not...

Anybody got an ideas, on what we are supposed to do when that happens


People are very adaptable and will consider all that things new normal. XIX century Americans would consider an income tax in a peacetime grossly inappropriate, creepy and a violation of their dignity after all.


And the more or less permanent state of war we find ourselves in could also be considered a new normal we've adapted to that XIX century Americans would find creepy and grossly inappropriate.


No, the US was at war for essentially the entirety of the 19th century.


Pretty much, the US has always been at war. I mean, they used to have a War Department, which got renamed Defense Department for PR.


Not really that's OTT hyperbole



We've only had 21 years where we haven't been at war. https://www.globalresearch.ca/america-has-been-at-war-93-of-...



As would 19th century Americans


Anybody got an ideas, on what we are supposed to do when that happens

Move to the next of the four boxes, though ideally before it happens. We need to advocate for important civil liberties and reasonable limits on the power of the state, but we do also need to then act according to that advocacy ourselves, for example by voting for people who take these issues seriously or funding legal actions to challenge excesses. A lack of public awareness of these issues and the potential implications for normal people's everyday lives is a big part of the problem, and as coldtea suggested above, shifting the Overton window is going to be crucial to improving the situation. It just needs to shift the other way from where a lot of the authoritarians in power today are trying to push it...


> Anybody got an ideas, on what we are supposed to do when that happens

only few things you can do (in that order depending on how bad it escalates), 0) start to learn about prepping and live a more unplugged live 1) flee and take refuge in a place that others call "backward" 2) take up arms and defend yourself

#2 will get you labeled a terrorist (though so was Count Stauffenberg)


Well and more specifically in places like Colorado that would be enough to take away your guns.


Who's gonna take them? Remember that couple in Houston that put the hurt on a swat team. It doesn't take many events like that to really dampen the enthusiasm for kicking down doors (especially when you're doing it to simply confiscate property). The cops are subject to the same risk calculations as any other home invaders.


Cops have higher ceiling of available tools of coercion. You really want every police visit to start with a flashbang through the window?


ATF is a federal agency. No state is protected against military action against gun holders.


Due to a sad trilogy of events at the end of last century (specifically Episode 2: Texas BBQ) the ATF of this century mostly conducts stings and information based enforcement (i.e. nabbing people for buying Glock switches online). Were they to go back to kicking down doors of people who are generally considered normal patriotic Americans they would A) be more likely to get shot back at than any other agency (much easier to justify and mentally prepare yourself to shoot back at career snake steppers than your local PD) and B) have some really, really bad optics to contend with.

If you're worried about someone taking your guns be worried about the state police.


Edit. I should mention that that "Texas BBQ" happened 26yr ago today. God damn that shit makes my blood boil.


Start a “counterculture network” of onion-routed hidden services (not necessarily Tor, but something akin). Some element of steganography would likely be required to prevent government-controlled ISPs from simply dropping encrypted traffic, most likely.

It would be hard and would likely attract only technically-minded individuals to use.


Better than that, build an anonymity network with both mixing and onion routing, and full padding with chaff. And implement it as drive-by malware, with worm capability. Like WannaCry. It'd be basically a huge botnet. And it would use a covert channel in HD video, which would provide enough bandwidth for text, at least, and maybe images.

That way, participation by servers and clients would be plausibly compulsory. Both because it would evade protection, and because sympathetic admins and users could "accidentally" let it install. And that would provide plausible deniability.

A plausibly deniable user interface would be the hardest part. It'd probably need to self install, and then securely delete itself after use.


> It would be hard and would likely attract only technically-minded individuals

... and police forces: a nice feature of leaving a few gaps that motivated users can use is that the police can focus its limited resources on the those interesting targets.


Well, the old ideas still work: revolt or submit.


This is going to be an unpopular opinion but I'm hoping someone can explain why I'm wrong.

I actually would really welcome online activities no longer being anonymous.

I feel like a large part of why people on the internet are so terrible to one another is that there's really no accountability because of the anonymity.

This is true in many areas including hate speech or posting illegal/inappropriate material.

I suppose I don't know if I think it should be LAW that requires everyone be deanonymized, but I do wish people on the internet would treat each other closer to the way they do in real life.


> I feel like a large part of why people on the internet are so terrible to one another is that there's really no accountability because of the anonymity.

Sounds plausible until you consider that many of the worst comments are written by real people logged in using their real Facebook accounts -

... and some of the best forums online don't demand anything but a username and password like here.

IMO real name policies are way less effective than some people want you to think, and they'll effectively prevent certain minorities from participating in online debates.


"I'm hoping someone can explain why I'm wrong." The answer is in your own words: " I suppose I don't know if I think it should be LAW". I suppose you are right: you don't know. Many people know for sure that they think this is a bad idea to put in place such a law.


"This will just put foreign platforms, who will ignore the law, into an advantageous position compared to local platforms. Users might switch to foreign platforms that don't require identification."

But in the meantime --Your ISP has informed that a foreign social media provider has connected to your account, identify yourself and provide your alias used on said social platform, or [insert consequences here]


It’s common, but disingenuous to talk about the Overton window as though it was some immutable, one-way thermodynamic process. The truth of course is that it goes both ways, that discussion and dissent do exist. History, American and otherwise, is full of examples of overreach that doesn’t lead to the desired result, but the opposite.


In theory it works both ways - but once politicians and government agencies gain power, they will not lose them easily.


Telegram already authenticates by the phone number, which setup was successfully used by Russian forces to hijack accounts of opposition.

Amazing how people are completely blind to this gaping misfeature despite infosec experts complaining about it the entire time.


> Telegram already authenticates by the phone number, which setup was successfully used by Russian forces to hijack accounts of opposition.

While this is bad, IIRC if it has PFS this means that the phone number rerouting cannot be used to recover messages sent before this intercept. And also IIRC this phone number could only be used to trigger re-keying, which is detectable.


> IIRC this phone number could only be used to trigger re-keying, which is detectable

Dunno about currently, but afaik at the time this went down nothing was detectable, you just log into a user's account and read the history since e2e conversations aren't the default.

> The default method of authentication that Telegram uses for logins is SMS-based single-factor authentication. All that is needed in order to log into an account and gain access to that user's cloud-based messages is a one-time passcode that is sent via SMS to the user's phone number. These login SMS messages are known to have been intercepted in Iran, Russia and Germany, possibly in coordination with phone companies.


Russia requires foreign owned services to host data about Russian users inside of Russia. That way the data can be retrieved by the government and used to de-anonymize users. [1]

Data localisation is an up and coming regulatory thing, and more countries are picking it up. [2] Having a handle doesn't make you anonymous.

[1] https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/01/russia-tries-to-...

[2] https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/india-...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_localization


Although this requirement has been in effect for 3 years, foreign services ingore it. For example, recently, Facebook was fined for an amount equivalent to about 50 dollars for not providing information about users' data localization and now has 9 more months to solve this problem [1]. In Facebook's case it is easier to pay the fine than transfer the data into Russia.

LinkedIn is blocked under the same law though.

Telegram is officially blocked in Russia (for not providing access to users' messages), but it works without any special setup.

> That way the data can be retrieved by the government and used to de-anonymize users.

That was probably the intention of lawmakers but there is no requirement to keep the data unencrypted.

