Social media users should be legally guaranteed the option to verify their identity as part of efforts to curb online abuse, ministers have been told.

The Conservative MP Siobhan Baillie has praised the forthcoming Online Safety Bill but has proposed a law that would close the current "gap" in legislation around anonymity.

This proposed law would allow people to verify their accounts and would require platforms to offer options to limit or block interactions with unverified users.

For those wanting to remain anonymous, the platform would let the user create a pseudonym for their social media handle.

Users would also be given the option to have their personal details verified or not.

The MP for Stroud admitted that she does not expect the plans to get rid of anonymous abuse but she hoped it would give social media users more control over who they interact with.

How the verification rules would work

Ms Baillie will present her proposed Social Media Platforms (Identity Verification) Bill to the House of Commons on Wednesday, November 24.

The bill has seen support from senior Tory MPs Jeremy Wright, Caroline Nokes and David Davis plus Labour former minister Dame Margaret Hodge.

It is expected to force the biggest technology firms to follow a duty of care to their users and will be overseen by Ofcom who is the new regulator for the sector.

Ms Baillie told the PA news agency: “The verification Bill we’ve come up with is giving people a choice to verify their accounts – a bit like our blue ticks – giving people the choice to follow and be followed by only verified accounts, and making it clear who is and isn’t verified. It’s pretty simple.

“Our view is that it’s going to reduce anonymous abuse – it won’t completely get rid of it – it gives control for social media users over what they are and aren’t seeing, and it stops the calls for banning anonymous accounts.

“So you could still be ‘Princess Ginger Cat’ but your details will be held, and it’s our view that, given the length of time it’s taking to identify people and prosecute them, that this would also speed up prosecutions and it’d be a deterrent for quite a few people if they know their details are held.”

Unclear who would possess verification data under proposal

Social media companies will not necessarily be the ones holding on to the verification details, according to Ms Baillie.

A third party approach is currently under consideration.

She added: “The usual arguments against tackling anonymous accounts are ‘freedom of speech’ arguments, which we’re all very aware of.

“My response to that is always there’s no greater challenge to freedom of speech than a rape threat.

"People are just not speaking freely online because it’s so horrendous and it’s such a Wild West.

“The second point is people say ‘What about the whistleblowers and people that want to be anonymous?’ – people exploring their identity or people exploring their sexuality, victims of domestic violence.

“My response to that is they could still be anonymous in terms of their Twitter handle but their details could be held, or if they wanted to go a step further and not have details held then they would still be able to do this and this approach.

“It keeps the ability for the good anonymity and gives people control over the bad.”

On the current verification approach, Ms Baillie said: “It’s basically only available for the rich and famous at the moment.

“That’s wrong because we know celebrities and footballers and Members of Parliament get a lot of abuse, but this is affecting every single person and people in my constituency.

“I’ve got a veteran who came to me about abuse, a social worker, young girls talking quite a lot about cyber-flashing – a lot of that comes from anonymous accounts.

“So this is everyday people, so to not allow them to have the same option as people in public-facing roles is wrong and it’s clear that the tech companies can do this.”

Ms Baillie has further talks planned over the proposals and has said that she is hopeful of packing progress with ministers from today.