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Brownstone Institute

Fact-Checker, Check Thyself

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From Brownstone Institute

BY Ramesh ThakurRAMESH THAKUR 

In two articles on this site on November 13 and March 18, Andrew Lowenthal explained the intimate connections in the Virality Project between the US government, Stanford University, and Big Tech, to enforce Covid orthodoxy via the Censorship Industrial Complex. A similar collusion has operated in Australia but not, as far as we know, as an initiative of the security state.

This is the ABC RMIT Fact Check Unit. It is hosted jointly by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) that is mostly a publicly funded institution and the public broadcaster the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that is entirely funded by the state. It describes itself rather grandiosely as a partnership that combines “academic excellence and the best of Australian journalism to inform the public through an independent non-partisan voice.” This boast has helped to provide plausible cover for enforcing the orthodoxy of the medical establishment that suffers from the delusion that it is the single source of medical scientific truth.

The self-important pretentiousness was punctured this week. During a radio interview with 2GB host Ben Fordham on March 18, businessman Dick Smith said, “No country has ever been able to run entirely on renewables – that’s impossible.” He said this in the context of advocating for nuclear power to be added to Australia’s energy mix.

The Fact Check

ABC RMIT Fact Check promptly investigated this and adjudged that “experts consulted by RMIT ABC Fact Check suggested Mr Smith’s statement doesn’t hold up.”

In a follow-up interview on 2GB on March 25, Smith was angry. “The whole document is full of misinformation and lies, it’s designed to discredit me. Absolutely disgusting,” he told Fordham. He demanded immediate corrections from the taxpayer-funded broadcaster’s fact-check unit and threatened defamation action otherwise as the verdict was damaging his credibility.

US columnist Michael Shellenberger, who played a central role in breaking the Twitter Files story, said:

The Australian government is demanding that X, Facebook, and other social media companies censor content that its fact-checkers say is inaccurate. But now, one of the government’s main fact-checker groups has been caught spreading misinformation about renewables and nuclear.

X owner billionaire Elon Musk joined in, posting that “Having government ‘fact-checkers’ is a giant leap in the direction of tyranny!”

Bizarrely, to support its negative verdict on Smith, the fact check quoted Stanford University’s Professor Mark Jacobson to the effect that California had “been running on more than 100 per cent WWS [wind-water-solar] for 10 out of the last 11 days for between 0.25 and 6 hours per day.” Similarly, the fact check cited a forecast from the Australian Energy Market Operator that renewables will be able to meet the entire demand of the national electricity market by 2025, “albeit for short periods of time (for example, 30 minutes).”

This demonstrates gross reading comprehension problems. Or is it elementary maths? If California has been relying on renewables for between 0.25 and 6 hours per day, quite clearly that confirms Smith’s claim, for renewables could not manage power needs for between 18 to 23.75 hours per day. In addition, Smith claimed subsequently, California can draw on its own and two other states’ nuclear power as base-load backup power to renewables. Nor does a 30-minute capacity indicate the ability to meet Australia’s electricity demand 24/7 for 365 days a year.

The Proliferation of Fact-Checkers

The fact-check industry came into its own during the Covid years, gained in popularity, and proliferated in numbers of organizations and individuals. However, they typically operated with little transparency and clarity on the credentials of the fact-checkers and their qualifications to adjudicate between world-renowned experts making competing claims. After all, contestation is normal in scientific discourse. Anything that cannot be questioned but relies on authority alone is dogma, not science.

A good example of this syndrome was provided to this site on March 27 by Peter Gøtzsche, co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration and Professor of Clinical Research Design and Analysis at the University of Copenhagen, who has published more than 97 papers in the “big five” medical journals (JAMA [Journal of the American Medical Association], LancetNew England Journal of MedicineBritish Medical Journal, and Annals of Internal Medicine).