[1] https://www.apnews.com/5db72dfa04e401ffec784c8a18ce9b7a


In case anyone wants to know how this should work, this is the explanation by the minister:

There are "technical possibilities where software can run on the backend that can immediately identify: Does the registered mobile phone number match the name and address or not?" - derstandard.at/2000101678440/Minister-Bluemels-Ominous-De-Anonymization-Software (from https://derstandard.at/2000101678440/Minister-Bluemels-Omino...)

Translating it as "backend" is very friendly as he literally said "a software in the rear end".


I think the important part is that they have mobile number stored, and later police can verify whether it matches the name or not, and if it doesn't, I assume, there will be additional penalty for providing false identification information.


The important part is that they want the online communities to store name and address of individuals, already verified, by authenticating the user against a third party service like Mobile Connect. The authorities wouldn't have to match name and telephone number. They just have to audit that the account registration is correctly connected to that external service (and not doing so would result in penalties).


So he's saying that every middle-sized site should keep a database of citizens' phone numbers or have a remote access to such a database.


"Does the registered mobile phone number ..."

So do I understand that the very basis of this proposal is the assumption that "Internet usage" is "media consumption I do on my phone" ?


it won't stop people getting multiple sim cards and registering those under different names


To get a sim card (even prepaid) in Austria you need to provide a valid ID/passport. If it's not an Austrian/German/Swiss ID you will need to go in person to activate your sim card. This would make it really difficult for someone to manage a few accounts.


You can buy sim cards on amazon from other EU countries.


So tell me how this will work. Will you swap SIM cards just to post anonymously sometimes and let the telecom providers (among others) find out what your other SIM cards are through your device ID? Or will you get a SIM card from another country to use exclusively and pay roaming costs / live with a worse data plan in Austria?

People apparently forget that telecoms providers cooperate with authorities, new legislation is planned for this too.


> So tell me how this will work. Will you swap SIM cards just to post anonymously sometimes and let the telecom providers (among others) find out what your other SIM cards are through your device ID? Or will you get a SIM card from another country to use exclusively and pay roaming costs / live with a worse data plan in Austria?

> People apparently forget that telecoms providers cooperate with authorities, new legislation is planned for this too.

Also remember that as soon as you connect to the cell phone network, your location is made known. If you ever slip up and use your personal and private sims in a more private place, you are likely to get caught. Coupled with other potential identifier leakage (like device id as you mentioned) the opsec bar is high for this use case.


Roaming costs are basically non-existant these days in the EU.

For me it is cheaper to use internet through roaming than buying local plan.


> Roaming costs are basically non-existant these days in the EU.

Data plans can be limited for other countries, even within the EU (and frequently are), i.e. if your prepaid contract allows 5GB monthly data transfer for free, the provider might limit this to 500MB for roaming and beyond that limit, you can pay a hefty fee per MB.

In general, prepaid cards aren't famous for having a generous data plan...


But in eu it's more like 20euros for 100go/month and 25go of roaming. The main problem is tje provider will close your account/ask you to pay more if you use roaming exclusively


Giffgaff in the UK gives you 20GB for £20 on pay as you go, and it can be used up to that limit anywhere in the EU. And you don't need a passport to get a simcard either.


> giffgaff runs on the O2 network

Eh, no thanks


You need almost no data to register an account.


You need passport or local id for prepaid purchase, at least in the EU countries to which I've been.


Czechia, Sweden, Finland, Ireland. There are more but plenty to pick from without registration and good prices.


I just bought a vodafone sim in the UK without ID. It is supposed to work all over Europe, but I only tried the Netherlands.


I cannot say for sure but as I remember EU countries eliminated roaming charges, even for prepaid. OTOH there are not so many EU countries that sell prepaid without ID.


"So tell me how this will work. Will you swap SIM cards just to post anonymously sometimes and let the telecom providers (among others) find out what your other SIM cards are through your device ID?"

Imagine connecting to the Internet using a non-phone ?


You use remote services that host your SIM card(s) for you. So you basically make VoIP calls that get routed to cellular networks.


How does your phone communicate with the "VoIP" provider?


You gotta use WiFi.


If it is like in Spain then the non-registered sim cards from other EU countries will simply not work if I remember correctly.

However I have heard that in Spain you could anyway buy unregistered sim cards from certain stores if you asked around and paid a bit more.


My non-registered Dutch t-mobile SIM worked fine in Spain a couple of weeks ago.


Sounds unlikely. I know quite many in Sweden who have unregistered SIM cards and I think I would have heard of if they did not work in Spain.


Alright then I am mistaken. But I do know for sure that you are required to show ID to get a sim card inside the country and there are no unregistered prepaid cards.


this will work for a minority who pay attention to privacy, though the majority just won't bother. The problem I think is that because it's being criminalized to have an anonymous SIM the average citizen will just comply while those who have something to say are silenced.


How is homeless situation in Austria? Thats how you get clean untraceable pre registered cards.


what you suggest is a really good technique which has the additional benefit of inheriting the social graph of whoever owned the phone before. it's easy to get them from immigrants in one of the mom+pop shops offering international "calling-home" services.


That sounds interesting. Can you elaborate for someone that is opsec-naive?


tbh I'd rather not considering how easy it is to give the wrong advise. OpSec is a deeply personal affair very everything you do (and don't do) needs to be tailored to what you're trying to protect and consistently (!!) revised.

I did a writeup that was aimed to illustrate the insane complexity of OpSec and for people to follow along to achieve better privacy (e.g. first install some browser plugins, then /etc/hosts blocking, then pi-hole, then Tor, etc ... so it gradually introduces people to the idea, until eventually the steps become too hard or impractical for them). Also be warned about the psychological pitfalls of what secrets/compartmentalization can do to the brain and remember that cops and spooks have specialists to support them while a lone wolf trying to protect themselves remains exposed to these dangers this can do to your mind.

some of the first couple of "Steps" from the document should be ignored in 2019 (or moved to the bottom - to where the more difficult points are listed - because people will get it wrong) and are no longer useful but the final points of the document give some tricks on how to hide completely. Things like sending a friend around the world with a budget of monthly $50,- debit card for beer money (under your name) remain highly relevant.

Other things are totally missing such as what to do if you think your phone is compromised or how to do damage control in general.

Again be warned that certain points are very dated and may not give you the protection they promise in 2019:

https://web.archive.org/web/20180714043311/https://iotdarwin...

> Use a burner phone with a prepaid SIM to safely enable 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) without leaking your primary mobile number to any «cloud based data-krakens». Nokia’s relaunch of the 3110 is OK for that purpose and doesn’t immediately out you as somebody holding a burner phone in their hands. But the problem is that it has a GPS chip and camera. Probably a show-stopper for stricter scenarios. Just get any cheap phone that doesn’t include the word «smart» in the name. You want to be able to text and that’s it. Consider buying a used prepaid SIM for a few extra bucks from somebody not associated to you and who hasn’t advertised this to you before either. In some countries this might be your only choice meanwhile. Immigrants are usually happy to sell their prepaid SIM for some extra cash. This gives you a number including all existing metadata (call and movement history visible to the operator and the spooks) already associated to that device and its previous owner. You have now purchased the «cover» of a whole network of people connected to the previous owner. This adds plausible deniability to what would otherwise be a pristine dataset (starting from zero). You will also inherit any active tracking that the original device owner themselves might have already accumulated. So if you’re unlucky you may buy the phone from someone under active surveillance. However the idea is that as data-sets age they increase in value to anyone studying them (and people who do are never your friends regardless if you have anything to hide). In other words, what we did above with TrackMeNot/AdNauseum, we’re now repeating with a prepaid SIM from a stranger.


