Australia's own 'Ministry of Truth'
A draft ‘disinformation bill’ has been introduced to combat the spread of 'fake news' effectively restricting free speech online - some are calling it a 1984 style Ministry of Truth.
In late 2022, Elon Musk opened Twitter’s internal communications to investigative journalists. It revealed the US government abused its power by colluding with tech companies to censor Americans online.
Australian Liberal Senator Alex Antic watched in disbelief as the saga unfolded, and wondered if the same thing was happening in Australia.
His hunch paid off.
Under Freedom of Information laws, Antic discovered that digital platforms worked with the Australian Department of Home Affairs whereby social media posts were flagged for removal if they were deemed to represent “misinformation” or “disinformation”.
“In my view, this represented an utter scandal yet there was little to no interest from the mainstream media, this was a massive story,” said Antic.
The documents showed that the Australian government intervened over 4000 times to restrict or censor posts about the covid-19 pandemic.
“These posts were taken down, many of them included information that almost certainly has since turned out to be true. This is dangerous stuff,” said Antic.
Now, if the current Prime Minister has his way, the government will bestow power on the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to censor or curtail free speech online.
The proposed draft legislation in the Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation bill 2023, allows the media watchdog to impose significant penalties on social media platforms if they publish content that it perceives to be misinformation and disinformation.
“Some have likened it to a 1984 style Ministry of Truth,” said Peter Fam, a specialist human rights lawyer of Maat's Method law firm based in Sydney.