Politics Opinion

Scott Morrison renews crackdown on social media users

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison is trying to introduce legislation that will hold social media companies accountable for what he considers harmful content, writes Dr Jennifer Wilson.

FOR THE SECOND TIME this year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, bereft of the will and the capacity to announce anything useful, has again declared he will go after “anonymous trolls” on social media.

His cunning plan requires forcing tech giants who own the platforms to either identify the “trolls” so they can be pursued for defamation, or pay defamation costs themselves. The proposal also requires social media users to provide proof of identity before being allowed to use the platforms. You can’t sue anonymous.

This proposal is unlikely to be legislated and equally unlikely to be useful in the event it becomes law, except for the privileged few who can afford to pursue legal remedies.

It is worth remarking on as yet another performance of hypocrisy on the part of Morrison and some members of his Government. Backbencher Andrew Laming, for example, renowned for his photographs of a woman bending over at work, created dozens of Facebook accounts specifically to troll his opponents using identities other than his own.

Morrison regularly trots out the social media bogeyman, including an address he gave to a Christian convention on the Gold Coast earlier this year in which he described social media as the “work of the Devil” and a “weapon used by the evil one”.

It is remarkable how Morrison’s Pentecostal religious convictions frequently appear to dovetail with the business of his Government. His war on social media is but one example. Think of his attacks on people with reduced means in the form of Robodebt and the cashless debit card, attacks that are consistent with the Pentecostal principle that material benefits accrue to believers and deny God his due results in misfortune.

Then consider Morrison’s current efforts to pass the so-called “Religious Freedom” Bill, a 2019 Election promise and one that some in his own Party fear will undermine existing rights preventing discrimination by religious institutions. The LGBTQI community will be most affected by the Bill, which nicely fits with the Pentecostal abhorrence of homosexuality.

Not all members of the Morrison Government are followers of the Pentecostal cult – or, indeed, any religion – however, they are all committed to a neoliberal project that fundamentally corrodes society and destroys trust in its institutions. There is in Australia an unfortunate convergence of interests between Pentecostals, conservative Christians and neoliberalism that creates a substantial powerbase, enabled by supportive media.

The most powerful antidote to this cabal is social and independent media. These platforms offer “ordinary people” the opportunity to express disagreement and to challenge the edicts of the political class. They are the cyber equivalent of heckling and discomfiting politicians and their enablers in the streets.

Inevitably, the authoritarian populist regime headed by “Scomo” not only wants to silence public dissent, but it also wants to punish the dissenters. What better way to do that than threatening ruinous defamation action? After all, despite the Prime Minister advising marching women they were lucky not to be shot, we have not yet reached the stage where people protesting their government’s actions can be disappeared off the face of the Earth. And defamation action is legal.

The pre-election pearl-clutching around the “evils” of social media deflects from the major site of abuse and concealment in Australia today: the Morrison Government.

Morrison, assisted by other MPs, senior advisors and staffers, is suspected of concealing his knowledge of the alleged rape of Ms Brittany Higgins in a ministerial office just down the corridor from his own, in March 2019.

But social media is the problem.

The Morrison Government is attempting to introduce voter identity law, when voting is already compulsory and there is, according to the Australian Electoral Commission, no evidence at all of widespread voter fraud. This legislation will likely disenfranchise many groups of voters.

But social media is the problem.

Alleged rapist and former Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter had his legal fees covered by secret donors. He has not declared their contributions, which are estimated to be up to $1 million, making a mockery of the declaration of interests required of MPs.

But social media is the problem.

The Morrison Government is committed to the coercive control of millions of Australians through the imposition of the cashless debit card.

But social media is the problem.

Millions of public dollars have been commandeered by the Morrison Government to fund extensive rorts as part of its election campaigns.

But social media is the problem.

I could go on, itemising the numerous ways in which Morrison and his MPs have deceived, defrauded and abused the Australian people, but I have a word limit.

So let me finish with a link to an ever-growing list of Scott Morrison’s lies. The Prime Minister is, indisputably, a serial liar. He even appears to lie without purpose, when nothing is achieved by the lie, or when the lie compounds an earlier lie.

We are now at the stage where nothing he says can be believed, because so much of what he says has proven to be a lie. There really is little point in listening to him, because, lies.

But social media is the problem and Morrison has the solution. Praise be.

Dr Jennifer Wilson is an IA columnist, a psychotherapist and an academic. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @NoPlaceForSheep.

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