The Government recently released its exposure draft of the Communications Legislation Amendment (Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023. It is just as Orwellian as it sounds – if not more.
The Bill empowers the even more Orwellian-sounding Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to not only engage in fascistic partnerships with social media giants, but to impose industry-wide standards and codes to ensure “misinformation” is not spread online.
The obvious question is, what is misinformation? The Bill, in its infinite wisdom, defines misinformation as “false, misleading or deceptive” content that “is reasonably likely to cause or contribute to serious harm.”
Harm is given a broad definition, including disseminating “hatred against a group in Australian society” and harming Australia’s health or environment. Of course, we are no wiser as to how “serious” this harm must be.
It is clear what this Bill aims to do: shut down anti-government sentiment and the dissident class.
Doubting the climate narrative online? Now you are harming the Australian environment. Remember, you do not even need to be causing this “harm”; merely contributing to it.
IT GETS WORSE
Now I am sure esteemed readers of Liberty Itch are already well aware of what I have outlined, but many are under the mistaken assumption that this will only apply to social media giants. In fact, it will apply to every single website that provides “news content” and has an “interactive feature”.
If you think you can avoid the Ministry of Truth by simply starting your own social media platform or providing content on your own website, you’d be advised to have no interest in a comments section or posting video content, otherwise that website will also be captured by these draconian laws. Indeed, this Liberty Itch masthead will be at threat of fines in the millions of dollars should this Bill become law.
Perhaps some hope to escape the law by hosting servers or establishing companies overseas. But no: ACMA are wise to that. The Bill includes an extra-territorial provision, meaning hiding outside Australia’s borders won’t stop ACMA from fining you.
AN AFFRONT TO OUR VALUES
As well as the government seeking to extend its tentacles outside its own jurisdiction, which is becoming increasingly common in modern law-making, ACMA has taken many longstanding precedents to the shredder with this Bill.
While unfortunately not enshrined in our Constitution, Australians are endowed with the right not to incriminate themselves. If this Bill passes Parliament, that will no longer apply to instances of online “misinformation”.
While the Bill gives lip service to our constitutionally implied freedom of political communication, it attempts to circumvent it by creating a fascistic partnership between ACMA and private entities. Instead of ACMA enforcing speech, it makes digital service providers do its dirty work – at threat of significant fines.
However, ACMA can impose industry-wide standards and codes if digital service providers go rogue and dishonour their fascistic agreements. Hoping for a safe haven at Elon Musk’s Twitter (now called X), might be more pipe dream than reality.
This Bill also does away with another long-held precedent: serving legal notices in person. Under this Bill, ACMA is now empowered to serve legal notices, including summons, electronically.
THE FIGHT OF OUR LIVES
Perhaps the only good thing about this Bill is that it is in the relatively early stages of drafting. Public submissions have been invited by ACMA and I implore all readers to give their feedback. A massive outpouring of concern and a public backlash might force ACMA to reconsider its brazen destruction of our fundamental liberties. Continued activism will also be required to ensure whatever subversive version of this Bill the government thinks they can get away with never reaches the floor of Parliament.
Above all, non-compliance is necessary. This is where we must draw a line, stand strong in the face of overbearing penalties and defend everything we stand for with everything we have.
Have your say! Fight for liberty!
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While always avidly following politics and culture, James Hol was not politically active until the overreaction to COVID. In a matter of months, James gained invaluable insight into all levels of government, being heavily involved in Federal, state and local election campaigns.