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Social media users should be verified with real ID, IT professionals say

Image credit: Dreamtime

A majority of IT professionals have said social media should require users to verify their identities, in order to combat anonymous racism, homophobia and other abuse online.

According to a survey of 1,804 people carried out by BCS - the chartered institute for IT - 64 per cent of those polled agreed that social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook should require real ID from users in order to join, such that people can be held accountable for what they post.

Around a quarter (26 per cent) said users should remain unverified, with 10 per cent undecided. Additionally, BCS members did not believe that the verified details would need to be made public and the anonymity should be maintained for legitimate protest and whistleblowing.

The survey comes ahead of a four-day social media boycott by the English Premier League, EFL and WSL football clubs this weekend in an effort to combat abuse and discrimination, increasingly targeting both black and female footballers. England's Rugby Football Union has also announced that it will join the boycott on all of its channels.

More than half of tech experts polled (56 per cent) by the professional body for the IT industry, including senior leaders and academics, said linking social media accounts to true identities is technically achievable. Only 26 per cent indicated it is not achievable and 17 per cent were neutral.

Half (50 per cent) said social media companies themselves should have the main responsibility for reducing online abuse, with just one in five (19 per cent) convinced that an independent regulator should have that role. 17 per cent felt it should be the responsibility of individual users. 5 per cent stated it was the job of government to lead on the reduction of trolling and 4 per cent felt it should be led by the police.

Last year, the Labour Party called on the government to do more to legislate against hate speech online following antisemitic comments from high profile users.

Dr Bill Mitchell OBE, director of policy at BCS, said: “It’s clear the IT profession believes we can prevent social media being an anonymous playground for racism, homophobia and hate speech. Tech experts want users to be accountable for what they say and they see few technical barriers to verifying the real ID behind account handles.

“At the same time, public anonymity is important to large groups of people, especially those in difficult or dangerous situations or who are vulnerable to targeted abuse. No one should have to use their real name online and any verification details behind the account must be rigorously protected.

“We need those affected by such a change to be part of the debate to make sure there are ethical and secure solutions for verifiable ID available for all types of social media.”

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