In the second half of this year, the Government will introduce legislation to give the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) the power to hold Big Tech companies accountable for the reduction and visibility of misinformation and disinformation on their platforms – as if the current level of censorship already does not go far enough and encroach on our right to free speech and the right to hold a view that differs from the official narrative.
This raises the obvious question on what constitutes “misinformation” and who gets to make the final decision on such matters. One man’s trash is another’s treasure and one man’s information is another’s misinformation it seems. What has been shown over the last two years, regarding issues around Covid-19 and the vaccines, is that even well-learned experts in the field of Science disagree on many points. The discipline of Science is not set in stone and is open to questioning, yet the information that is dependent on the Science and is derived from it seems to be set in stone.
It seems the only correct information is the official Government information, the flow of which is tightly controlled and given in daily doses at Press Conferences, with each State and Territory starring in its’ own ‘information super spreader show’, that is viewed by many that do not realise that the information they are receiving is not the absolute truth, but just the official version of the truth.
The strength and robustness of a Democracy is dependent on an exchange of ideas from a variety of sources. By stifling any media outlet that disagrees with the official narrative, you are thereby directing Democracy down a certain path, rather than letting it develop through educating the public with a range of ideas from a variety of lenses.
By controlling information and promoting only the official narrative at the expense of opposing truths, you are not educating the public to reach an informed consensus, but are merely re-educating your citizens to believe a certain narrative is true. This tactic is more akin to something that the Communist Party of China would undertake, it’s not something that we expect to witness in a mature Western Democracy.
The art of censorship has a historical precedence under the Communist regime of Lenin and also with the Nazis in Germany. In both cases, the flow of news was tightly controlled, and the flow of opposing views and dissent was quashed. We have either not learned from the lessons of history, or we are wilfully and knowingly being led through the pages of the totalitarian tip toe playbook.
The freedom of the press is an important pillar to the functioning of a healthy Democracy. Even in strong Democracies, the freedom of the press is undermined (Repucci,2019), in many ways such as financial and regulatory pressures and preferential access to State information.
Journalists need to have the freedom to seek out the truth (Emmaline Soken-Huberty) and report on it, keep those in Public Office and positions of power accountable for their actions, and, independently inform the public whilst being accountable and transparent for their reporting. The proposed legislation goes too far and encroaches on the functioning of the Press to act freely. For how can we claim a free press when any criticism of Government is seen as misinformation. It is a very slippery slope indeed and one that will lead to a media entourage parroting Government information and essentially tweeting out Government propaganda.
There is a difference between regulation and censorship. Regulations are based on ethics and as such resemble moderation, meaning you can say what you like as long as you stay within certain boundaries, pre-agreed for the use of the online platform. The new legislation to give the ACMA powers (Sadler,2022) to hold social media companies responsible for the content on their platform, sees the balance tipping towards the censorship side. The Government will have a monopoly on the truth and anything contrary to the Government truth is de-platformed.
Even before the legislation is enacted, over the last two years we have witnessed a ramping-up of censorship, with many content creators on You Tube using code words and hand signals for the vaccine or Covid-19. For example, if you do a search on Google, you will only find pages that support the Government narrative.
Centralised control of information and truth has never ended well historically and we cannot allow it to be part of our future. In a world where ‘energy’ is the new currency and ‘information’ is the new gold, you can rest assured that you will be poor in both and you are not allowed to speak up.
Emmaline Soken-Huberty, “Why is the freedom of the press important in a democracy”, Available at: Why Is Freedom Of The Press Important in a Democracy? | Human Rights Careers (Accessed, 29/03/2022)
Repucci, S, (2019), “Media freedom: A downward spiral”. Freedom House, available at: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-and-media/2019/media-freedom-downward-spiral (Accessed 29/03/2022)
Sadler, D (03/2022), “Govt backs away from Big Tech self-regulation to give ACMA new powers”, InnovationAus.com, available at Govt backs away from Big Tech self-regulation to give ACMA new powers (innovationaus.com) (Accessed 29/03/2022)