Labor gags internet debate

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Howie
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Labor gags internet debate

#1 Post by Howie » Tue Feb 02, 2010 7:35 am

Pretty disappointing stuff... sensational-adelaide.com will consider their response.

http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/stor ... 01,00.html
Labor gags internet debate
Article from: The Advertiser


MICHAEL MCGUIRE

February 02, 2010 12:01am

SOUTH Australia has become one of the few states in the world to censor the internet.

The new law, which came into force on January 6, requires internet bloggers, and anyone making a comment on next month's state election, to publish their real name and postcode when commenting on the poll.

The law will affect anyone posting a comment on an election story on The Advertiser's AdelaideNow website, as well as other news sites such as The Punch, the ABC's The Drum and Fairfax newspapers' National Times site.

It also appears to apply to election comment made on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The law, which was pushed through last year as part of a raft of amendments to the Electoral Act and supported by the Liberal Party, also requires media organisations to keep a person's real name and full address on file for six months, and they face fines of $5000 if they do not hand over this information to the Electoral Commissioner.

The Right to Know Coalition, made up of Australia's major media outlets including News Limited, publisher of The Advertiser , has called the new laws "draconian".

"This is one of the most troubling erosions of the right to free speech in Australia for many years," Right to Know spokeswoman Creina Chapman said.

BEAT THE CENSOR: Have your say now. Normal moderation rules apply - until the writs for the March 20 election are issued.

THE ADVERTISER EDTIORIAL: CENSORING FREE SPEECH IN THE SECRET STATE

"It is a fundamental principle of our democracy that voters are able to express personal views about the competing claims of political candidates without the fear that they might end up on a hit list held by a government whose policies they may have opposed.

"Isn't the whole point of public debate that it is public and that Australians, including South Australians, are smart enough to read or listen to the views of others and make up their own minds?"

Ms Chapman also pointed out that newspaper blogs such as AdelaideNow were moderated and publishers and broadcasters took responsibility for the material they published.

Attorney-General Michael Atkinson denied that the new law was an attack on free speech.

"The AdelaideNow website is not just a sewer of criminal defamation, it is a sewer of identity theft and fraud," Mr Atkinson said.

"There is no impinging on freedom of speech, people are free to say what they wish as themselves, not as somebody else."

Mr Atkinson also said he expected The Advertiser to target him for sponsoring the law. "I am also certain that Advertiser Newspapers and News Limited will punish me personally, viciously for being the attorney-general responsible for this law," he said.

"You will publish false stories about me, invent things about me to punish me."

The Advertiser's editor, Melvin Mansell, said: "Clearly this is censorship being implemented by a government facing an election.

"The effect of that is that many South Australians are going to be robbed of their right of freedom of speech during this election campaign.

"The sad part is that this widespread suppression is supported by the Opposition.

"Neither of these parties are representing the people for whom they have been elected to govern."

While Tasmania has similar provisions, it is believed the SA law is the most heavy-handed in Australia.

The SA law also differs from federal legislation, which preserves the right of internet users to blog under a pseudonym.

The new legislation could also apply to talkback radio.

The law will apply as soon as the writs for the March 20 election are issued. The writs for the election can be issued any time between now and 25 days before the election. The law will then lapse at 6pm on polling day.

Mt Atkinson said there was no intention to broaden the law to take it beyond the period of elections.

Similar laws have been in use in South Korea for some time and China also introduced a similar requirement last year.

Opposition justice spokeswoman Vickie Chapman said yesterday while the Liberal Party had supported the amendment to the Electoral Act, she believed it would be too broad to implement if it included Facebook and Twitter and said Mr Atkinson should introduce a regulation to limit its scope.

"It is clearly not the intention of what we understood that to be," she said.

Australian Council for Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman predicted the new laws would have a "chilling" effect on free speech and said South Australia was building a reputation as a secretive state.

"Freedom of speech is generally not high on the agenda for (the South Australian Government) in any given 12-month period."

John Quiggin, a long-time blogger and Research Fellow in Economics and Political Science at the University of Queensland, doubted whether the laws were enforceable.

"They can pass as draconian law as they like, but without the capacity to impose their own internet censorship it's going to be a dead lemon," he said.

"Anyone who wants to can set up an anonymous blog.

"It will be totally ineffectual with someone who sets up a Wordpress blog post in the US under a false name and publish whatever they want."