I don’t recall doing that with a Hofer SIM card. However major other networks go a longer way recording who you are.


Then you probably bought your SIM before 2019-01-01. Old SIM cards will have to be registered until September or they must be deactivated.


I bought a burner phone in February (cash, no ID) and there was a HoT-SIM with it. I didn't try using it though.


Check https://www.hot.at/aktivierung/index.html for details for HoT users.


Only selling SIM cards with an ID, would.

And going to jail for 5-10 years if you're caught bypassing the law, would as well.


It's not yet clear (at least to the public) how the registration will actually work on a technical level. I think the idea is that there will be third party services who are responsible for validating the identity of a user (similar to what banks use for KYC purposes). Users could identify themselves via different means, e.g. by providing their phone number or by simply uploading an ID. But that's all speculation on my side.


The easiest way is when the user provides their phone number and confirms it by receiving a SMS. That's how users of public WiFi points are identified in Russia and how users of IM programs are supposed to be identified in near future.


If you're thinking about fake names, you'll get problems trying to register your SIM cards at the telecoms provider, they do ID checks now.


There was a practice in Germany where people traded registered pre-paid SIM cards openly on a website created for that purpose - which was perfectly legal[1].

However they stopped when a court shot down the surveillance law that made people concerned in the first place[2].

If Austrians are even half as privacy-conscious as Germans, expect much of the same happening.

1: https://datenschmutz.net/anonym-kommunizieren-simkarten-taus...

2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_retention#Germany


> If Austrians are even half as privacy-conscious as Germans, expect much of the same happening.

Possibly among groups of people who regularly break the law. I can't see a normal person willingly accepting this sort of risk (e.g. being persecuted for child pornography someone else downloaded) for no good reason.

Also, the authorities will find you anyway if you've ever used a SIM card with your real name in the same phone or even if you only bought the phone from a place where device IDs are registered (like Apple, presumably).


> I can't see a normal person willingly accepting this sort of risk

A lot of Germans did in fact do it. So... there. Even my father considered doing it, being ever suspicious of the handheld tracking device that is the smartphone we forced on him.

There's not much police will (or can) do once it's established that you traded SIM-cards. It's actually discussed in the first article I linked.

There's also a good chance you weren't even remotely physically close to the phone/sim when the crime was committed.


There's quite a few countries where you need to show a passport to register a sim card. Not sure if Austria is one.


I made a map with all European countries requiring an ID:

https://old.reddit.com/r/europe/comments/9ziqfi/european_cou...


Turkey goes further and requires registration of phones, too.


Turkey is not an European country. Having a few percents of the territory in Europe does not move you to Europe.


In Austria and Germany you can't get any SIM without ID as of now.


So if you are a criminal that needs disposable SIM cards you just pay some cash-strapped person to get a bunch of prepaid ones for you.


The point is you have a path to trace if needed. Say some criminal has done that, they've established some kind of contact with the "cash strapped person" to do so - either electronically or in person. Electronic traces are pretty feasible for major nation states to uncover since they're ingesting packet traffic metadata from the whole internet traffic of countries. In-person traces can often be covered by surveillance camera records etc etc. Once there is a point of entry, there is usually a path for entities with governmental powers to investigate.


If you are a criminal, then you can just buy SIM cards from someone or from country that doesn't require indetification.


Do they also make it illegal to sell SIMs between private parties?


Since late year, SIM cards require registration with your real name (in Austria).

Of course you could still get your hands on one registered to another name, but it's no longer trivial to get an anonymous card here.


You can just get them from other countries like Sweden who allow anonymous SIM cards.


Could anyone shed some light on which problem this is supposed to solve exactly and what triggered it in the first place in Austria right now?

Have there been any issues caused by anonymous posts recently? Maybe I'm just living under a rock, but my feeling was that the main issues we're currently facing stem from political distortion caused by populism misusing platform mechanisms to spread misinformation. I don't see how this is supposed to help.


This was triggered by a defamation lawsuit where a former female MP was being harrassed via facebook, made the harassement public via twitter, and subsequently sued by the owner of the facebook account. She lost the lawsuit and was ordered to pay damages. The court found that the owner of the facebook account is not necessarily the harasser, so making the harassement public is libel.

Of course this case was only a welcome trigger to implement some law to cause FUD. Austrian government is completely illiterate in all things regarding internet, but in this case (and the case of the copyright directive), I would go as far and presume malicious intent (not just stupidity).


Maybe they were inspired by her case, but the former MP does not support it:

> Criticism also came from the former Green Party politician Sigi Maurer, whose fight against sexist posts was cited by the government as proof that the law was needed. "The government abused my case to propose this censorship law," Maurer wrote in a tweet last week. "Not in my name."

https://derstandard.at/2000101677286/Government-Seeks-to-Eli...


That seems like an absolutely nonsensical outcome from the court. Does anyone have the court transcript? (yes I'm aware of the risks of reading machine translated legal German, but it would be interesting to know)

(I see that Facebook's ineffective harassment policy is at the root of this again)


The decision was apparently invalidated by a higher court and the trial has to be repeated: https://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2019-03/sigri...


The first court decision has been overruled by the higher instance. However I don't agree with rmu09 that this was the trigger for this law.


Are civil cases not based on preponderance of evidence in Austria? It seem like a fuck up of the court than a problem of internet anonymity.


The case was never about anonymous hate-postings as the harasser's comments where posted under his real name, he just claimed that other people had access to his facebook-account. The case has been overruled by the higher instance a few weeks ago. I don't agree that this was the trigger for this law, the current gov consists of two right-populist parties/movements and made other irrational decisions in the past.


This would be surprising. If I remember correctly the MP was from the Green party (= centre left & environmental) while the current government is pretty much the opposite (centre right party & we're-not-nazis-but-pretty-close party).

This is just the far right interior minister enforcing his ideology of control.


If Austria is anything like the UK, I imagine it's a move designed largely to garner votes from a particular segment of the population who have been led to believe there's a terrorist round every corner, and "it's all to keep them safe".


> Could anyone shed some light on which problem this is supposed to solve exactly and what triggered it in the first place in Austria right now?

Existing hate-speech legislation allows persecution of users already, but in some cases the offenders hide too well or Facebook does not cooperate with authorities. Online newspaper forums are also now full of professionally organized dirt campaigns, sometimes tolerated by left-leaning media. The government wants to be able to persecute those who break the law and thinks it's the responsibility of media to at least make their users identifiable for authorities.


Isn't it enough just to remove those comments?


No, for example when there are death threats or defamation of well-known people that goes viral.


In theory, if you are connected by a medium to almost everyone and utter an opinion, the probability of getting a death threat becomes 1.


Since this is intended for international audiences, it maybe worth stating that "left-leaning" is what was considered center just a few years ago. (The idea of a general consent is somewhat a thing of a past.) Particularly "Der Standard", the newspaper the post is linking to, is now often attributed as "left" and its forum, the biggest and oldest one in Austria is subject to diffamation. (If you're reading the comments in this forum, there's a feeling that the law is meant to implement a premature censorship of sorts, an idea which is also maintained by some law and media professionals.) – While this is nothing like the US divide, there's no such thing like a common (political) perspective in Austria anymore. As a result, even comments meant to remind of the constitution and rule of law are sometimes countered by a qualification as left wing hate speech.

