Some Australian politicians have reacted angrily to social media sites banning Donald Trump as they look to import the free speech debate Down Under by asking the government to stop social media giants banning users.
Conservative Nationals MP George Christensen, who has come under fire for Facebook posts questioning the result of the US election, began a campaign calling on the federal communications minister to further restrict the powers of social media companies.
The social platform said the decision came “due to the risk of further incitement of violence”.
Twitter’s decision was soon followed by others, with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok among those to delete or restrict Mr Trump’s accounts.
Christensen wants ‘urgent’ laws
Liberal MP Craig Kelly asked whether it was a “threat to democracy”, alleging Twitter was “misleading the public for the reason for the censorship and silencing”.
Right decision on the facts.
But deeply uncomfortable w precedent of big tech making decisions about whose speech, and which remarks, are censored and suppressed.
Such decisions should be taken by a publicly accountable body, on basis of transparent reasoning & principles. https://t.co/X6tnFYXCrk
— Dave Sharma (@DaveSharma) January 8, 2021
Another Liberal Dave Sharma said banning Mr Trump had been the “right decision” but that he was “deeply uncomfortable” about the “precedent” it set.
One Nation’s Senator Malcolm Roberts tweeted a photo of the Communist hammer and sickle insignia superimposed on Twitter’s bird logo.
Meanwhile, NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham claimed banning Mr Trump was “censorship”.
But it was Mr Christensen, Member for the Queensland seat of Dawson, who went further.
He began a petition to lobby fellow Coalition member and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher to slap more laws on social media in Australia.
“How long before the social media overlords interfere heavily in Australian politics? It’s time to rein them in,” Mr Christensen wrote on Facebook on Sunday.
Mr Christensen previously shared Facebook posts claiming “vote fraud” and “dodgy extra votes” in the American election.
One such post was restricted behind Facebook ‘fact checks’, with a warning placed on it saying it was “missing context”, and links to a comprehensive article debunking the claim.
In recent days, Mr Christensen has shared a link to a story from a conservative blog, claiming the violent insurrection at the US Capitol was a ‘false flag’ by left-wing groups.
He also shared a photo of a red baseball hat bearing the phrase ‘Make Australia Great Again’, in the style of Mr Trump’s hats.
On Sunday, he shared a post to his 68,000 Facebook followers and 1300 on conservative social media service Parler, asking them to help “stop Big Tech censorship” by signing his petition.
“We ask that, as a matter of urgency, you legislate to ensure Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms can no longer ban, censor, suspend, “fact check” or shadow ban users for posting content which is lawful in Australia,” read the petition, addressed to Mr Fletcher.
In a separate Facebook post, Mr Christensen said he planned “to ensure laws are drafted to stop social media platforms from censoring any and all lawful content created by their users”.
The New Daily has contacted Mr Christensen’s office for comment.
Mr Fletcher is currently on leave, with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack acting in his place.
Mr McCormack, the leader of the Nationals, is also acting Prime Minister this week while Scott Morrison remains on holidays.
Mr McCormack declined to comment to TND on whether the government would consider Mr Christensen’s calls for more tech regulation.
When asked by TND if Mr McCormack had spoken to Mr Christensen about his recent posts regarding the US election, a spokesperson said “Nationals members and senators are free to hold their own opinions and the Deputy Prime Minister respects that”.
Last week, Mr Morrison was also asked about Mr Christensen’s “conspiracy theories” regarding the election.
“Australia is a free country. There’s such a thing as freedom of speech in this country and that will continue,” was Mr Morrison’s curt reply.
The Labor Opposition has slammed the PM for not calling out his backbenchers for sharing misinformation.
Parler removed from app stores
Conservative social platform Parler, which its creators have pitched as a replacement for Twitter for right-wing supporters banned from other services, is itself in danger of being banned.
The Apple and Google app stores have removed the service, and Amazon Web Services plans to remove Parler from its servers.
Apple claimed Parler was being used to “plan and facilitate yet further illegal and dangerous activities”, and the service had “not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety”.
Few Australian politicians have public Parler accounts under their own names. Mr Christensen is a regular user, as is Senator Roberts, while One Nation leader Pauline Hanson occasionally posts on her profile.
Former Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, now a Sky News commentator, also uses the service regularly.
Parler has been dumped by Google, Apple & Amazon for allowing right wing extremists to incite violent attacks and threaten violence, including to democratically elected officials.
Why is @ScottMorrisonMP letting a LNP MP stay on the service?
— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) January 10, 2021
Labor’s Senator Kristina Keneally publicly called for Mr Morrison to “order Christensen off Parler”.