We do not want big tech to interfere in our politics

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Social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter have been interfering with news from progressive sites (Image by Dan Jensen)

Social media giants have been showing bias towards certain political factions by censoring various news outlets, writes Daniel Safi.

THE LAST THING the big tech/data firms need is encouragement from politicians to interfere in our elections and democracy.

The ACCC and Labor’s view that Facebook should’ve played a more active role in policing content in the last election looks at first sight like a fair call. A certified news platform, after all, can be held legally accountable for airing false news.

The death tax was a lie, it was having an effect and it should never have been allowed to see the light of day. But the slipperiness of this slope is being demonstrated in the U.S. where the big data firms are taking sides in the 2020 election and interfering outright in how it plays out

Apparently, the ACCC and Labor are not aware of what the big data firms are getting up to: aggressive and wide-reaching censorship and interference in U.S. politics, specifically the 2020 elections.

And it’s not just the far-Right they’re are going after, but progressive, anti-establishment, anti-war, and anti-corporation content, journalists, commentators, platforms and presidential nominees.

In the aftermath of the theatre that was Russiagate, certain sectors of U.S. punditry and politics called on the big data firms to do more and they happily obliged. Under the guise of fighting fake news, Google and Facebook have gone hard against alternative, progressive news outlets, including Democracy Now, The Nation, The Intercept, Truthdig, Truthout and Media Matters among others, reworking their algorithms to significantly reduce traffic to these websites.

But it goes beyond this. In 2018, journalist Ben Norton reported on a “massive purge” by Google, Facebook and Twitter of alternative media pages, suspending and removing sites altogether, including police brutality monitoring pages Cop Block and Police the Police. Anti-war and other Left-wing pages were also removed, including The Naked Empire and Reasonable People United. Again, all this was allegedly a crackdown on fake news, clickbait, and “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”.

Ultimately, Australia’s ACCC and Labor Party are completely and utterly powerless next to the likes of Facebook and Google and, as usual, nothing substantive will come out of these show-inquiries where our politicians and regulators pretend to have authority and the tech-firm representatives pretend to be victims. Still, our “authorities” need to get informed and at least not encourage the data giants.

While progressives and some sectors of the Right across the rest of the world, particularly in the U.S., are now debating ways of pushing back against the tech giants, Australia’s out-of-touch leaders are calling for them to play a more active role in politics.    

There is no question that the Liberal-National Party took Australian politics to a new low in the 2019 election. They actioned a campaign reminiscent of the sort of politics you find in the Middle East and other less fortunate parts of the world, where politicians who would see their countries burn before they lose power rely wholly on lies, false promises and smears against their opponents to win elections. 

The Liberal-National Party today and its leaders, those men and women who fancy themselves champions of Australian values, would fit right in the Lebanese Parliament — the tribalism, the corruption and brazen utilisation of the powers of government to help your mates and punish your enemies, all at the expense of the people and economy.

Of all this and more, I have no doubt. But such politics does not exist in a vacuum. If there were not more fundamental problems with our democracy, politicians such as Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton and Josh Frydenberg would’ve been cleaned out of our Parliament a long time ago. They are a symptom of a deeper sickness and it’s not the American tech giants’ job to apply a Band-aid fix for us, even if they could and their intentions were pure.

But there’s one thing we can be sure of: a real progressive movement might take shape in Australia that actually threatens to curtail the power of the big banks and the finance sector, the monopolies, the neoliberal and pro-war orthodoxies and the media establishment, one that actually seeks to represent all Australians, even the ones with personal views we don’t like and seeks to protect all Australians from the overreach of international finance and corporations and challenges their influence on our institutions including Defence and the Tax Office.

When this movement emerges – which at some point has to occur – the tech giants won’t need an invitation from Labor, the Libs and the ACCC to censor and sabotage the movement. When this movement emerges, you’ll see friendships and alliances blossoming you never dreamed of working in harmony to take it down.

Daniel Safi has an honours degree in history and politics and now works as a music teacher.

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