Op-Ed: Labor’s Censorship Bill a threat to democracy

Who do you trust to determine what is true and what is false? To determine which news and opinion is allowed to be published, and which should be banned to “protect public health and safety”?

It’s a fair bet that Twitter, Facebook, the media and the Government aren’t at the top of your list. Yet last week, the Albanese Government released a Bill gifting itself and big tech new powers to censor information it doesn’t want online. According to the Minister for Communications:

“Mis and disinformation sows division within the community, undermines trust and can threaten public health and safety. The Albanese Government is committed to keeping Australians safe online.”

There are many red flags raised by this bill. Perhaps the biggest is the fact that Albanese has exempted anything from his own government or the media from being considered ‘misinformation’.

Yet anything said in response to the government by the opposition or another political party, or by any member of the public, can be considered misinformation and censored.

For example, if a Minister of the Government made a clearly deceptive claim such as that the Voice would never campaign to change the date of Australia Day, and the media uncritically published stories about this on social media, that can’t be considered misinformation. But if you comment on that post and point out the Voice would be free to lobby government on any matter it chooses and that some of the Government’s top advisers on the Voice have been denouncing Australia Day and calling to change the date for years, you may well find your post tagged as misinformation.

In the lead up to this Orwellian ‘combatting misinformation’ Bill being released, “misinformation” suddenly became Labor’s new buzzword for any opposition to its divisive Voice referendum. In February this year, a carefully coordinated media drop from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Sydney Morning Herald read:

“Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will link the growing international wave of misinformation to the campaign against the Indigenous Voice to parliament, saying he is optimistic Australians will look past a confected culture war and support the referendum.

In an attempt to discredit his critics, Albanese will on Sunday claim that democracy is under threat…”

So on one hand, Labor says stopping misinformation is about “keeping Australians safe online”. On the other hand, the Prime Minister says misinformation is people who don’t agree with his divisive proposal to embed a new bureaucracy in our constitution.

For left-wing governments and commentators, “misinformation” has become the new “hate speech” – terms used by the left to justify legal punishment against any opposing views.

Let’s not forget that social media companies have been happily censoring and banning those who criticise left-wing ideologies for years. It’s an ominous sign that the Albanese Government demands still more censorship and wants to give itself powers to enforce it.

The inevitable result of the Labor Government threatening massive fines against social media if they don’t censor content further is that those companies will block content and debates they know left-wing governments don’t like. Albanese’s Government has cunningly drafted its legislation to ensure that when your posts are censored or your account is banned as a result of his laws, there will be no right of appeal to the government, and they’ll be able to blame the social media platforms.

Everybody knows that the internet is full of false information. A good government should trust the public they work for to process and critique what they read and see online accordingly. The best remedy to misinformation is free and open debate, supported by a fair media which doesn’t simply regurgitate the fashionable opinions of the day from social media because it’s cheap and easy journalism.

Instead of that liberal and democratic approach, the Albanese Government is choosing the path of censorship and suppression. Government which appoints itself and fellow elites as the arbiters of truth is the worst possible response – one which authoritarian regimes have chosen since the beginning of recorded history.