Gøtzsche had produced a video of a conversation he had with Professor Christine Stabell Benn, “one of the most outstanding vaccine researchers in the world.” On their own Broken Medical Science site, the video (published last October) is described thus:

In this episode, Peter C Gøtzsche discusses with Professor Christine Stabell Benn the research that has shown that live, attenuated vaccines reduce total mortality by much more than their specific effects would predict; that non-live vaccines increase total mortality; that the order in which the vaccines are given is important for mortality; what the harms are of the Covid-19 vaccines; and why they are overused.

After reading Martin Kulldorff’s story in the City Journal on March 11 of how he was fired by Harvard University, Gøtzsche decided to test YouTube and put up the video on March 24. It was taken down within an hour for violating its medical misinformation policy. They appealed but having “reviewed your content carefully,” YouTube “confirmed that it violates our medical misinformation policy.” Gøtzsche was very impressed that YouTube fact-checkers were able to conduct a careful and thorough review of a 54-minute conversation, involving two internationally eminent medical experts, in less than an hour.

Is it any wonder that fact-checkers were quickly discredited for several reasons. They took official claims by governments and the WHO as authoritative and true. This produced some hilarious flip-flops as the narrative on Covid changed with respect, for example, to the likely origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan’s wet market or the research laboratory in the Wuhan Institute of Virology located just a few kilometres away. Also with respect to claims that the vaccines stop infection, transmission, and death.

Second, fact-checkers were shown to have a pronounced left-liberal bias. Third, their modus operandi turned out to be to ask different experts for their reactions to the claims under investigation and then side with the experts who aligned with their own bias. Fourth and most importantly, when challenged in court Facebook’s defence in December 2021 was that fact-check pronouncements were protected “opinions” under the First Amendment.

Thorsteinn Siglaugsson was wickedly accurate in sketching the typology of fact-checking techniques. Create a straw-man argument that can be easily knocked down. Assert that a claim is not supported by evidence, is questioned by other experts, lacks context, is misleading, or is only partly true, etc. Engage in ad hominem attacks against the person rather than with their evidence and argument.

ABC RMIT Fact Check, Check Your Own Facts

Smith makes the point that the fact-checker never contacted him. He could have told them he was talking about the total energy requirements, not just electricity requirements. Professor Jacobson told Fact Check that four countries draw 100 percent of their electricity power requirements solely from renewables: Albania, Bhutan, Paraguay, and Nepal.

The first thing to note is that even the electricity consumption per capita of the four countries is substantially lower than that of Australia as an advanced industrial economy (Figure 1).

Second, none of the four countries is an island continent without the option of connecting to a geographically wider energy grid to make up for shortfalls in national energy needs. In 2021, 24.1 percent of Albania’s, 27.6 percent of Nepal’s, and 10.1 percent of Paraguay’s energy needs were met from imports.

Third, according to Our World in Data, the share of electricity production from renewables for Paraguay was 99.88 percent in 2021, and for the remaining three was 100 percent. But power for the electricity grid made up only 22, 41, 13, and 38 percent of the total energy consumption of Albania, Bhutan, Nepal,  and Paraguay, respectively.

Figure 2 shows the energy mix of three countries using data from the International Energy Agency (Bhutan’s is not available from that source).

Nepal

I’d like to look in more detail at Nepal, for a simple reason. I was born and grew up in the state of Bihar just 20-30km from the border with Nepal which is an open border for citizens of the two countries. Consequently I am intimately familiar with life and communities on both sides of the border. Like people in northern Bihar, many Nepalese lack access to electricity and rely heavily on wood, agricultural waste, and dung with high CO2 emissions for their daily cooking and heating needs.

Similarly, on both sides of the border fossil fuels power the majority of transportation and diesel generators are commonly used as a power source to offset unreliable grid electricity supply. Speaking of which, a common complaint from local Indians is that Nepal imports a lot of the electricity produced in India even though India’s own power requirements are not fully met.

In other words, the ABC RMIT Fact Check conclusions were misleading, lacked context, and made false claims about what Dick Smith had said in his interview. Good to see that despite repeated insistence that it was standing by its work, late on March 26 the Fact Check unit apologized to Smith and amended its report.