Edit: Previously, the political center of Austria was slightly to the left, like in most European countries. Bored with the great center coalition, the conservative party (ÖVP) has burned all bridges to the center-left social democrats (SPÖ) and is now considering the center rather more near its own right wing. Refugees and immigrants and "punishing" those are now the go-to argument for every legislative initiative. Also, governmental "message control", i.e., controlling what may be leaking of internal political communication or what may be setting an agenda, is deemed of high strategical importance by the ruling parties.


> it maybe worth stating that "left-leaning" is what was considered center just a few years ago.

Please don't attempt to change the meaning of my post with your own interpretation. When I write "left-leaning", I mean exactly that.


Where are there any "left-leaning" public posts of notice in Austria? This isn't the 1970s anymore, when there were actual Maoists… "Left-leaning" is now somewhat of a contested concept and there is no common consent on its meaning – which is what I was trying to point out.


All political terms and discriptors are in constant flux. That is normal. Generally speaking when you refer to left-leaning in a specific country, you mean the leftests of your contemporary time. I’m not sure what Austro-Maoists in the 1970s have to do with today’s leftists in Austria


Personally, I do prefer to keep a more general perspective in view, regarding the history of political ideas. If we just focus on the accidental socio-historical situation, we may miss the general spectrum. E.g., in the 1970s and '80s, there was actual left-wing terrorism or individuals who played with the idea of a substantial change. However, it has been decades since we did see such things even sparsely in public discourse. (But still, we may reminded ourselves of what a real "left" or leftist action may imply. Social-democrats are still centrists, after all. On the other hand, nowadays even the former vice chancellor and leader of the conservative party is considered "left" by some. If we would subscribe to such an idea, we may lose orientation.)

Yet another historical marker, at the end of WW1 about 15% of the Viennese population was anarchists, some of them living in illegal settlements. (These anarchist settlements were mostly converted to allotment associations, some of them still carrying auspicious names like "Future". The reintegration of those who had already left the common political ground into a more traditional spectrum is a special and generally overlooked treat of the political history of Austria and probably the cause, why communists were rather rare in Austria as compared to the neighboring countries.)


In other words: If there's only an ever-shifting relative spectrum, plain conservatives were the fascists du jour at the opposing end, most of the time. This is certainly not what you want. It may be worth treating political opinions fairly for what they are.

Notably, this was about "left-leaning" as a qualifier for hate speech, which may be subject to prosecution (compare the original comment).


I find it interesting you put words in my mouth. That actually is exactly what I want. I’m sorry if you don’t like it but I’ve watched conservatives destroy my country for the last 30 years so will pardon me if my view of them is a little less historical and a little more practical. I believe the international conservative movement is posion.


This comes from a government in which the junior coalition partner is the far-right FPÖ, an openly pro-Putin and authoritarian party.

This law is part of their campaign to browbeat the press and public sphere into submission and it is following attempts to rein the austrian public broadcaster (orf) in.

The proposed law is useless for any legitimate purpose, as anonymity was never a problem with hate speech or other things. People are willing to engage in hate speech, libel or just in overall awful things with their name attached without reservation already.


Putin even attended the wedding of Austrian foreign minister last year[1] and nobody was outraged, in fact Austrians on social media applauded it. Vienna is also crawling with Russian spooks.

The problem in Austria is that the Russians have started buying a lot of property there decades ago. Property prices in Kitzbühel have been going through the roof thanks to Russian oligarchs buying up everything. Russians love Austria (as much as Cyprus) because it's a great place to hide and launder money, see[2]:

Peter Pilz, a member of parliament from the opposition Greens party, said the Italian mafia, especially the Calabria-based ‘Ndrangheta, had years ago used Austria as a money-laundering centre, cleansing around 2 billion euros.

“Now it is mainly a matter of Russian money. A lot of banks must be afraid that the Russians will take their millions and flee to Asia,” he said.

[1] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/vladimir-putin-karin-kneissl-we...

[2] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-banksecrecy-austria-id...

see also: How Russia stands to profit from Austria’s new government: https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/10/how-russia-stands-to-p...

edit: parent is getting silently downvoted for stating facts. welcome to HN.


I wonder why people think that Putin controls all right wing parties on this planet (including Trump).

No one talks about Gazprom Schroeder (center-left SPD) who destroyed the welfare state in Germany and then joined Gazprom.


But what about this other thing?


I don't think he controls them. What it reminds me of is how USSR supported pretty much any political movement anywhere in the world, so long as it was in opposition to the capitalist West. The important part was that last one, but most such movements were left-wing.

But that was there and then. We don't have any strong hard left movements of that kind in Western countries today. We do, however, have far right / "third position" movements of that kind. And ideologically, they align pretty well with Russia's own internal politics, so they're more reliable allies, as well. So, while there is some support for left-wing anti-establishment movements, most of it goes to the right. And hence we're mostly talking about that.


“Populists” lol. It’s not like anyone on the political spectrum has any shame. All political entities will abuse every mechanism that is at their disposal that won’t get them in trouble. Maybe the “populists” were the first to take advantage because they are smarter?


Populist/technocrat is really more a function of who your key supporters are, and what kinds of appeals are more efficient with them.


I doubt it solves any problems. The right wing parties just want to have more leverage for message control. A platform under the proposed law has to share the identity of an individual if another party wants to sue them for libel as an example. A think the FPOe does regularly.


[flagged]


Describing the current government in Austria as center-right is a bit ridiculous (to say nothing of putting words like centrist or left anywhere near descriptions of that government). Austrian politics have been moving further and further to the right and the FPÖ (junior coalition partner) is a xenophobic far-right party with authoritarian streaks. I’m really not comfortable in describing a government where such a party participates as center-right.


Censoring the internet is a popular topic among all center parties in Europe. For example "Hate-speech" censorship, where the end justifies the means, is popular among many left leaning parties.

Isn't the proposal from an ÖVP minister? Does the ÖVP not qualify as center-right?


OeVP in the current incarnation is not in the center any more. Definitely right wing.


No, that's just your opinion. The OVP is center-right, the FPO is right wing/populistic.


The OeVP current platform is to curb rights of immigrants, to reduce social support systems, lowers corporate tax rates, introduces laws to restrict social housing to non immigrants, reduces child support payments for children in other EU countries, continues the policy on border controls in Schengen, restricts skilled immigration, sets a maximum limit of 1.5 euro per hour income for asylum seekers when doing social service. What did this party do that’s center?

The policies that OeVP introduces and advocates are more restrictive and conservative than the FPOe did under Haider.


Almost all your points are about immigration. Yes, they have certainly moved to the right on immigration. Even the centre-left social democrates have moved right in this regard. But that still doesn't make the conservatives a right-wing party.

Compared to the past they have also moved left on other topics: e.g. by not touching pensions.

"restricts skilled immigration": Funny, since they have also been criticized for allowing more immigration. Ironically from left-leaning people.

"reduce social support systems": Well, they mostly retargeted social support. All polls showed that a large majority of the people supported these changes. People thought the old system enforced the wrong incentives.

Also let's not forget that they reduced taxes on salaries specifically for working-class families substantially.

"lowers corporate tax rates": IIRC they have only lowered one tax slightly for a single sector (tourism) so far. Hardly anything dramatic.

Still, all these points are not too surprising for conservatives in general. If this is enough for you to call them right-wing, that's certainly fine for me.

