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Censorship started under previous Australian Centre/Right government

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A lot of perfectly warranted criticism has been aimed at Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party over their proposed Misinformation and Disinformation bill which, if passed, presents the greatest risk to civil liberty this country has ever seen.

There is nothing more dangerous than a busy-body, virtue-seeking entity channelling the Greater Good by imposing its worldview on public speech. The new laws would curtail the speech of individuals and publications with more ruthlessness than during the brief period of wartime censorship.

Australia is not at war. Our speech is being restricted to protect flimsy political ideas and ruthless corporate interest – and everyone knows it.

While very few people were surprised by a socialist-leaning Labor leadership drooling over such power, we must remember that this nation is being nudged toward dictatorial oversight because of laws first tabled during Scott Morrison’s shameful Liberal Leadership.

Scared by public dissent during Covid and tied up in gargantuan contracts with vaccine manufacturers that drained an already destitute public purse, political leaders hemmed themselves into a narrative that required extreme censorial measures. To pick holes in the government’s pandemic response was to threaten public trust in health authorities. Instead of simply making better decisions, the public were increasingly silenced.

In particular, the father of censorship in Australia is not Albanese, but the former Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts – Paul Fletcher.

In a media release dated March 21, 2022, Paul Fletcher’s office proudly announced ‘New Disinformation Laws’.

‘The Morrison government will introduce legislation this year to combat harmful disinformation and misinformation online.’

Harmful to whom? And what sort of information might have prompted this bill?

‘The legislation will provide the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) with new regulatory powers to hold big tech companies to account for harmful content on their platforms.’

If this sounds familiar, it should. This is the egg and sperm that gave rise to Labor’s current bill. Dig a little deeper and it was reported in the Australian Financial Review that the Morrison government chose to combat ‘misinformation’ after a report found ‘four of five Australian adults had seen incorrect information about Covid online’.

No doubt that this ‘incorrect’ information contained within the report is now deemed to be ‘correct’ – but don’t hold your breath for a government correction or updated report.

As many have said, the biggest creators of misinformation and disinformation during Covid were governments and their ‘experts’ – second only to the vaccine companies that wilfully ignored public complaints of harmful side effects that led to untold injuries and deaths in otherwise healthy people.

If this is the premise for Fletcher’s campaign against free speech, it is based on little more than a misguided whim.

‘ACMA’s report highlights that disinformation and misinformation are significant and ongoing issues,’ said Fletcher.

Why is it any of ACMA’s business what people say to each other in a public forum? That is the question Fletcher should have been asking.

He continued:

‘Digital platforms must take responsibility for what is on their sites and take action when harmful or misleading content appears. This is our government’s clear expectation, and just as we have backed that expectation with action in recently passing the new Online Safety Act, we are taking action when it comes to disinformation and misinformation.’

Which is a statement rife with disinformation or misinformation. Take your pick. We could simply say that Fletcher is wrong, morally and practically.

Even if it were possible to police the speech of 25.69 million Australians in real-time, social media platforms are just that – platforms – and they are governed by America’s Section 230 Immunity which forbids them from acting as publishers on pain of being reclassified. Their ‘editorial’ limit extends to the removal of illegal content and these companies are already on shaky legal ground with their terms of service and community guidelines which many say contradict Section 230. That is a battle for America, but if social media platforms start making ‘truth’ judgements on online content, they will be overtly in violation of the rules that govern their existence.

And let’s be real. This is like the government asking the bloke behind the bar to come around and eavesdrop on everyone’s conversation and kick them out of the pub if they say something the government doesn’t like.

‘Oh, but they are misinforming their friends!’

‘Bugger off, mate!’ Would be the obvious reply to such an unwanted intrusion by government.

The leaked Twitter Files have given us a glimpse into the thousands of requests government and law enforcement agencies sent to one company and the information they chose to remove was not harmful, as claimed, but rather politically and commercially awkward.

While the Morrison government said that his move toward censorship was part of a longer battle to ‘halt the spread of misleading information’, it appears to have been created as a direct response to Covid.

If that is the case, why hasn’t Fletcher been asked to examine what happened with online information during Covid? Much of what the government called conspiracy turned out to be the truth. Masks do not work. Vaccines do not stop infection or transmission. Vaccines can cause heart injuries and death. Lockdowns do not work and cause major harms. The bat virus came out of China. Any or all of these things were deemed harmful when the original Liberal version of this bill was drafted. One can only imagine how such laws will be misused to favour the trillion-dollar climate change industry.

Anyone looking at this situation would see the formation of a protection racket that uses censorship to protect political and corporate interests at the expense of truth.

ACMA may want to be the arbiter of truth online but they have never shown themselves to be a worthy digital god.

Where are their apologies and corrections for the misinformation and disinformation endorsed as ‘true’ by government? Where are ACMA’s criticisms of government propaganda? A regulator that begins life denying its mistakes is not going to be a benign beacon of truth.

Fletcher has accidentally described the establishment of a Ministry of ‘Truth’ perfectly.

‘A Misinformation and Disinformation Action Group will be established, bringing together key stakeholders across government and the private sector to collaborate and share information on emerging issues and best practice responses.’

It was correct for the Shadow Communications Minister David Coleman to react with horror to Labor’s new censorial bill but – come on – when is the Liberal Party going to come clean about its previous actions?

Why hasn’t Paul Fletcher’s work in the field of Orwellian censorship been loudly denounced by Leader Peter Dutton? The bill has not been passed yet but Linda Burney is already accusing Dutton of spreading misinformation and disinformation over the Voice referendum.

‘We have just heard, in one speech, every bit of disinformation and misinformation and scare campaigns that exist in this debate,’ said Burney.

Which is why the Liberal Party should know better than to gift government the power of censorship. It is always used as a political weapon, which is the very opposite of safe.

How can any conservative voters have confidence in a Liberal Party that spent years drafting censorial policy and cheering on the restriction of speech in a country that used to believe in basic Western values?

‘This is a very bad bill. The government should rip it up. Freedom of speech is fundamental to our democracy, and the Coalition will always fight for it,’ said Coleman.

Yes. Good man.

But the material problem facing voters is that the Coalition didn’t fight for free speech. When they were in power, they proposed bill after bill after bill to limit free speech to protect political reputations and commercial interests.

For this betrayal, there has never been an apology.

We want that apology, Mr Dutton.

More than that, we need the Liberal Party to acknowledge the basic truth that neither government nor ACMA have any right or ability to determine what Australian citizens can say to each other in a public forum.





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