But this does rather beg the question. Having stood by their verdict for over a week, ABC buckled upon receiving a letter from Smith’s lawyers. He is both a public figure with access to media and politicians and very wealthy. The founder of the successful Australia-New Zealand retail chain Dick Smith Electronics, his state honour includes the highest level of civilian recognition, the Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), awarded in 2015. Ninety-nine percent of Australians lack his reach and ability to issue credible legal threats and risk penury. Consequently his win is unlikely, on its own, to end the ABC’s attitude problem rooted in arrogance, hubris, and complacency.

An earlier version of this was published in  The Epoch Times Australia on March 27.

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  • Ramesh Thakur

    Ramesh Thakur, a Brownstone Institute Senior Scholar, is a former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, and emeritus professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.

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Brownstone Institute

WHO Accords Warrant Sovereignty Concern

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Ramesh ThakurRAMESH THAKUR 

In agreeing to undertake to implement the WHO advisories, states will be creating a new system of pandemic management under the WHO authority and binding under international law. It will create an open-ended international law obligation to cooperate with the WHO and to fund it.

On 11 March, my article criticizing what appeared to be a slow-motion coup d’état by the World Health Organization (WHO) to seize health powers from states in the name of preparing for, conducting early warning surveillance of, and responding to “public health emergencies of international [and regional] concern” was published in the Australian. The coup was in the form of a new pandemic treaty and an extensive package of more than 300 amendments to the existing International Health Regulations (IHR) that was signed in 2005 and came into force in 2007, together referred to as the WHO pandemic accords.

The two sets of changes to the architecture of global health governance, I argued, will effectively change the WHO from a technical advisory organisation offering recommendations into a supranational public health authority telling governments what to do.

On 3 May, the Australian published a reply by Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, co-chair of the WHO working group on the IHR amendments. Bloomfield was New Zealand’s Director-General of Health from 2018–22 and received a knighthood for his services in the 2024 New Year’s Honours list. His engagement with the public debate is very welcome.

Rejecting the charge that the WHO is engaged in a power grab over states, Bloomfield wrote that as a one-time senior UN official, I “would know that no single member state is going to concede sovereignty, let alone the entire 194 members.”

I bow to the good doctor’s superior medical knowledge in comparison to my non-existent medical qualifications.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same with respect to reforms across the UN system, or sovereignty, or the relationship between “We the peoples” (the first three words of the UN Charter), on the one hand, and UN entities as agents in the service of the peoples, on the other. On medical and not health policy issues, I would quickly find myself out of my depth. I respectfully submit that on sovereignty concerns, Dr. Ashley may be the one out of his depth.

On the first point, I was seconded to the UN Secretariat as the senior adviser to Kofi Annan on UN reforms and wrote his second reform report that covered the entire UN system: Strengthening the United Nations: An Agenda for Further Change (2002). The topic of UN reforms, both the case for it and the institutional and political obstacles frustrating the achievement of the most critical reforms, forms a core chapter of my book The United Nations, Peace and Security  (Cambridge University Press, 2006, with a substantially revised second edition published in 2017).

I was also involved in a small Canada-based group that advocated successfully for the elevation of the G20 finance ministers’ group into a leaders’ level group that could serve as an informal grouping for brokering agreements on global challenges, including pandemics, nuclear threats, terrorism, and financial crises. I co-wrote the book The Group of Twenty (G20) (Routledge, 2012) with Andrew F. Cooper, a colleague in that project.

On the second point, I played a central role in the UN’s reconceptualisation of sovereignty as state responsibility and citizens as rights holders. This was unanimously endorsed by world leaders at the UN summit in 2005.

On the third point, in Utopia Lost: The United Nations and World Order (1995), Rosemary Righter (the former chief leader writer at the Times of London) quoted Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s description of the United Nations as “a place where the peoples of the world were delivered up to the designs of governments” (p. 85).

So yes, I do indeed know something about UN system reforms and the importance of sovereignty concerns in relation to powers given to UN bodies to prescribe what states may and may not do.