Just to add: I've talked to people that directly called the Austrian conservatives an extreme right party ;) I know you didn't go as far, but they were also pretty serious about that. Maybe we can agree that at least "extrem right" is ridiculous. I personally don't get where this overly-dramatic phrasing comes from. Are some people so upset that for once the chancellor is not a social-democrat?


> "restricts skilled immigration": Funny, since they have also been criticized for allowing more immigration. Ironically from left-leaning people.

Who criticised them for that? The only thing they did was introduce low skilled immigration (eg: fruit pickers, cooks and other people in the tourism industry).

> "reduce social support systems": Well, they mostly retargeted social support. All polls showed that a large majority of the people supported these changes. People thought the old system enforced the wrong incentives.

"retarget" just means to reduce support for foreigners and low income families with many children (which correlates to families of Turkish background). Yes, many people think the system enforces the wrong incentives but none of the proposals to improve the incentives where even considered. For instance Nostandshilfe is not being touched because it's predominantly Austrians that are hanging in it.

> Also let's not forget that they reduced taxes on salaries specifically for working-class families substantially.

Even after the tax cuts Austrians pay more in taxes and social contributions today than they did before. The reason for this is that DG/DZ and social contributions increase automatically every year.

None of your examples demostrate how this party would be in the center. They are significantly more to the right than the population is.

> Are some people so upset that for once the chancellor is not a social-democrat?

No, many people are upset because they worry about the future of the country. I for instance worry a lot because the policies set in place in the last few months are dangerous. We already have a very unstable system in the past with very little transparency into what the government is doing (eg: no freedom of information) but how they are from a central position controlling some of the entities that were at least somewhat impartial (like the central bank, the statistic agency etc.).

I don't care who controls the country, I want that the government is transparent and does not get too much power. They are putting more and more powers in place, they are enacting unconstitutional laws and are overwhealming the courts which are busy shutting these things down but it takes time. They are also completely eroding the public discourse with their framing.

Any hope that Austria would have a path towards social liberties and a more business friendly environment were completely scattered since the last election. It's a coalition that blames everything on foreigners and puts laws in place for large donors of the parties.


> None of your examples demostrate how this party would be in the center.

I was merely arguing that party is center-right. I think I brought some examples, but obviously I am biased as well. Makes me curious how you categorize other parties in Europe if the Austrian conservatives are already right-wings to you (think Orban, FPO, Le Pen, Golden Dawn, NPD,...)

> I for instance worry a lot because the policies set in place in the last few months are dangerous.

This is where I really disagree, so many of these accusations are so blown out of proportion to me.

Best example to me was when some party leader of the opposition was literally speaking of "fascism", such that even the president (former leader of the green party) called that exaggerated. The opposition was arguing this way since before the government was even appointed, this is not just about the policies in the "last few months". Certainly a legitimate tactic of the opposition, but nothing I fear at all.


> Makes me curious how you categorize other parties in Europe if the Austrian conservatives are already right-wings to you (think Orban, FPO, Le Pen, Golden Dawn, NPD,...)

Right wing to right wing extremism. In particular NPD is very far to the right. Some of these parties are not just about being on the right but also outright racist without hiding it.

> This is where I really disagree, so many of these accusations are so blown out of proportion to me.

You’re likely not directly affected by their policies. I am. I’m married to a foreigner and employ non EU foreigners and I got to experience the changes directly.

As an example to the new policies that silently became a thing is that my wife as a non EU foreigner is no longer allowed to carry a pepper spray. We now need to proof every year that our children are going to the doctor or Kindergarten and that my wife’s permit did not lapse to continue receiving tax credits and Familienbeihilfe. It’s a joke as the kids are Austrian citizens and entitled regardless of her status.


just noting that the 'center' you're speaking of is quite left by international standards


Destroying the welfare state was done by the SPD in Germany.

Citizen tracking sounds more like what the "communist" party of China would do.

Some decades ago Franz Josef Strauss was considered "right wing". It seems to me that the items you list would have been considered center-right in the 1990s.


But do the ÖVP actually do that? I'm Spanish and I voted for a "conservative" government this last election, where they promised to do, well, stuff I expected from a conservative party, and they didn't do shit. That's why I call them "centrist". They say they are conservatives, but they don't conserve anything.


I only enumerated things they put into law out they proposed or supported from the start.

The things the FPOe did was getting rid of the smoking ban, raising the speed limits to 140, renaming the immigration centers to “departure centers”, proposals to cut the funding of the public broadcaster.

Together they converted the country in record time into a dystopian place. Even putting childhood education back into former times by reintroducing marks for primary schoolers and minimum requirements that can cause children under 10 to have to repeat a class.

They are now both also starting to talk about rolling back abortion rights.


Well, the conservatives and the right are not going to implement left politics. Austria was certainly NOT converted into a "dystopian place".

Like it or not: Some time ago, a left-leaning newspaper (Standard) wrote that the current government has the best polls recorded so far.


> Well, the conservatives and the right are not going to implement left politics. Austria was certainly NOT converted into a "dystopian place".

A country with that much power given to the government with so little oversight, no transparency is a problem. Austria is a country of immigration and the rules in place for immigrants are awful (from both access to citizenship and rights). What is currently being done has the chance to erode the social fabric more than any other government did before.

> Like it or not: Some time ago, a left-leaning newspaper (Standard) wrote that the current government has the best polls recorded so far.

Obviously I don't like it, and it worries me a lot. I'm not sure any if this is the country I want my children to grow up in.


Yeah, when I voted for the conservatives here I thought they would roll back abortion rights but they didn't, I thought they would fix the immigration madness but they didn't, and that's why I and many other people are voting far right next election: the conservative party has simply failed to be conservative, they just became centrists to attract more votes, and I sure hope it will backfire.

And that's why these laws are popping up all over Europe: they want to maintain control, they are scared of new parties.


What specifically would you like them to conserve? I find conservatism confusing because the specific base state that apparently needs to be conserved differs from person to person. Do you want to go back to feudalism? Do you want to go back to the bronze age? Or do you just want to go back to when the literacy rate was below 50%? Conservatism needs to be specific in its goals otherwise it only represents a desire for a purely unchanging society.


Not surprised by the political shift, I have lived there for few years and felt really discriminated. Few people actually stopped talking to me after they learn where I'm from(Turkey). It's bit out of context but I will heavily advise against moving there for non-European immigrants, don't make the same mistake that I did.


I feel for you. The Turkish community has a real hard time in Austria, much more so than Germany.

I'm ashamed to say that many people from my childhood, today consider themselves liberals but in their rethoric are nothing more than the descendants of Nazis. The first thing I did when being old enough was to GTFO of Austria, and I haven't been back other than on vacation. I have a couple of Turkish friends in Germany who feel quite comfortable and at home there. From those I met in Austria they were by far not as cheerful. There is a lot of talk about "integration" which is basically a way to say: don't speak your language, don't eat your food, and don't visit your mosques because it offends us.

Every attempt of me making friends among Turks in Austria has always been met with suspicion since they aren't used to it. Extremely sad and disgusting.

I guess the problem is that people view Austria as some kind of liberal "Western" country, while geographically it is part of Eastern Europe and ideologically they are closer to those cheering for Victor Orban in Hungary.

