By Christina Maas November 1 , 2023
The Albanese administration’s pursuit of overreaching legislation intended to tackle “false” content on social media platforms is drawing sharp criticism and questions about its implications for free speech. A notable exclusion from this potential crackdown is the very government pushing for it.
This exemption, which would allow government messages to bypass these stringent regulations, was questioned by Independent Senator David Pocock. He rightly posited why governmental communications should remain unexamined when content from other entities would be under scrutiny. To many, the exemption smells suspiciously like a double standard, allowing the government to avoid the very accountability they seek to impose on others. “It would not ‘pass the pub test’ for the exemption to stand when the laws were eventually introduced,” Senator Pocock remarked.
Assistant Minister for Infrastructure Carol Brown rushed to defend the exemption, stating that it is intended to prevent critical emergency communications from the government being accidentally removed by social media platforms.
Special Minister of State Don Farrell, who oversees electoral matters, conveyed the complexity of the issue. “It’s a difficult topic,” he admitted. The balance between preserving free speech and battling misinformation is indeed a delicate one. Senator Farrell remarked, “You don’t want to stop free speech in this country, and we do want people to be able to express their views, even if you consider them crazy and so forth.”