In agreeing to undertake to implement the WHO advisories, states will be creating a new system of pandemic management under the WHO authority and binding under international law. It will create an open-ended international law obligation to cooperate with the WHO and to fund it. This is the same WHO that has a track record of incompetence, poor decision-making, and politicised conduct. The insistence that sovereignty is not being surrendered is formulaic and legalistic, not substantive and meaningful in practice.

It relies on a familiar technique of gaslighting that permits plausible deniability on both sides. The WHO will say it only issued advisories. States will say they are only implementing WHO recommendations as otherwise, they will become rogue international outlaws. The resulting structure of decision-making effectively confers powers without responsibility on the WHO while shredding accountability of governments to their electorates. The losers are the peoples of the world.

A “Litany of Lies” and Misconceptions? Not So Fast.

Bloomfield’s engagement with the public debate on the WHO-centric architecture of global health governance is very welcome. I have lauded the WHO’s past impressive achievements in earlier writings, for example in the co-written book Global Governance and the UN: An Unfinished Journey (Indiana University Press, 2010). I also agree wholeheartedly that it continues to do a lot of good work, 24/7. In early 2020 I fought with a US editor to reject a reference to the possible virus escape from the Wuhan lab because of WHO’s emphatic statements to the contrary. I later apologised to him for my naivete.

Once betrayed, twice shy of the message: “Trust us. We are from the WHO, here to keep you safe.”

Sir Ashley was merely echoing the WHO chief. Addressing the World Governments Summit in Dubai on 12 February, Director-General (DG) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attacked “the litany of lies and conspiracy theories” about the agreement that “are utterly, completely, categorically false. The pandemic agreement will not give WHO any power over any state or any individual.”

DG Tedros and Sir Ashley do protest too much. If Australia chooses as a sovereign nation to sign them, that does not mean there is no loss of effective sovereignty (that is, the power to make its health decisions) from that point on.

This is why all 49 Republican senators have “strongly” urged President Joe Biden to reject the proposed changes. The expansion of “WHO’s authority over member states during” pandemic emergencies, they warn, would “constitute intolerable infringements upon US sovereignty.” In addition, 22 Attorneys-General have informed Biden that the WHO writ under the new accords will not run in their states.

On 8 May, the UK said it would not sign the new treaty unless clauses requiring transfer of pandemic products were deleted. Under Article 12.6.b of the then-draft, the WHO could sign “legally binding” contracts with manufacturers to get pandemic-related “diagnostics, therapeutics or vaccines.” Ten percent of this is to be free of charge and another ten percent at profit-free prices. In the latest, 22 April draft, this last requirement comes in Article 12.3.b.i in slightly softer language.

The UK wants to retain the right to use British-made products first to address domestic requirements as judged by the government, and only then to make them available for global distribution. The draft, the government fears, will undermine British sovereignty.

On 14 May, five senators and nine representatives from the Australian parliament wrote a formal letter to PM Anthony Albanese expressing deep concern over the likely prospect of Australia signing the accords that “will transform the WHO from an advisory organisation to a supranational health authority dictating how governments must respond to emergencies which the WHO itself declares.” If adopted and implemented into Australian law, they wrote, these would give the WHO “an unacceptable level of authority, power and influence over Australia’s affairs under the guise of declaring ‘emergencies’.”

“Legally Binding” vs “Loss of Sovereignty” is a Distinction without a Difference

They can’t all be part of a global conspiracy to peddle a litany of lies. The WHO is offering up a highly specious argument. Sir Ashley didn’t really engage with the substance of my arguments either. He dismissed criticism of the proposed changes as “an attempt by the WHO to gain the power to dictate to countries what they must do in the event of a pandemic” as a “misconception.”

The G20 Leaders’ Bali Declaration (November 2022, paragraph 19) supported the goal of a “legally binding instrument that should contain both legally binding and non-legally binding elements to strengthen pandemic planning, preparedness and response (PPR) and amendments to the IHR.” In September 2023, the G20 Delhi Leaders’ Declaration (28:vi) envisioned “an ambitious, legally binding WHO” accord “as well as amendments to better implement” the IHR.

