Politics Opinion

The Murdoch propaganda machine needs to be stopped

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

News Corp's political influence and power over the media is in need of regulation for maintaining journalistic integrity and democracy, writes Ethan Marsland.

WHAT DO FACEBOOK, Labor politicians and Liberal politicians all have in common? They are targets of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp political strategy — use print newspapers to dispose of those who do not support Murdoch’s agenda.

News Corp has denied these practices, however, there are some very recent examples of editorial opinion being presented as front-page breaking news. On Thursday, Facebook made the decision to remove news from its Australian platform, literally the day before Kevin Rudd’s interview at the Senate Inquiry into Media Diversity which he started in response to what is described as a cancer to Australian Democracy. Whether this is coincidental or deliberate, we cannot be sure.

The world can watch News Corp newspapers in real-time presenting editorial opinion as front-page news. Editorial opinion was used last year in 2020 to discredit Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, where he was called Dictator Dan in News Corp newspapers for enforcing similar quarantine practices as other states in Australia. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian instead received praise.

Examples in 2021 are Kevin Rudd and Mark Zuckerberg. There was a campaign against these men and Zuckerberg’s social media platform Facebook roughly during the same time last week when Facebook banned news in Australia and the Rudd-initiated Media Inquiry began. It is so blatant, it is difficult to discredit this as merely just a conspiracy theory.

Two other examples of people who have been character assassinated by Murdoch’s media empire are former Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Malcolm Turnbull.

This has a major implication for democracy in Australia. Character assassinations are used to determine who is in Parliament at a federal and state level depending on if they are reliable to Murdoch or not and we know he prefers Liberal politicians over Labor. When politically assassinating Malcolm Turnbull, Murdoch was quoted stating “three years of Labor wouldn’t be so bad” when discussing if the campaign would cause the Coalition to lose to Labor in the 2019 Election.

Murdoch was called out by his own son to be against policy that supports action to prevent climate change and there is a conspiracy theory that Murdoch was the reason for the Liberals to choose a less reliable NBN plan to protect his business interests. This is a reason why he would use his print empire to influence elections and is one of the reasons why Rudd began the petition for a royal commission into media diversity.

Last week, however, it did become clear that News Corp was not the only major player in how the media can influence public opinion. When Facebook shut down news on its platform last Thursday, it demonstrated its ability to push news audiences away from publications that could change their opinions. Media outlets like Independent Australia have lost up to a third of their referrals and Google apparently has begun pushing News Corp news publications lower in search results to prevent traffic from reaching their sites. This was in response to the Morrison Government's News Media Bargaining Code proposal.

All News Corp, Facebook and Google have demonstrated is the serious need for the Senate Inquiry into Media Diversity, not just in Australia but globally. They can influence elections and even completely cut off news that may sway public opinion away from discussions that may harm their interests.

The Morrison Government's proposed media code legislation is disagreeable in that it does not fit the reality of how the internet works. News organisations share their news on social media; sites like Facebook and Google do not republish articles. Social media and search sites do, however, influence search results through algorithms that can be tailored to show you or what others want to see.

It is important for the international community to devise regulations that prevent companies like Facebook and News Corp from using their platforms to influence public policy through propaganda to protect democracy.

These regulations must also prevent governments from maliciously benefiting from such influence, such as the Coalition here in Australia who benefit from News Corp giving them nationwide support.

International regulation should also prevent misinformation as it can be damaging to critical decisions people make every day, such as vaccine misinformation. People may take misinformation as fact and not be vaccinated against preventable diseases, resulting in unnecessary deaths.

We must properly regulate print newspaper and the internet from propaganda.

Ethan Marsland is a university student studying Medical and Health Sciences. He also works in the hospitality industry and has a particular interest in domestic and foreign politics.

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