Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party are in the process of trying to legislate new “misinformation laws” which if passed will give a few people, a lot of power, to override free speech in Australia.
As it turns out the Kangaroo Court of Australia Facebook page was deleted a few days ago, or as Facebook says “unpublished”, by Facebook with the only reason given that the page “goes against our Community Standards”. I have to wonder if it is somehow linked to the proposed new laws but even it is not linked it shows that censorship is already out of hand, and we don’t need more, as I discuss in the below video.
The federal government announced in June “Public consultation has commenced on a new framework to empower the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to hold digital platforms to account for harmful misinformation and disinformation online.” and “Public consultation will close on Sunday, 6 August, with legislation to be introduced into Parliament later this year.” (Click here to read more)
The SMH reported on the 25th of August, “Human rights and civil liberties groups have expressed serious doubts about Labor’s move to quash misinformation, claiming its proposed law threatens free speech and democratic rights.”
Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president Michael Cope said the proposal, at its core, was about the creation of “a body run by politicians … to be put in charge of deciding what statements made about politics and society are true or false”. (Click here to read more)
I cannot see justification for the new “misinformation laws” whatsoever and nobody would be stupid enough to think that the few people with a lot of power won’t abuse that power.
Even the Australian Human Rights Commission have come out against the proposed misinformation laws and published an article critical of the proposed new laws on their website in an opinion piece by Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay titled, “Why Misinformation Bill risks Freedoms it Aims to Protect” which starts off:
Despite being labelled the “word of the decade” in 2021, fake news is not a modern phenomenon. Misinformation has been spread for political gain since Octavian used fake news to discredit Mark Antony in ancient Rome.
What is different today is the way modern technology makes it easier to spread fake news around the world but harder to distinguish fact from fiction. Misinformation and disinformation can have devastating effects on human rights, social cohesion and democratic processes.
Australia needs to address these risks. But this needs to be balanced with ensuring we don’t unduly affect freedom of expression.
This is the key problem with the federal government’s proposed Communications Legislation Amendment (Combating Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill. The draft bill aims to give the Australian Communications and Media Authority increased powers to combat online misinformation and disinformation, but in a way that does not find equilibrium between censorship of objectively untrue content and protection for freedom of expression.
Concerns about whether the draft bill strikes the right balance have been expressed by a range of groups, including social media companies such as Meta, legal experts such as the Victorian Bar Council, and the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (which represents more than 15,000 workers in media and cultural sectors). The full extent of feedback about the draft bill is not yet known, with public submissions to the government’s consultation process closing last week but publication of those submissions being delayed until next month. (September)
The Australian Human Rights Commission submission, which already has been made public, highlights four key concerns about the draft bill.
The first issue is the overly broad and vague way key terms – such as misinformation, disinformation and harm – are defined. Laws targeting misinformation and disinformation require clear and precise definitions.
Drawing a clear line between truth and falsehood is not always simple, and there may be legitimate differences in opinion as to how content should be characterised. The broad definitions used here risk enabling unpopular or controversial opinions or beliefs to be subjectively labelled as misinformation or disinformation, and censored as a result.
The second key problem is the low harm threshold established by the proposed law. Content that is “reasonably likely to cause or contribute to serious harm” risks being labelled as misinformation or disinformation. The categories of harm are themselves extremely broad, including things like “harm to the health of Australians” and “harm to the Australian environment”. Reasonable people may have very different views about what constitutes harm under these categories. The definitions also provide no guidance about how harm is meant to be judged.
It is true that what is required under the bill is not just harm but serious harm. The effect of this, however, is uncertain given the proposed law does not go on to define serious harm. It further requires only that the content has to be “reasonably likely to cause or contribute to serious harm”. Content can be labelled as misinformation even if it does not actually cause harm – it only has to be “reasonably likely to do so”.
Further, the harm threshold is not limited to causation but requires only contribution, and no minimum level of contribution is stated. This leaves open the possibility that even a minor or tangential contribution will be sufficient. The harm threshold established under this draft bill is extremely low, which risks allowing an extremely broad range of content potentially to be restricted.
The third concern highlighted by the commission is the way the proposed law defines excluded content, which is content that is protected from being labelled as misinformation or disinformation.
One key example here is that the draft bill defines any content that is authorised by the government as being excluded content. This means government information cannot, by definition, be misinformation or disinformation under the law.
This fails to acknowledge the reality that misinformation and disinformation can come from government. Indeed, government misinformation and disinformation raises particular concerns given the enhanced legitimacy and authority that many people attach to information received from official government sources.
This specific exclusion privileges government content but fails to accord the same status to content authorised by the opposition, minor parties or independents.
The result is that government content can never be misinformation but content critical of the government produced by political opponents might be. Any law censoring online information to counter misinformation and disinformation must be scrupulously impartial and apolitical. (Click here to read the full article)
Not only is the government exempt from the proposed “misinformation or disinformation” laws but so are the old media by the “professional news content” exemption. So, News Corp, Sky News and all the other old media can continue to publish their lies which they do on a daily basis.
Looks like the proposed “misinformation or disinformation” laws are misinformation and disinformation themselves as they are only designed to silence the pesky public and independent journalists who the politicians hate so much.
If Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party continue to push for the “misinformation laws” it will backfire badly.
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