Lawrence Gostin, actively involved in the negotiations, was co-author of a report last December that said containing transnational outbreaks under WHO leadership “may require all states to forgo some level of sovereignty.” A joint Reuters-World Economic Forum article on 26 May 2023 stated: “For the new more wide-reaching pandemic accord, member states have agreed that it should be legally binding.”

The WHO itself describes the IHR as “an instrument of international law that is legally-binding on 196 countries.” Last year it published a document that includes section 4.6 on “legally binding international instruments” such as a new pandemic accord.

I get the argument that sovereign states are voluntarily agreeing to this. In terms of legal technicality, it might well be more accurate, as Libby Klein suggests in her draft letter to Australian MPs, to use words and phrases like “ceding autonomy,” “yielding “effective control over public health decisions,” “outsourcing public health decision-making to the WHO,” or “offshoring our public health decision-making.” This is the legalistic distinction that Bloomfield is effectively making.

However, simply because states must voluntarily sign the new WHO accords doesn’t mean they will not be ceding sovereignty once the accords are adopted. With all due respect to Dr. Tedros and Sir Ashley, this is a distinction without a difference. Every single “legally binding” requirement will mean a transfer of effective decision-making power on health issues to the WHO. That is a curtailment of state sovereignty and it is disingenuous to deny it.

Since the creation of the United Nations in 1945, states have been required to conduct themselves increasingly in conformity with international standards. And it is the UN system that sets most of the relevant international standards and benchmarks of state behaviour.

For example, for centuries countries had the absolute right to wage wars of aggression and defence as an acknowledged and accepted attribute of sovereignty. By adopting the United Nations Charter in 1945, they gave up the right to wage aggressive wars. I am very glad they did so. Just because the surrender of this aspect of sovereignty was voluntary, it doesn’t mean there was no surrender of sovereignty.

Similarly, by signing the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), Australia and around 185 states surrendered their sovereign right to make or get the nuclear bomb. Again, I am very glad they did so.

Article 10 of the treaty does permit withdrawal after a three-month notice to other states parties and the UN Security Council:

Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treatyif it decides that extraordinary events…have jeopardisedthe supreme interests of its country.

Australia could still act as a sovereign state and pull out of the NPT but, absent exculpatory events, only at the reputational cost of acting illegally under international law.

North Korea first announced withdrawal from the NPT in 1993, suspended the withdrawal, withdrew in 2003, has conducted six nuclear tests since 2006, and acquired up to 50 bombs. Yet, the UN has refused to accept the withdrawal and it is still listed on the UN website as an NPT member, with the explanatory note that: “States parties to the Treaty continue to express divergent views regarding the status of the DPRK under the NPT.”

Like these two important examples, states will lose key parts of the right to exercise their sovereignty over national policy settings and decisions on health if the WHO accords are adopted. It is their sovereign right to reject the treaties now. They should exercise it before it is too late. The complications entangling the post-Brexit referendum in the UK demonstrate only too vividly how challenging it can be for a state to extricate itself from a supranational authority despite the sovereign right to do so.

The best way to allay these fears and concerns would be to return responsibility to where accountability lies: with the national government and parliament. States should learn to cooperate better in global pandemic management, not hand effective decision-making powers and authority to unelected and unaccountable international technocrats.

The Effort Should Be Put on Indefinite Hold

It is an iron law of politics that any power that can be abused, will be abused by someone, somewhere, some time in the future. For current examples of overreach by a technocrat, look no further than Australia’s eSafety Commissioner. The truly frightening thing about her example is the realisation of just how much her efforts have been deliberately embedded in a global campaign to “bureaucratise” and control the internet.

