Regulatory requirements for ID verification could soon include social platforms
December 1, 2022
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Identity verification of users and rapid removal of content deemed illicit are just some of the regulatory requirements directed at social platforms in the UK and within the EU. The proposed law has faced critique for lack of balance between countering genuine online harms and safeguarding free speech. At the same time, the new owner of Twitter aims to facilitate its users' freedom to express their opinions by introducing, amongst other things, user authentication.
Digital identity verification and KYC measures crucial for online safety
We live in an internet-based digital age where people increasingly buy goods and services and carry out banking and everyday affairs online. Most companies and service providers must know who they are doing business with online.
Those under AML regulations (Anti Money Laundering) are obligated to meet KYC (Know Your Customer) requirements to ensure that customers are trusted individuals—i.e., not fraudsters or under sanctions.
These laws and regulations have been implemented to prevent money laundering, terrorist financing, and other economic crimes. AML-obligated companies that fail to fulfil the KYC obligations may face penalties such as hefty fines and will undoubtedly experience reputational deterioration in the market and industry. Companies not obligated to adhere to AML regulations may encounter significant risks too when lacking proper KYC measures to identify and verify customers.
The rules and laws place high demands on companies. Still, they are necessary to protect the company, its customers, and society. These legal requirements constantly evolve and differ depending on the jurisdiction and industry.
It is currently debated on many levels around the world whether companies, service providers and tech platforms that offer social interaction between individuals online ought to be obliged to verify the identity of their users. Every month, platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp receive millions of reports regarding online abuse, specifically when it comes to anonymous posting.
Governments, regulators, and other experts are exploring various ways to reduce cyberbullying, scams, and other online abuse; perhaps we will see widespread adoption of ID verification in the social media space ahead?
User authentication and other regulatory requirements directed at social platforms
The latest measures proposed by the UK government, as part of Britain’s incoming Online Safety Bill, require tech platforms to give their users a way to verify their identity and allow them to block any unverified accounts from messaging or replying to them.
According to the proposal, companies failing to comply may face fines of up to £18 million or 10% of their annual global revenues. Digital identity verification may soon be a requirement for social media participation in France as well. A new bill proposes that users submit a scan of their ID upon registration.
Introducing identification requirements is meant to obstruct social media scams, serve as a deterrent against cyberbullying, and make it easier to prosecute potential offenders. Also, the identification data could be transmitted at the request of a judge in the event of criminal activity.
Germany's network enforcement law is the first law to regulate social networks. It obliges social networks to swiftly delete illegal content such as hate speech from their platforms.
The European Union proposes similar law-binding measures in the wide-ranging Digital Services Act. The proposed law addresses social media’s societal harms by requiring companies to police their platforms for illicit content.
To comply with the proposed law and avoid fines of up to 6% of their global revenue, Facebook, YouTube, and other tech companies would be compelled to set up new policies and procedures to remove material defined as illegal by countries within the European Union.
With numerous fake user accounts and billions of anonymous users posting material daily, one can only speculate on how these companies, in the long run, will be able to comply with the new law and keep posts with illegal material out of their platforms.
The EU's Digital Services Act stands out from other regulatory endeavours since it addresses online speech. To limit an already established "freedom of speech" is within any area often considered taboo, mainly in the United States, because of First Amendment protections. But even though Americans, to a considerable extent, safeguard their freedom of speech on the Internet, they are not averse to identifying themselves online.
According to a January 2022 survey conducted in the United States, 54% of female respondents and 50% of male respondents strongly supported social media companies requiring users to verify their identity before creating a profile. Overall, barely 3% of women and 5% of men strongly opposed this.
Assurance that online profiles are who they claim to be
When Elon Musk, the world's richest person, bought Twitter earlier this year, he emphasised the importance of preserving free speech on the microblogging platform in a tweet, saying: "Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated. "
The new owner also announced he wants to evolve Twitter in said direction by enhancing the product with new features, making algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating spambots and authenticating all human users.
Getting rid of fake user accounts and anonymous users might very well result in better conditions for freedom of speech on a platform, as well as reduce the number of social media scams and dissuade cyberbullying. At the very least, such confidence-inspiring measures will make online interactions that lead to real-life encounters much safer. Thousands of abductions, rapes, and murders committed by predators using the Internet as a hunting ground is reported every year.
As with social media platforms, most dating sites require none or very little verified personal information from their subscribers. This enables their users to register with false names, bogus addresses, multiple deceptive and uncontrolled email addresses, "burner" cellular phones, and prepaid cards, making it impossible for people to be sure who they're interacting with on social media or in an online dating situation.
A digital identity verification solution would eliminate anonymity and deter criminals and predators. At the same time, this would cater to more safety online and protect individuals who intend to meet and socialise with a relatively unknown person they have met on a dating site.
No one knows how the identity verification requirements directed at more and more Internet-based services and industries will pan out. The only sure thing is that organisations that can gather an online customer's data for identification and employ technical solutions to verify that the collected data is accurate can rest assured that their customers and users are who they claim to be. Your organisation can achieve just that worldwide, regardless of industry, with ZignSec as your KYC provider.
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