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Australian PM Pushes for Crackdown on “Misogynistic” Speech Amid Fears Free Speech Is Fading

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Following his more recent online censorship demands, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is doubling down and has advocated for more stringent controls on what is labeled as “misogynistic” online content. This initiative comes as plans are set for a national cabinet session in 2024 focused on women’s safety, which will address online harassment, among other issues.

This move marks another significant focus by the government, ostensibly on enhancing women’s safety, but raising alarms about potential overreach in curtailing free speech, as its other speech-related policies have done.

“Young adults should not be coached in disrespect or misogyny by online influencers,” Prime Minister Albanese said.

“I understand parents want to protect their kids from harmful material online,” Albanese added. “Social platforms have important social responsibilities and we need them to step up. Taken together, these reforms will give Australian families some of the tools they need to navigate the complexity of the digital world.”

The Prime Minister added that the legislation would carry “serious criminal penalties.”

The proposed measures include better tracking and monitoring the speech of those considered high-risk or repeat offenders and a drive to significantly reduce the presence of misogynistic content on social media platforms.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland has expressed concern about the widespread dissemination of such content, particularly its impact on young users of social media. “The reality is that digital platforms are influencing our culture and social lives. They have a responsibility to do more to meet community standards,” Rowland said.

However, critics argue that the measures could infringe on digital rights and free expression, especially given the opaque nature of the algorithms that determine content dissemination.

The Australian government is now leveraging alleged recent incidents of online misogyny as a pretext to potentially expand the powers of the eSafety commissioner under the revised Online Safety Act. This prospect has ignited a heated debate about the balance between safety and freedom on the internet.

Just last year, Albanese expressed a desire to ban social media if he had dictatorial powers, particularly in light of challenges with “misinformation.” This statement coincided with parliamentary discussions on a controversial bill, raising alarms about potential government overreach in regulating online speech. Albanese highlighted his frustrations with anonymous “keyboard warriors” who spread false information, disrupting traditional news cycles.

More recently, the Prime Minister called for the banning of memes that made fun of him.

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