If you want to deeply offend (most) Austrians call them Eastern Europeans. They think they're better.


correct the FPÖ is in fact the continuation of the Nazi government and was founded by former Nazis (VDU)[1].

The FPÖ used to be mostly a problem of in Carinthia, where the party was infamous for it's beerfests crawling with skinheads.

You might love the place as a tourist, but if you're an immigrant (even born there) and especially Turkish/Muslim (or simply have a different accent), then living in Austria is no fun.

[1] (in German sorry): https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freiheitliche_Partei_%C3%96ste...


I think the wrong words were chosen by the parent. For many decades politics in Europe were dominated by traditional globalist governments, which I would describe as "centrist". For many people those governments are failing and voters are moving to the left and the right, depending on the country of course.

Centrist governments are trying to use "hate speech" laws as a way of curbing their loss of control of the media; before they could control the newspapers and the telly and therefore they could control dialogue, now with social networks that's not that easy. We are seeing that with some stories, such as rapes in Sweden and all of that. They could simply tell their friends in TV networks not to talk about it. Problem solved. That doesn't work anymore. So they need the law.

In Germany and Austria for example you need to put your real name and address in a visible part of your website known as the Impressum. What's a better way to make sure you keep your opinions under control and your head low?


those governments are failing and voters are moving to the left and the right, depending on the country of course.

I think it's pretty universal across Europe that people are moving more to the extremes. But that doesn't make the original parties suddenly "centrist" -- they're just status-quo, "old school".

Centrist governments are trying to use "hate speech" laws as a way of curbing their loss of control of the media

I'm sorry, but this just sounds like populist propaganda. There hasn't been government control of the media like you suggest; instead, the media used to be civil. The current "popular" channels do away with civility, and any voice critical of that tone is immediately discarded by playing the victim, like you are doing here.

The establishment, still representing the civil masses, is perfectly within scope to try and curb uncivility. Whether their methods are effective is up for debate, but the goal isn't -- we all know what happened last time Europe went uncivil (80 million premature deaths).


As if there is no third option other than a) a well fed huge centrist government + civil bland state TV or b) dictatorship.

How about Thatcher/Friedman/Chicago school/libertarian politics?

Has never been tried anywhere.


Thatcher politics most definitely has been tried, by the UK when Thatcher was PM.


As others have pointed out, the austrian government is populist right/far-right. This is not a law by centrist parties, but by right-wing authoritarian.


The article states a number of laws this proposition is most likely to conflict with. I very much doubt it will hold in court, and certainly someone will sue. I guess it won't even land at the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

But even if I'm right, it still damages the public discussion on privacy and civil rights. It is one of many steps pulling public opinion in a frightening direction.


It's not the only attempt of the current government of Austria to do something against privacy on the internet.

- There is the idea of a tax called "Digitalsteuer": A tax for internet companies which didn't pay taxes for some reason. However, it is estimated this would make only some million dollars (~25 to 30/year). At the same time, it could lead to too much surveillance because somebody would have to save the address and location data of Austrian users somewhere. https://derstandard.at/2000100880156/Kritiker-befuerchten-du...

- And the "Überwachungspaket":

-> you need to register prepaid sim cards

-> limitation of the secrecy of letters

-> data retention by ISPs etc https://epicenter.works/thema/ueberwachungspaket


"Results show that in the context of online firestorms, non-anonymous individuals are more aggressive compared to anonymous individuals"

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal...


This legislation is not about "aggressive behaviour", it's about criminal conduct. While I can't comment professionally on the validity / reproducibility of this research (looks bogus to me, they only examined comments on an online petition platform, not FB and news sites where all the crazy people are[1]), anyone who'd claim that criminals don't prefer to be anonymous or that perceived anonymity has a negative effect on criminal behaviour, would surely be laughed out of academia.

Besides, the anonymity vs. other users will not be changed, we're not talking about a "visible real names" policy here. You can still use nicknames, just the forum operator has to store your real name.

[1] The final dataset includes 532,197 comments on 1,612 online petitions. There were a total of 3,858,131 signatures over the 1,612 petitions between 2010 and 2013, with detailed information about the wording of the comment, the commenters, the signers and the petition.


Putting 2 innocent people through systems designed to assume they are guilty is worse than 1 guilty person being able to be anonymous. Look at what the TSA has done. They’ve wasted so much time and created a massive invasion of physical privacy (i.e. someone touching your private parts in public) and not only did they never catch anything, they fail 90% of penetration tests. There is some positive intent here but in the real world this is obvious to cause more harm than good. I don’t know if it is hubris or ignorance to not see how easily this will be manipulated and have negative externalities. You don’t jail your whole population because of 1 bad apple.


I see two options going forward:

- Filters, Article 13 style. Youtube, Facebook and Co have to ensure you can only post legal content

- Accountability. A justice system is able to drag you into a court when you've done something illegal.

We tried safe harbor and it was a nice compromise, but youtube added ContentId for a reason and it also certainly doesn't seem to help against hate speech. I prefer we keep judges assessing what is allowed and what isn't, instead of shifting this burden onto companies. If that requires Know Your Customer laws, then this seems like an acceptable trade off to me.


What about doing nothing? Is the status quo intolerable? Will it become intolerable if things continue on their current course? If you believe this, why do you believe it?

The problems of upload filters have been discussed here in depth and the consensus seems to be that they would have massive collateral damage. Removing anonymity creates severe problems for freedom of expression. Consider, for example the buffer anonymity provides from strategic lawsuits against public participation.

What current problem is so bad that solving it is worth the costs of either of those solutions?


I'd rather that we learn to acknowledge that laws and their enforcement isn't free, either economically, or in terms of its effect on personal freedoms, and that there is a line past which it's a net negative even if it targets some activity that is illegal for a good reason, and has some meaningful effect on that.


> Putting 2 innocent people through systems designed to assume they are guilty is worse...

This is not about being guilty, it's about being accountable for your actions, just like you are everywhere else.

In Austria and Germany, people riding bicycles are considered the rudest on the streets. Everybody is anonymous to other participants until an accident happens, but only bicycles have no number plates, so they usually run every red light because they won't be held accountable unless the police see it and give chase. I don't think it's fair, though some people clearly consider this an important part of their personal freedom, at the expense of everyone else.


It's a lot harder to kill a pedestrian with a bike than with a car, though. Cars are a lot more lethal than bikes, and most countries have road designs that are bike-hostile. You have to be a very assertive and alert cyclist there to not get hurt.

That is to say, consideration and respect goes both ways.


> It's a lot harder to kill a pedestrian with a bike than with a car, though.

That's completely irrelevant. It's about the "rules do not apply to me because you can't catch me" attitude, same as with people who harass others online without remorse by using various anonymity tools. Removing this possibility would fix it the accountability problems to a great extent and make them behave more responsibly, in line with others.


Where I live road law is about safety, not about "attitude correction". Culture is the thing that fosters positive attitudes and respect. You really think cyclists are trying to bully you when they run a light?

What's the limit, skateboards with license plates? Why not subdermal RFID implants to catch people jaywalking? I mean, in the end a human body is just another vehicle for consciousness.

We have people that jump in front of your car without paying any attention to their safety, almost begging to be hit. Informally we call them "jaywalk terrorists". Their ignorance is a harsh punishment by itself, to them.


I ride a bicycle as my primary means of transport. I strictly obey traffic laws, and on almost every[0] journey I see motorists breaking traffic laws. Where I live, it's illegal to cross a solid white line that borders your lane to overtake somebody unless they are traveling at less than 10mph. I never travel that slowly, but motorists routinely cross solid white lines to overtake me. I estimate only about 1% of motorists obey the law.

