No wonder the Albanese government is worried about misinformation. This week as news broke about an horrific attack on an Australian couple in their home, allegedly by one of the criminals released from immigration detention by the government, ministers insisted that the Commonwealth had opposed the offender being released on bail for a previous offence.

Unfortunately for these hapless ministers, they’d been the victims of misinformation. The source of this misinformation was not social media or Elon Musk, but the Prime Minister’s Office, which issued ‘talking points’ to all Labor MPs and ministers which we learned the next day were categorically false.

This is the same Prime Minister’s Office which now employs a whopping eleven spin doctors, and the same PMO which created and circulated a leaked guide for senior public servants on how to avoid answering questions at Senate Estimates.

This is the record of the Albanese government which is insisting it needs vast new censorship powers to counter misinformation.

Of course, the Albanese government isn’t talking about their own misinformation. Included in the Orwellian Bill they were forced to withdraw last year after massive backlash to the impacts on free speech and public debate, was a carve-out to ensure that claims made by the government were exempted from being considered misinformation, even if they were outright lies.

The Albanese government’s tactic of labelling politically difficult questions and commentary as ‘misinformation’ is well known, having been employed frequently in the lead-up to their divisive Voice referendum.

The combination of their own frequent mistruths and their labelling of valid criticism as ‘misinformation’ demonstrates clearly why in a democracy like ours, we should never accept the government of the day having the power to force media of any type to censor views, opinions and debate.

The reason the government’s Misinformation Bill was absolutely savaged by stakeholders and withdrawn is that it is based entirely on the idea that someone in government should have the power to declare your views unacceptable and threaten social media companies with massive fines if they don’t block them. However you dress it up, that’s unworkable in a democracy because it relies on people with their own political views casting judgment that the views of others are unacceptable.

Who do you trust to decide which information and views you’re allowed to hear? A bureaucrat whose $450,000 a year job relies on the Minister of the day? A ‘fact-checking’ organisation? The media? Anthony Albanese and his staffers? For most Australians – the answer is none of the above. And for those few partisan enough to trust the Albanese government and its bureaucrats, guess what? One day they won’t be in government anymore and you’ll have to trust a government you don’t like with the censorship powers they created.

Many of the very worst things that can happen to a country and its people only happen when those people are kept in the dark. That’s why authoritarian governments put so much effort into censorship and ensuring only media outlets which publish approved content and propaganda are permitted.

All Australians should be well aware that the internet and social media is full of rubbish. You can easily mount an argument that social media has had a very negative effect on our society. The proliferation of child abuse material, the deliberate foreign interference, the unrestricted exposure of children to pornography and extreme violence, and the well-documented link between social media and anxiety and body image distress amongst young girls are all serious problems for our society.

There are plenty of options on the table to tackle these issues. Yet instead of trialling age verification or cracking down on the purveyors of online porn, Anthony Albanese has made censoring views and opinions his central focus.

The internet, social media and the media generally are extremely flawed and sometimes dangerous spaces. When we use them, we should all maintain an awareness that at times we will be misinformed and lied to. But to suggest the solution is to have the government declare certain views ‘misinformation’ and disappear them from the public square is dangerous and authoritarian.

When the government or any powerful institution makes a mistake, or lies to us, the ability for citizens to be able to talk about it, discuss it and expose it is critical to the health of our democracy.

In an age when the traditional media fails us so often by wilfully neglecting to scrutinise ideologies they agree with – look at the puberty blockers scandal as a prime example – it’s more important than ever that Australians do not have our speech restricted by big tech or government bureaucrats.

As Orwell said, ‘If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’ As citizens, we should very strongly reject the idea that the government’s job is to protect us from offense and particularly from information the government doesn’t want in the public domain.

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