A softer conclusion is that powers once granted over citizens to authorities are far more difficult to claw back than not giving them the powers in the first place. Thus far from retreating, the Censorship-Industrial Complex is simultaneously being broadened to embrace additional sectors of governance and public policy and globalised.

report from Leeds University documented that pandemics are rare events. They are not becoming more frequent. For poor countries, their global disease burden is much lower than that of the big killer diseases like TB, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. For industrialised countries like Australia, the disease burden has been greatly reduced since the Spanish flu with improved surveillance, response mechanism, and other public health interventions.

There is no emergency justifying the rushed process. An immediate pause and a slow and deliberative process would lead to better policy development and deliver better national and global health policy outcomes.

“Pause for thought, argue for a wider delay, think it through properly. And don’t sign till it’s right.” David Frost, who led the UK Brexit negotiations.

Just so.

Author

  • Ramesh Thakur

    Ramesh Thakur, a Brownstone Institute Senior Scholar, is a former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, and emeritus professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.

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Brownstone Institute

Musk Wins Latest Censorship Battle in Australia

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US billionaire Elon Musk, Australian eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Rebekah BarnettREBEKAH BARNETT

Can Australia’s eSafety Commissioner block content globally on demand? Not today, ruled the Australian Federal Court, in a win for Elon Musk’s social media platform X.

In a decision on Monday, Justice Geoffrey Kennett refused to extend a temporary injunction obtained by eSafety last month, which forced X to remove footage of the Wakeley church stabbing, an alleged religiously motivated terror attack.

Under the Online Safety Act (2021), the eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, has the authority to order removal of such ‘class 1 material’ within Australia under threat of hefty fines.

eSafety argued that X had not gone far enough to block the content from Australians, as a geo-block can be circumvented by a VPN. X argued that eSafety was effectively seeking a global ban on content, straying outside of the Australian online harm regulator’s jurisdiction.

eSafety applied to the Federal Court to extend its temporary injunction against X, with a hearing taking place on Friday 10 May. The temporary injunction was due to expire at 5pm on Friday, but was extended to 5pm Monday—to allow time for Justice Kennett to deliver a decision on the matter.

In his decision, Justice Kennett held that X had taken “reasonable” steps to block the stabbing content as required under Australian law, and that eSafety’s request for a global ban was not reasonable.

Therefore, “The orders of the court will be that the application to extend…is refused,” said Justice Kennett, meaning that as of 5pm Monday, the injunction is no longer effective.

In a statement on the Federal Court decision, eSafety said that the matter will return to Court for a case management hearing on Wednesday, 15 May.

Source: X

“The application for this injunction should have never been brought,” said Dr Reuben Kirkham, Co-Director of the Free Speech Union of Australia (FSU) in a statement, questioning the validity of the Commissioner’s bid to enact a global content ban on X. “The eSafety Commissioner is overreaching and behaving more like an activist than a responsible public servant.”

Dr Kirkham, who was present for the hearing, told Dystopian Down Under that he counted 12 lawyers present (seven for X, five for eSafety), which, if eSafety is ordered to pay costs, will lump taxpayers with “a considerable amount of unnecessary legal costs.”

Digital civil liberties nonprofit the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) echoes FSU Australia’s position, stating that, “no single country should be able to restrict speech across the entire internet,” and likening the Commissioner’s actions to “[using] a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

An affidavit submitted by the EFF to the eSafety vs. X proceedings called for the Court to consider the international impact that a ruling in eSafety’s favour would have in setting a precedent for allowing one country to enforce content bans on citizens of other countries.

“If one court can impose speech-restrictive rules on the entire Internet—despite direct conflicts with laws [in] a foreign jurisdiction as well as international human rights principles—the norms of expectations of all internet users are at risk,” stated the EFF in an article summarizing the affidavit.

X’s Global Government Affairs posted about the hearing, stating, “We’re glad X is fighting back, and we hope the judge will recognize the eSafety regulator’s demand for what it is—a big step toward unchecked global censorship—and refuse to let Australia set another dangerous precedent.” At the time of publishing, no updated statement on the Judge’s decision had been issued.

Source: X

Dr Kirkham calls the Commissioner’s application to extend her injunction against X “part of a pattern where the eSafety Commissioner’s office seemingly engages in gamesmanship rather than respecting the rule of law or acting as a model litigant.”