To be fair, only a minority of those illegal overtakes are actually dangerous, but the same is true of most traffic law violations by cyclists.

[0] Extremely short journeys, or journeys very late at night, might encounter no motor traffic in a position to break the law.


So what?


Maybe I am wrong. I've observed usually the most aggressive to be kind of "knight of the status quo." They are opportunists seeking status and notoriety, whether consciously or not. They do this by being opportunists and attacking those who offered controversial opinions which garnered feelings of negativity. The knights latch onto that negativity as their opportunity for an assault. And you'll find they have put little genuine interest into the actual issue at hand, they're more interested in being a sort of "knight of the groupthink." So I think it is not really surprising to find users with their real names associated with conformity and status-seeking.


Typically trolls don’t have to sound aggressive. They can wander in, throw a grenade into a discussion, and then act innocent of the carnage.


That behaviour is not desirable in any space online. That’s what makes it so good here the moderation is pretty good. But is this a problem to be solved at the state level?


It is not a problem. I do like moderation if I want to stay on topic. I also like the bad stuff. As long as there is room for both, I am happy. Enforcing identification isn't a realistic option.


Laws like this one and the recent anti-crypto law in Australia have me really worried for the future of small, privately owned sites. If laws like these continue to pass, it's going to become more and more difficult for small sites to navigate the legal regulations around running a web application. This, in turn, will discourage people from building their own web applications, which will lead to a decrease in overall innovation in the online space.

The conspiracy theorist in me is starting to see these laws as some sort of ploy by the big players(google, amazon, facebook, etc.) to create a sort of monopoly on the internet by making it so difficult to enter the web application space that only large companies with massive amounts of resources can even play the game.

As someone who is currently working on a new art sharing platform that will include discussion threads, I'm starting to get worried about needing to comply with these types of laws. Not that I would comply, as I believe one's internet experience should be as anonymous as one wants it to be.

It's a real shitty place to be. I hope this law gets shot down and all future laws in the same vein don't gain traction.


The funny thing is, they have a threshold of 100.000 users that must be registered at the site.

So a site like unzensuriert.at (like breitbart in the US) which is a right leaning / government favourable website will not fall under such a law and won't get penalties.


> The funny thing is, they have a threshold of 100.000 users that must be registered at the site.

It's 100.000 users OR revenue of €500.000 OR being media with press subsidies of €50.000+ OR being a service partner providing an online service for such companies.

That the law was made in such a way for "unzensuriert.at" ist just nonsense propaganda, there are plenty of left-leaning or straight opposition blogs and forums that are exempt as well (e.g. kontrast.at, run by the SPÖ). It's a law targeted at online forums by newspapers and FB/Google/Twitter. Also, unzensuriert.at is not "right leaning" it's pretty far right and not very friendly to the conservative ÖVP, i.e. the larger part of the government.

Exempt are also (apparently) forums on e-commerce websites and reviews/comments, support forums.


The fun part is that unzensuriert.at is notorious for the dehumanizing and racist comments posted under their articles but still won't be affected by this law. However, they have turned off their forums a few days ago.


If the government will decide whom to prosecute then of course, pro-government websites won't have any problems no matter how many users they have. Laws like this are usually made to be applied selectively.


So, will a site maintainer simply remove the older accounts that have not accessed the site in a while, to keep number of accounts below 100 000?


Interestingly, the current draft of the bill says that the site owner has to delete accounts which were inactive for a year.


I wonder what will happen if somebody motivates a lot of people to register on a site, to push them over the threshold.

It may also be possible to split your forums to different sites / domains if you reach the thresold.

Anyhow I can't see how this will play out in real life and I hope our president will step in and prevent it from happening at all.


So distributed social media communities like Mastodon will not have the problem?


I guess not, since there is no single entity/company which holds 100.000 users.

But I am 100% sure, our current government would never ever grasp the concept of a federated social network and probably just try to ban it.


I imagine sensible website operators would limit signups to below the threshold, so they don't run the risk of legislation unexpectedly applying. Otherwise it also becomes an avenue for malicious actors.


I run a lot of websites, and this is exactly what I would do.

I'd probably keep the content but orphan it and kill the underlying user and profile.


If it works out, and there's no public outcry, they'll just reduce the limit to 10k after a while.


It’s completely unclear and ridiculous. There are some people on wikipedia atm that try to figure out how wikipedia could possibly comply and what it means: https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benutzer:Liberaler_Humanist/...


Depends if the law says currently registered users or historically registered users.


You wonder how long before this becomes the default law in most western countries. We are slowly destroying the Internet and what it has given us.


To preserve the anonymity of the source of my own ideas, I might write every tweet/post like so:

“A friend of mine says, ‘Woke politics are getting absurd.’”

I wonder if this would be violation of the law...


That reminds me of SWIM [0] from the drugs forums back in the day

[0] Someone Who Isn't Me. I believe it was an attempt to avoid admitting to illegal things. It was mandatory to use SWIM instead of the first-person on some forums.


I'm not sure "I was raised not to rat on friends" holds up in court.


Today I was driving around beautiful spring-time Vienna, and I happened to stop at a traffic light as Chancellor Kurz, sitting in the passenger seat of some 2019 rich-car convertible, also happened to stop in the lane next to me.

He gave me such an evil glare, it was astonishing. So I glared back at him.

In real life, I found him to be as loathsome a creature as in media. Perhaps, fatter than I thought he was.

I hope I can continue to report such things on the Internet in the future.


If you try to ban the future, it will just happen elsewhere. - Paul Graham (2017)

... via http://github.com/globalcitizen/taoup


There is also an interview (unfortunately in German, but automatically translated subtitles are available) with the minister who is responsible for the bill: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Sm7Q1bjW5o


Asked by the interviewer if this isn't the same as asking bar owners to check the ID of every visitor just in case a bar fight breaks out, the minister answered:

"Das ist ja ein Blödsinn, was sie da reden" (This is total nonsense you are talking about)


Blödsinn is pretty much what this law is about.


More information asymmetry. The government can know about you but you can't know about the government. To ask this the government must be perfectly transparent and by that contradict the definition of government


There was a point made where an opposing lawmaker said that foreign companies like Facebook would not bother to comply. Ha! They will all love to have your real name and address confirmed, they will be more than happy to oblige. It would make many things easier, and allow them to monetize you much better.

So strange, this seems to be the exact opposite of the trend in the USA where the public desire is moving towards requesting these companies to allow us to be anonymous. Just like...Europe? What’s going on in Austria?


Europe is big on protecting your privacy against private entities. But the government is another matter - it's almost as if the presumption is that it's valid for it to hold such data on the flimsiest of reasons, and it only becomes abusive if used for some sinister purpose. The possibility of such abuse in the future is not considered a valid justification to prevent data collection.

Conversely, in US, we place a lot of emphasis on preventing the government from collecting data that it could abuse, but then largely ignore the same issue with private entities.

(Note, I'm not saying that it's universally true in either place, only that it seems to be the majority consensus. There's certainly plenty people vocally dissenting from it.)


I think they won't comply because it puts them into an advantegeous position compared to local sites who will have to do all this paperwork.


I think Australia's movement is coming from China. It will go for large scale censorship.


