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Michelle Rowland, Australia's Minister for / Screenshot

(LifeSiteNews) — The Australia government is endeavouring to formalize its version of the Censorship Industrial Complex. Unlike the United States, where the First Amendment – in theory, if not in practice – should ban any efforts to stop people expressing their views on social media platforms, there are no such explicit legal protections in Australia. The Federal government is set to further the rotting of Australia’s institutions and legal system by implementing extraordinarily bad law.

Michelle Rowland, the Federal Minister for Communications, issued a release saying that the government will legislate to provide the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) with “new powers to hold digital platforms to account and improve efforts to combat harmful misinformation and disinformation in Australia.” She described it as a “major step forward in addressing the spread of online misinformation and disinformation which has grown rapidly in scale and speed.”

Then, in classic double speak, Rowland said ACMA will be given its new information-gathering and record-keeping powers “while balancing the right to freedom of expression so fundamental to democracy.” They will be stopping freedom of expression to protect freedom of expression.

The government says ACMA will not have the power to determine what is “true or false on individual posts” and that the move will have no impact on professional news content or authorised electoral content. Rather, the target will be social media companies, especially Twitter. The strategy is to get these companies to do the government’s censorship for them.

It is hard to think of more vaguely conceptualized bad law. How are misinformation and disinformation to be defined? Prima facie it would seem to start with identifying something that is false. So does this apply to the forecasts of economists, who routinely make predictions that are wrong? Is that disinformation or misinformation worthy of removal?

Obviously not, but why not? Economic forecasts, if believed, could be quite harmful to people. But the government is saying it would not apply to the truth or otherwise of individual posts. It will be posts that challenge what the government says, particularly about matters of public health. The so-called “spread of online disinformation” referenced by the minister is clearly alluding to social media activity questioning the governments’ COVID-19 policies, especially the mandating of the so-called “vaccines”.

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That many of the claims made by politicians and health authorities turned out to be false – and therefore, it would seem, potentially misinformation or disinformation – would seem to be a problem, at least in a sane world. For example, Australians were told in 2021 that they were confronting a uniquely deadly virus that required an extreme response. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), however, recorded that 2021 was the second lowest level of respiratory deaths since records have been kept (the lowest was 2020).

Australians in that year were brutally confronted with the choice of either getting inoculated with an untested drug or being banned from the work force. This was presented as necessary to stamp out COVID. Yet the ABS reported that in 2022, after about four-fifths of the population had been injected, deaths from COVID rose ninefold: from 1100 to over 10,000. So was the governments’ claim that it would keep society safe mis-information? Or what about the initial claims that the lockdowns, which lasted longer in Australia than anywhere else in the world, would only last a few weeks so as to “flatten the curve” (you know, the curve that never existed).

The government will not apply the same standards to itself, of course. That would mean having a functioning rule of law. The target is rather the intent of those who post unacceptable things online. It is not about what people say – after all, whether posts are “true or false” seems not to be the issue – but why they say it. When the government gets things wrong that is fine because the government always means well. But when people question the government, they must be stopped because they have bad motives and are not allowing the government to “keep Australians safe”.

READ: Broadcasters face ‘Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’ rules under Canada’s new internet censorship law

There appear to be two clear legal difficulties. How do you establish a person’s intent from a post? You only have the text to go on. Their writing may be ironic, or there may be a variety of other possible motives. How would you know? The second problem is how do you know how the reader will respond? To state the obvious, once people get past about eight years old, they develop minds of their own and will come to very different conclusions about what they read. Those of us who have worked as professional journalists will have noticed an extraordinary array of reader responses to articles, some of them based on the diametrical opposite of the intended meaning.

“Meaning”, indeed, is the key word, not information, which is merely passive. When people write posts, they are actively trying to communicate a meaning. So the attempt to legally proscribe disinformation or misinformation is based on a false premise about what is actually occurring. The ABS furnishes information; people posting on social media are doing something much more complex.

In theory, Australia protects free speech, although it is not explicit. According to the Federal Attorney General the High Court has held that “an implied freedom of political communication exists as an indispensable part of the system of representative and responsible government created by the Constitution.” Section 16 of the Human Rights Act 2004 in the Australian Capital Territory states that “everyone has the right to hold opinions without interference.” Section 15 of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 in Victoria says that “every person has the right to hold an opinion without interference.”

In the current environment, these provisions look almost comical. Those who dissented against the COVID monstrosities have been effectively marginalized and routinely attacked as conspiracy theorists, or whatever. The authorities are smugly assuming they got away with it – for the very good reason that they have. Australians are not especially political and there is little appetite to examine what was done to them, despite such indicators as the alarming increase in all-cause mortality.

Yet not content with escaping scot-free, the government is now moving to crush what George Orwell sardonically described as “thought crimes”: having the temerity to question the government’s edicts. The move is not just reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984, a lurch towards government tyranny. It is also suggestive of Alexander Pope’s great poem The Dunciad in which he described a voluminous gaggle of stupid, vicious people degrading society. “Dunces” is perhaps the best word to describe the people who now rule Australia.