Nearly 20,000 Sign Petition Against ‘Misinformation’ Laws


Nearly 20,000 individuals have signed a petition against federal laws targeting “misinformation” in Australia.

Former MP George Christensen warned the country could be plunged into an “Orwellian nightmare.”

“This proposed legislation aims to have so-called ‘misinformation’ removed from the internet by fining social media companies and other online companies that allow free speech,” he wrote on the Citizen Go website.

“The clock is ticking, and we must act now to protect our fundamental right to free speech. Sign our petition today to demand the government abandon this dangerous bill.”

In June, the federal Communications Minister Michelle Rowland released the draft of the Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023, which grants greater powers to the media regulatory body the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

ACMA will have the power to stamp out mis- or disinformation online via a two-step process.

The first step will see ACMA request social media companies develop a code of practice (industry codes), which will be registered and enforced by ACMA.

If the code fails, the second tier of regulation will see ACMA itself create and enforce an industry standard (a stronger form of regulation) that will attract even higher penalties of $6.8 million or five percent of global turnover—millions for Twitter and billions for companies like Meta (Facebook).

ACMA will also have the power to request records of social media posts from the likes of Google, Twitter, and Meta.

Misinformation Could Mean Anything: Former MP

Minister Rowland tried to offer a safeguard to the new laws saying ACMA would not have the power to determine whether individual posts were “true or false” and that “professional news content or authorised electoral content” would remain untouched.

However, Mr. Christensen said definitions of “misinformation” and “disinformation” were open to interpretation.

“Instances where official fact-checkers have gotten it wrong or labeled satire and humor as misinformation are not uncommon. And entrusting a government agency to be the arbiter of truth is eerily reminiscent of the dystopian ‘Ministry of Truth’ from George Orwell’s 1984,” he said.

“The definition of harm in the proposed bill is also highly subjective, encompassing anything deemed hateful, disruptive, or harmful to various aspects such as society, democracy, environment, and economy.”

His comments align with those of Shadow Communications Minister David Coleman.

“The public will want to know exactly who decides whether a particular piece of content is ‘misinformation’ or ‘disinformation,’” he said in a statement online.

“The significant penalties associated with this legislation potentially places substantial power in the hands of government officials,” he added.

Already substantial action has been taken against Elon Musk’s Twitter, particularly after his takeover.

Australia’s eSafety commissioner has threatened Twitter with daily fines of up to $700,000 (US$476,000) unless it explained what it was doing to combat “hate speech” on its platform.

The commissioner says it has received “more complaints about online hate on Twitter in the past 12 months” than any other platform and alleges an “increasing number” of reports of serious online abuse since Musk took over in October 2022.

Commissioner Julie Inman Grant also apportioned blame for the increase in hate speech on Musk’s decision to cut Twitter’s global workforce from 8,000 to 1,500 (including its “trust and safety teams”) and ending its public policy presence in Australia.

Musk has indicated that the staff cuts were necessary because the company was inefficient and overstaffed—despite being publicly listed and widely used, Twitter is yet to turn a profit consistently.

Source: Epoch Times