Australia Channels China: What Is Next Down Under?

September 13, 2021

Should one be alarmed about the power that social media has. Should one sorry when governments, after decades of indifference, exert their authority over social media. The Conversation discusses a new Australian law and its implications in, “Facebook Or Twitter Posts Can Now Be Quietly Modified By The Government Under New Surveillance Laws.” The new law updates the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 and Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. The addendum gives law enforcement officials in Australia to modify, add, copy, or delete online during an investigation.

The Human Rights Law Centre says the bill could violate free speech, while the Digital Rights Watch pointed out that the Australian government ignored recommendations to limit powers in the new bill. Not to mention, legal hacking could make it easier for bad hackers.

The new bill allows authorities to copy, delete, or modify data, with a warrant collect data, and assume control of a social media account. It also contains “emergency authorization” for law enforcement to do any of the above without a warrant.

Prior legislation of this nature included better privacy protections, but the new bill gives law enforcement free rein and force individuals to assist them or face prison time. On one hand the ill makes sense:

“According to the Department of Home Affairs, more and more criminal activity makes use of the “dark web” and “anonymising technologies”. Previous powers are not enough to keep up with these new technologies. In our view, specific and targeted access to users’ information and activities may be needed to identify possible criminals or terrorists. In some cases, law enforcement agencies may need to modify, delete, copy or add content of users to prevent things like the distribution of child exploitation material. Lawful interception is key to protecting public and national security in the fight of global community against cybercrimes.”

On the other hand, third parties could be subject to law enforcement. Individuals’ freedoms could be violated too.

Channeling China? Trying to control speech? What’s next?

Whitney Grace, September 13, 2021

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