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Re: Labor gags internet debate

#2 Post by Will » Tue Feb 02, 2010 8:50 am

WTF? So once the writs are issued for the election, if I wanted to say something like Michael Atkinson is a religious fundamentalist whose draconian views have eroded SA's once proud reputation for progressive social legislation, I would have to publish my real name too?

I am disgusted by such laws, this is Australia, not China. I am also disgusted by the Liberals, who too are supportive of such legislation. However I am not surprised, because when it comes to things such as pollie's perks, they are all the same.

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Re: Labor gags internet debate

#3 Post by AtD » Tue Feb 02, 2010 9:08 am

If the law came into effect Jan 6, then why are we only hearing about it now? Where was The Advertiser when this was just a bill under debate in parliament?

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Re: Labor gags internet debate

#4 Post by Prince George » Tue Feb 02, 2010 9:18 am

Well, it's a tricky situation. There are already stories around about questionable campaign tactics being used by both sides, and the anonymity of the internet makes it a particularly fertile spot for malicious postings, for example people purporting to be from one of the parties actually spreading misinformation, or simply libelous attacks. There is always the risk that we end up not being able to trust legitimate comment on the 'net because we can't distinguish it from the fraudlent ones.

Personally, I'm not concerned about having my name attached to anything that I might say about the election. The new law doesn't actually prevent my from saying my peace about the election, but will oblige me to own and be accountable to those comments. Of course, I'm curious to know what proof of identity will be required - how is the Advertiser or S-A supposed to learn what my real identity is, are they just going to take my word for it? Much of this information is already in the phone book, how do they stop someone pretending to be me and putting words in my mouth?

And, yes, that month's gap seems either incompetent or disingenuous.

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Re: Labor gags internet debate

#5 Post by Howie » Tue Feb 02, 2010 9:23 am

(edit: the article says it can come into effect anytime between now and the election). I'll try to get some legal brains to have a look at this latest piece of legislation and see how this will affect us. Doesn't look good though.

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Re: Labor gags internet debate

#6 Post by Nathan » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:01 am

There's plenty of reasons may wish to comment anonymously. What about whistle blowers, or people expressing legitimate opinions that might compromise their job? I have no problem attaching my own name to opinions, but I'll defend other peoples right to not do so.

I have no idea how they tend to police this, and particularly how it can possibly be applied to blogs, forums and media hosted off shore (such as Twitter).

I also just read that Atkinson himself refuses to provide his suburb/postcode to The Advertiser. So then, does this law only apply if you're not a politician?

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Re: Labor gags internet debate

#7 Post by vik_man » Tue Feb 02, 2010 11:20 am

I don't think i've ever hated someone as much as I hate Michael Atkinson.

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Re: Labor gags internet debate

#8 Post by Shuz » Tue Feb 02, 2010 12:46 pm

I'm seriously stunned by this draconian implementations upon our free speech.

I call for a rally. This is just not on. I did not elect these people to censor our right to say how we feel about our politicians, or anyone else for that matter. I thought we were a democracy, and it seems we are fast turning into a communist state.

I'm outraged. My vote will go straight to the independents who share my support and retain a sense of dignity to upholding our rights to a democratic state.

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Re: Labor gags internet debate

#9 Post by AtD » Tue Feb 02, 2010 1:41 pm

Having read a bit more, I think it's just updating the existing laws for Letters to the Editor for the Internet age.

http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/02/02/is- ... ch-online/
116—Published material to identify person responsible for political content

(1) A person must not, during an election period, publish material consisting of, or containing a commentary on, any candidate or political party, or the issues being submitted to electors, in written form, in a journal published in electronic form on the Internet or by radio or television or broadcast on the Internet, unless the material or the programme in which the material is presented contains a statement of the name and address (not being a post office box) of a person who takes responsibility for the publication of the material.

Maximum penalty:

(a) if the offender is a natural person—$1 250;

(b) if the offender is a body corporate—$5 000.

(2) This section does not apply to—

(a) the publication in a journal (including a journal published in electronic form on the Internet) of a leading article;

(b) the publication of a report of a meeting that does not contain any comment (other than comment made by a speaker at the meeting) on any candidate, or political party, or the issues being submitted to electors;

(c) the publication in a journal (including a journal published in electronic form on the Internet) of an article, letter, report or other matter if—

(i) the name and address (not being a post office box) of a person who takes responsibility for the publication of the material is provided to the publisher of the journal and retained by the publisher for a period of 6 months after the end of the election period; and

(ii) the journal contains a statement of the name and postcode of the person who takes responsibility for the publication of the material;

(ca) the publication of a letter (otherwise than as described in paragraph (c)) that contains the name and address (not being a post office box) of the author of the letter;

(d) a news service or a current affairs programme on radio or television or broadcast on the Internet;

(e) any other prescribed material or class of material.

