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Social media 'a place for cowards' - PM, deputy mull crackdown

Politics

 

Scott Morrison has blasted the “coward’s palace” of social media as momentum grows within his government for a crackdown on internet giants.

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The prime minister flagged more action to make companies accountable with Facebook’s efforts to counter misinformation making global headlines.

“Social media has become a coward’s palace,” he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

“People can just go on there, not say who they are, destroy people’s lives, and say the most foul and offensive things to people, and do so with impunity.”

Morrison said if companies did not stop people from proving their identity online they would become publishers, rather than platforms.

He said it was important for a country that believed in free speech to ensure people were responsible for what they posted online.

“That issue and the technology that engages it, and lack of accountability that sits around it, is just not on,” the prime minister said.

“You can expect us to be leaning even further into this.”

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce backed cracking down on social media giants after online rumours were spread about his family.

He said allegations former NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro’s retirement from politics was because he was in a relationship with one of Joyce’s daughters were completely fictitious.

“It’s total and utter rubbish,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.

He wants more done to force social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to stop people spreading lies.

“From my own personal experience of recent times, you have got to get to a point where you say enough is enough,” the federal Nationals leader said.

“These platforms just say ‘oh well it’s too hard to control’.

“It’s not too hard for you to collect your billions of dollars from it and apparently it’s not too hard for you set up vessels to avoid tax in Australia.”

Joyce said he would speak to US politicians who are conducting a congressional inquiry that unearthed explosive allegations against Facebook.

Frances Haugen – a former Facebook data scientist – told a hearing the company was dishonest about efforts to counter misinformation and knew Instagram could have a toxic effect on young girls.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has described Haugen’s testimony as false and insists the company cares deeply about safety.

Joyce said billions of dollars were being spent on mental health which could be seriously damaged through social media.

“One of the greatest mechanisms of the destruction of people’s mental health is sitting on the kitchen table or in the corner of the room,” he said.

“If you go to any school and talk to any parent, this is one of the greatest fears – the destruction of their children by innuendo, by slurs.”

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher on Wednesday said the “special treatment” online companies had gotten away with was no longer acceptable to the community or government.

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