A court order forcing Twitter to hand over the identity of a prominent anonymous account has far-reaching consequences for social media users, writes Dr Victoria Fielding.
IMAGINE THE OUTRAGE from journalists if an anonymous whistleblower who used social media to speak truth to power had their identity revealed by Twitter because of a defamation case brought by the powerful party they were critiquing.
Yet, when @PRGuy17 faced this reality, there were crickets from journalists.
PRGuy is being sued for defamation by far-right activist Avi Yemini, who has crowdfunded for his legal costs. It is on the public record that Yemini has pled guilty to unlawful assault for throwing a chopping board at his now ex-wife’s head and sending her abusive text messages. It is unclear whether the case has anything to do with PRGuy’s criticism of Yemini over this assault.
Whatever the reason for Yemini’s defamation suit, it is symbolic of a wider resentment against PRGuy, a resentment that crosses the political spectrum and leads critics to obsess over who PRGuy is.
PRGuy has also been discussed on Sky News’ The Media Show, described as a “Twitter activist” and used as an example of “anonymous trolls” who are “constantly weighing politically into the debate”.
So, what’s the problem here? Is the problem that PRGuy is anonymous? Or is the problem that the account speaks back to powerful people – like journalists in the mainstream media – and those people don’t like it? This is part of the story.
But to understand the whole story, you also need to know that the PRGuy account is pro-Labor. PRGuy rose to fame critiquing rabid anti-Dan Andrews media bias during the pandemic. And that is not allowed. Only bias against Labor is allowed.
As described by @Lee_Tenant, PRGuy uses a powerful form of political satire to present a counter-narrative to the homogenous anti-Labor narratives perpetuated by the rest of the mainstream media during the pandemic, including many left-wing journalists like Faruqi and most journalists at the ABC.
Being pro-Labor is the quickest way to get yourself labelled as a “troll”, a “thug’, and even a “lobotomised shithead”. Just ask ABC journalist Fauziah Ibrahim.
Yet, apparently, right-wing bias amongst mainstream journalism and commentary is fine. It is interesting that PRGuy is accused of being an activist — like the word “activist” automatically makes them an illegitimate voice. There are many ways one could describe the right-wing bias of the Murdoch media — propaganda, one-sidedness, partisanship and activism. Right-wing activism.
But that’s the thing. PRGuy isn’t a mainstream media organisation with a powerful 59% share of Australian print media readership who supports the Liberal and National parties. If they were, they would not be called an activist. They would presumably be treated like a legitimate news source, invited to share their commentary on the public broadcaster and endowed with the authority and power to set political agendas and undermine a fair democratic process. They would get away with whatever they wanted if they were a billionaire media baron.
And that is what is wrong with Australian democracy. PRGuy is one Twitter account, presumably one person who has independently grown an audience of 80,000+ followers by speaking truth to power, critiquing biased mainstream media and countering right-wing political narratives.
This is why that power wants to tear them down. This is why journalists don’t stand up for PRGuy when they are sued. This is why journalists of the mainstream media have not recognised that PRGuy does a better job than they do of holding dangerous extremist far-right voices like Avi Yemini to account.
The story of PRGuy is symbolic of a wider David and Goliath battle being waged in Australian public discourse. PRGuy is not just one Twitter account. They are everyone who uses whatever means they can to talk back to the powerful. A strong democracy depends on PRGuy – on us – to ensure the voice of every person is heard.
If you would like to support PRGuy in their legal battle against Avi Yemini, you can contribute to their fighting fund HERE.
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