> service providers on the web only have to obey the laws of the country in which they are situated ...

What does it mean for an internet site to be situated somewhere? What country is that?

For example, http://dreadditevelidot.onion. Where is it situated? It does have an interesting discussion forum. It certainly has rules. Is it now supposed to appoint a liaison officer in Austria (and 200+ other jurisdictions)?


The fact that they're calling it "digitales vermummungsverbot" already tells you everything you need to know: There is no real rationale here, besides a political stunt of the right-wing government to curry favour with the right-leaning parts of the populus.

The original "vermummungsverbot" is a law to prohibit people from wearing a veil in public. The pretense was that people hiding their identity were by definition a security threat to the law abiding general public. The political effect was that xenophobs liked the idea of a law that was opposed to certain aspects of islam. The reality is that the law has no effect, since there are almost no people in Austria would would want to wear a veil in public in the first place apart from maybe the odd female tourist visiting from Saudi Arabia.

The idea now is that the same should apply to the digital sphere.

My guess would be that they know full well that it's never going to pass into law and make it past Brussels. But to them it's a win-win. Either they get a law that appeases the right-wing populus. Or Brussels stops them, playing into their anti-European narrative, which would also gain them political capital.


So Austria is to become Internet Annex No. 2, second to China. Three cheers for democracy!


Related: UK and NL secret services no longer share data with Austria b/c Russia ties [1]

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19701958


Such law exists in Belarus, and mr.Kurz (Austrian chancellor) recently visited it.


The comparison to the real world is rather flawed, especially in countries like Austria. For instance your not required to show an ID when buying groceries, buying alcohol or entering a bar.

Identification is on demand, not mandatory.


There's already the Handy Signatur (https://www.handy-signatur.at/hs2/) - a way to digitally sign official documents using your smartphone ('handy'). The only way to obtain this is to have your ID and phone number registered with the authorities. It's convenient, but it's also a system that removes any possibility of anonymity.

I imagine this kind of digital signature will be mandatory when signing up for the internet services described in the article...


If anonymity is made criminal, only criminals will have anonymity.


On reading the headline my first thought was "That's fine just as long as it applies to everyone" and then I see that it's just a measure to control people.

Eliminating anonymity should be done through measures that amount to enforcing traceability at fundamental technical levels - that will affect everything from spam to fraud. But simplistic things like this just require people to identify themselves, which is just a form of social control.


If there was ever a time to be in the VPN business, its now.


I wish geeks realize that VPN is not the solution for stupid/doubtful laws. They should not exist in first place.


Its not the solution, its the defence. I'd love to have the laws not inacted in the first place, but thats unrealistic IMO.


If the majority genuinely want such laws, what's your solution?


If the majority has become tyrannical in their thinking toward the minority when it comes to human rights, then get the hell out of the country or jurisdiction in question if you can. Especially if it has moved beyond the initial typically mostly benign stages.

Authoritarianism and aggressive statism broadly, generally prompt opportunistic brain drain for exactly that reason.

The US poached enormous amounts of talent from backwards, regressive European nations for more than a century previously.


Problem is, eventually you run out of places to run away to.


It doesn't matter, actually. You as a user can use a VPN but the company based in Austria will have to implement this.


I recently run into this jewel: https://www.gate.io/page/contacts

Mail: PO Box 2804, Grand Cayman KY1-1112 , Cayman Island.

I don't think anybody involved with the site has ever been to Grand Cayman. Apparently, they process 10 BTC/USDT transactions per minute; and that is just one of the hundred trading pairs.

Who can claim jurisdiction over that site? Maybe Grand Cayman, but when push comes to shove, I suspect that they won't be interested either.


Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory. Technically, the installed Governor could shut anything down at his wish. In practice it’s unlikely to happen, because (like with many British constitutional matters...) both the locals and the UK have an interest into maintaining a degree of ambiguity in current arrangements.

This said, when the UK government is fully convinced that Caymans “should jump”, they eventually jump.


>both the locals and the UK have an interest into maintaining a degree of ambiguity in current arrangements.

Interesting take on overseas territories. Fuzzy sure, but it never occurred to me that it's intentional


- provides plausible deniability for unpopular or suspicious measures at both ends

- keeps open the option of direct subsidies and favourable treatment for Cayman. I believe most BOTs are not financially self-sufficient, including Caymans.

- keeps open the option of UK re-taking direct control in some circumstances (military requirements, oil discoveries etc).

- maintains substantial independence in practice.

For small territories, BOT arrangements provide the best of both worlds, at the low low price of occasionally bowing to UK authorities.


Are they based in Austria?


Anyone outside austria who needs a developer (C#, Java, full stack webdev...)? I think i don't want to live here any more..


    Users of online forums in Austria will have to provide
    operators with their true identities or risk fines that
    could run into the millions.
How trustworthy is a publication where the very first sentence of an article is nonsense?

Users do not risk being fined millions. The webmasters will.


The original German version has it somewhat right by just associating potential consequences after an indent. This is just a case of lost in translation.


In practice (particularly in europe and particularly the current regulatory MO) regulating the internet will often be deeply linked to de-anonymizing it. It isn't necessarily that way, but it is where the ball rolls by default, atm.

A lot of the financial regulations of the past decade have been heavily identity oriented. Companies/banks need to ID customersID the origin/destination of funds, etc.

Gambling has recently become more regulated in a lot of european countries. Similar story. ID customers (mostly for age, but also aml). ID where the money is coming from. Take all reasonable steps to find out if a customer is has more money than they should have, is a thief, gambling addict, etc.. In practice, this they request customers' passports, bank statements, payment slips... while at the same time pay for services that estimate customers income, review social media profiles, and such.

Even GDPR, which I think did some to improve data security and a lot to reduce data selling, requires (in practice) most websites to keep of track of users' consent, which means keeping track of user identity, to some extent.

I have a bad feeling about the current political drive to "regulate" more. There are certainly problems that need solutions, which are likely regulation. But, the details matter a lot. We don't want the default regulations.



Just assert that it is unfairly harmful to some minority group, problem solved.


In the US we have a little freak-out every time a private entity like the Blizzard gaming forums or Google+ does this. I cannot imagine the shitstorm if it was attempted on a national level.


We have to blame the clickbaity headline for this, but you too misunderstood that this isn't about de-anonymizing users' profiles for the general public. Nicknames are still allowed, but the forum operator has to verify your ID at registration. Just like Blizzard knows your real name from your subscription details.


Not North Korea, China or Turkey ... Austria. What a shame.


Austria's politics is presently dominated by (far) right wing populism. This isn't really all that surprising in the context of a right wing authoritarian state.


Certainly comes with massive privacy leakage


Has cracking down on internet freedoms ever lead to anything other than brain drain?


That is going to be very hard to implement; arguably impossible.


I don't understand why there's so much racism in that tiny nation. Almost every time I cross the border into Austria, the police flags me down and asks for my passport. I'm Austrian citizen, born and raised but a person of colour. Even though I speak German fluently, authorities always speak in English to me. It gave me so much anxiety that I moved to the UK and noticed that I'm treated with much more respect and opportunities.

Austria is a beautiful country and most people are nice but man..some people can be very small-minded there. The news would make you believe that the UK is this backwards right-wing nation because of Brexit but you'll never see a muslim of Pakistani descent as mayor in Vienna or people of colour in the Austrian parliament and that's honestly very depressing.


How is it related to the topic?


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