(3) In this section—
journal means a newspaper, magazine or other periodical.
I would not think this forum counts as either a journal or a broadcast. But I'm not a lawyer.

For what it's worth, Michael Atkinson won with just 1300 votes. It'd take a swing of 500 to the Libs to get rid of him.

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Re: Labor gags internet debate

#10 Post by Xaragmata » Tue Feb 02, 2010 3:26 pm

I got some propaganda from the local member today asking me to put South Australia first, with a r/p envelope for postal vote.
I wrote my thoughts on internet "gagging" on the propaganda and returned it. I haven't expressed any particularly partisan views, but it
doesn't mean I would avoid them as the various promises start to fly in the next few weeks, vying for my attention and vote.

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Re: Labor gags internet debate

#11 Post by Will » Wed Feb 03, 2010 9:15 am

A victory for the people!
Attorney-General Michael Atkinson vows to repeal election internet censorship law

By Derek Pedley From: AdelaideNow February 03, 2010 7:13AM


SOUTH Australia's Attorney-General Michael Atkinson has made a "humiliating" backdown and announced he will repeal his law censoring internet comment on the state election.

After a furious reaction on AdelaideNow to The Advertiser's exclusive report on the new laws, Mr Atkinson released this statement at 10pm last night: "From the feedback we've received through AdelaideNow, the blogging generation believes that the law supported by all MPs and all political parties is unduly restrictive.

"I have listened. I will immediately after the election move to repeal the law retrospectively."

Mr Atkinson said the law would not be enforced for comments posted on AdelaideNow during the upcoming election campaign, even though it was technically applicable.

Start of sidebar. Skip to end of sidebar.
Related CoverageThe Punch: Censorship tactics End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.
"It may be humiliating for me, but that's politics in a democracy and I'll take my lumps," he continued in the statement.

"This way, no one need fear now that they are being censored on the net or in blogs, whether they blog under their own name or anonymously.

"I call upon all the other political parties who supported this review to also review their position."

The extraordinary backdown followed Mr Atkinson's flawed defence of the law on radio 5AA earlier in the day. He said the new law was necessary because people such as Aaron Fornarino, who regularly posts comments on AdelaideNow, were Liberal Party plants. But Mr Fornarino does exist. He lives in a flat on Port Rd, 500m from Mr Atkinson's electorate office.

After the backdown was revealed last night, Premier Mike Rann posted three Twitter messages: "AG has listened. So no debate will be stifled. No political censorship of blogs or online comments whether named or anon."

"All MPs and all parties voted for Electoral law. Hope Libs, Greens, Family First, Independents etc will join us to support repeal."

"For many young people, and even the not so young, internet is their parliament of ideas and information.''

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Re: Labor gags internet debate

#12 Post by monotonehell » Wed Feb 03, 2010 5:45 pm

"I have listened. I will immediately after the election move to repeal the law retrospectively."
Why not right now?
Exit on the right in the direction of travel.

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Re: Labor gags internet debate

#13 Post by Nathan » Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:02 pm

monotonehell wrote:
"I have listened. I will immediately after the election move to repeal the law retrospectively."
Why not right now?

Because it would require that he be re-elected :roll:

He's now said he'll repeal it straight away.

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Re: Labor gags internet debate

#14 Post by monotonehell » Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:14 pm

Nathan wrote:
monotonehell wrote:
"I have listened. I will immediately after the election move to repeal the law retrospectively."
Why not right now?

Because it would require that he be re-elected :roll:

He's now said he'll repeal it straight away.
And now will he back down on all the software rating idiocy? (We could be on a roll ...)
Exit on the right in the direction of travel.

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Re: Labor gags internet debate

#15 Post by peas_and_corn » Wed Feb 03, 2010 8:05 pm

monotonehell wrote:
"I have listened. I will immediately after the election move to repeal the law retrospectively."
Why not right now?
Does parliament sit between now and the election? I doubt it- and if that's the case it can't be repealed because it requires legislation.

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