Australia Censored With John Storey: The Federal Government’s Online Censorship Bill

Written by:
12 February 2024
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The Institute of Public Affairs’ Director of Law and Policy John Storey explains how the federal government’s online censorship bill will seek to silence mainstream opinion online.

Below is a transcript of the show.

The federal government’s proposed online censorship laws are the most draconian attack on free speech Australians have ever faced in peacetime.

What does this mean for mainstream Australians?

To answer this question the Institute of Public Affairs’ new series, Australia Censored, will expose these proposed new laws and I will talk to thought leaders about the rise of censorship in Australia and around the world.

It is a fundamental right that Australians can say what they like and freely debate important issues.

But this is under threat.

Only if we are free to talk to our fellow citizens, criticise our government and other institutions, and debate the issues that affect the country can we properly exercise our vote and choose the leaders to best represent us.  

But our rights to freedom of speech have been eroded in recent years.

Racial vilification and hate speech laws are unfairly used to silence certain viewpoints.

A culture of censorship and cancelling pervades our elite institutions.

And this will only get worse if the federal government proceeds with its proposed online censorship laws.

The proposed misinformation and disinformation bill will force social media companies like Facebook, YouTube and X to adopt codes of conduct that will outline how these companies will censor so-called misinformation.

These codes will not be voluntary, they must be approved by bureaucrats, if they are not satisfied, codes can be imposed on social media companies by government.

In addition, if the government officials believe that a social media company is not sufficiently censoring its platform, it can impose fines that can run into millions of dollars.

Although there will be fines for not censoring misinformation, there aren’t any for wrongfully censoring true information. The social media companies will be incentivized to censor first and ask questions later, and ordinary Australians that have been wrongly censored have no right of appeal or legal recourse.

These laws have nothing to do with the spreading of harmful or exploitative content online or protecting children from such content. Government’s do have a role to play in protecting children. But these laws allow the government to determine an official truth, and thus silence dissenting viewpoints.

Misinformation is vaguely defined in the bill and there is a clear political agenda at play. For example, one type of misinformation that is being targeted is harm to the Australian environment.  So anyone who raises objections to the government’s climate change agenda could be silenced.

This politically motivated censorship will be supercharged if social media companies are forced to adopt the idea of the federal Communications Minister to outsource censorship to so-called third-party fact checkers.

The IPA has investigated these organisations and exposed the fact that they are operated by left wing journalists and academics who target opinions they disagree with.

These will be the very people empowered to censor the internet under the government’s new laws.

Put simply, these laws are not about censoring false information, they are about censoring mainstream viewpoints that the government doesn’t like.

And it will only be mainstream Australians that are censored.

These laws don’t apply to bureaucrats, the government, academics, or journalists, even though these groups have proven to be more than capable of spreading falsehoods.

These laws will give control of the modern town square, the internet and social media, to bureaucrats and politicians and are a threat to your rights.

Australia Censored will explore what these laws mean, why it is happening, and what we should do about it before it’s too late!

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