An Australian public servant has lost his job with the industry department for penning a blog article about tech giants having done very well for themselves in the coronavirus epidemic.
It’s an instance of almost inscrutable censorship: the man, Josh Krook, wrote for a blog (Oxford Political Review) that is no way associated with the government, didn’t criticize the government or its policies, and failed even to name Big Tech club members who are benefiting from the pandemic.
What Krook did appear to have discussed is the fact that as life moved online – for work, education, shopping, and communication, thanks to the lockdowns imposed around the world – Big Tech gained even more customers and consequently increased profit.
Nevertheless, even in such broad brush strokes, this was too much for Australia’s democracy to stomach. It took his department three months to get wind of the blog post before summoning him to a meeting with his superior. There, he was given an ultimatum: delete the post, or get fired, the local Guardian reported.
Not only that, but that the government would essentially own all his future public expression of free speech and opinion, as he would have to have it approved before publication.
According to the way Krook described his meeting, the driving force behind the attitude of his bosses is the fear of Big Tech and its retaliation.
Specifically, that the government could lose out in any future public-private projects with the behemoths, as they could “Google my name, find my article and then refuse to work with us (government).”
Krook at first decided to obey and have the blog’s editor remove the post, but then had a change of heart when he gradually realized the nature of the thing being asked of him – it was censorship.
Unlike in some other cases when public servants in Australia got sacked for criticizing the government (over issues such as immigration policy), Krook’s post was apolitical, but as he found out, the government appears to shield not only itself but also private companies with the code of conduct it imposes on public servants.
His decision to stick to his principles has cost him his job during an economic crisis (experienced by everyone but Big Tech, that is.)
However, he doesn’t seem to regret it. “There reaches a certain point where you have to stand by what you believe in,” Krook said.