Australian Senator to Call for Commission Into ‘Big Tech’ Censorship

Australian Senator to Call for Commission Into ‘Big Tech’ Censorship
File Photo: The logos of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are seen in a combination photo from Reuters files. (Reuters)
Daniel Y. Teng

Australian Senator Alex Antic will call for a Senate Select Committee into Big Tech’s influence and censorship of political ideas when Parliament resumes in February.

Antic told The Epoch Times on Tuesday he would be moving to establish the committee because he is concerned that Big Tech can so easily censor one side of the debate.

“Our democratic process is founded on our ability to share ideas freely and to be exposed to challenging and opposing viewpoints. It is crucial to the integrity of that process that Big Tech companies do not censor one side of the debate,” the LNP senator said.

Antic believes the influence held by Big Tech companies, like Amazon, Google, Twitter, and Facebook, has grown enormously over the past decade and he cited the banning of President Donald Trump and the de-platforming of Parler, an alternative to Twitter, as a worrying precedent.

“Big Tech companies such as Twitter are now effectively the arbiters of who is entitled to freedom of speech. This is enormously dangerous,” he said.

“In permanently removing the Twitter account of the sitting President, and Amazon pulling the pin on Parler’s server, Big Tech is not just attempting to cancel a few voices, they are showing that they can cancel all of us if they don’t agree with our views.”

Antic’s comments come as Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have both said they were uncomfortable with Twitter’s ban on Trump.

Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat and Pinterest have banned Trump from their social media sites over concerns he may incite civil unrest before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Frydenberg said on Monday that “those decisions were taken by commercial companies, but personally I felt uncomfortable with what they did.”

Frydenberg quoted Voltaire: “I may not agree with what you say, but I defend the right to say it” and said that freedom of speech is fundamental to our democratic society.

McCormack said on Monday that the ban on Trump’s social media ­accounts was a form of “censorship.”

“There’s been a lot of people who have said and done a lot of things on Twitter previously that haven’t received that sort of condemnation or indeed censorship,” McCormack said. “I’m not one who believes in that sort of censorship.”

The Morrison government is known for taking a hard-line on Big Tech. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for more regulation of the firms surrounding their dissemination of hate or terrorist-related material on the internet.

Frydenberg has also introduced legislation into Parliament to force Facebook, Google, and others to pay for the content on their websites.

Victoria Kelly-Clark is an Australian based reporter who focuses on national politics and the geopolitical environment in the Asia-pacific region, the Middle East and Central Asia.
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