Indeed, the ruling in X’s favour comes amidst mounting controversy over the eSafety Commissioner’s ongoing battle with X, which appears to be driven partly by Julie Inman Grant’s global censorship ambitions, and partly by personal feelings.

Inman Grant, who formerly directed Twitter’s Public Policy (Australia and Southeast Asia), has repeatedly criticized Elon Musk since his purchase of the Twitter platform in 2022.

Moreover, Musk’s advocacy for a broad interpretation of free speech on the internet conflicts with Inman Grant’s professed view of free speech as a right that needs to be “recalibrated” for online spaces.

YouTube video
For its part, X has failed to comply with routine reporting to the eSafety Commissioner’s satisfaction, leading eSafety to initiate civil penalty proceedings against X in December last year. If found non-compliant, X could be fined up to AUD $780,000 per day, backdated to March 2023, when the determination of non-compliance was made.

Perhaps the biggest controversy between X and eSafety centres on the highly charged and subective issue of gender ideology.

Inman Grant has enforced the removal of a string of posts on X questioning gender ideology, including one suggesting that men can’t breastfeed, and another about a trans-identified male who allegedly injured female players during a women’s football game in NSW.

In an internationally high-profile case, the Commissioner recently issued a removal notice over an acerbic gender-critical post by Canadian activist Billboard Chris, raising questions over whether the Government should be able to police opinions and censor statements of biological fact on the internet.

FSU Australia is currently involved in Administrative Appeal Tribunal proceedings on behalf of Billboard Chris (real name Chris Elston) against the eSafety Commissioner. Additionally, X has threatened to sue eSafety over the matter.

Source: X

Returning to the issue of the Wakeley stabbing footage, Inman Grant’s attempt to globally ban the content has been supported by the Australian Government, which leveraged the incident to call for more censorship, including the reintroduction of an unpopular misinformation bill.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also responded to calls to address violence against women by proposing to further expand eSafety’s budget and remit, which could see deep fake pornography and “other misogynistic material” censored by the regulator.

No one will argue against explicit pornography being blocked from children’s view, but it is around the grey edges of definition creep on terms like ‘harm,’ ‘adult cyber abuse,’ and ‘misogynistic material’ where disagreements will undoubtedly kick off.

In a move of ‘no confidence’ against eSafety, FSU Australia has launched a petition to abolish the office of the eSafety Commissioner altogether, arguing that a combination of parental controls and platform incentives will suffice in keeping children safe on the internet.

A more moderate approach may be to curtail eSafety’s remit to its original function of dealing with child abuse content (as in 2015), and revenge porn (as in 2017), before the regulator’s purview and powers were significantly expanded with the introduction of the Online Safety Act in 2021.

However, in the media and political conversation, there is little appetite for a moderate approach, as conveyed in a viral guest appearance by media personality Tracey Holmes on a recent episode of the ABC’s failing show Q+A.

Calling out the double standard in the censorship conversation, Holmes told the studio audience,

“I don’t agree with any kind of censorship in a general sense. I don’t think Elon Musk is contributing to any social cohesion split inside this country. I think our mainstream media is doing enough of that. I think our politicians do enough of that…

“Of course there are fault lines everywhere, but there’s only one way you can stop those fault lines from getting bigger, and that is to have the ability to have the town square to hear different points of view…

“And I think unfortunately we’ve been fed ‘this side or that side’ for so long, people are giving up on mainstream media, that’s why they’re tuning out. That’s why they’re going to YouTube…we have let them down.”

Hopefully, some higher-ups in the corporate media tuned in to hear what Holmes had to say.

Read more about the judge’s decision

Republished from the author’s Substack

Author

  • Rebekah Barnett

    Rebekah Barnett is a Brownstone Institute fellow, independent journalist and advocate for Australians injured by the Covid vaccines. She holds a BA in Communications from the University of Western Australia, and writes for her Substack, Dystopian Down Under.

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