Australian police are scouring social media, searching keywords that will help them to crack down on those who are planning to violate the country’s strict lockdown rules.
Australian citizens who are concerned that the lockdowns are an affront to civil liberties are increasingly finding it difficult to get their voices heard. When they post on Facebook, the posts often get deleted. When they protest in public, they get arrested.
But it’s not just Facebook’s moderators that citizens have to contend with; police in Australia are also using social media to look for forms of dissent and to pick out those who are recommending that people air their grievances in public. People are being arrested for “incitement” over their Facebook posts.
A pregnant woman, Zoe Lee Buhler, who was arrested for posting an anti-lockdown post on Facebook, called on leaders to apologize over the incident – and another, James Bartolo, told others to avoid pro-protest posts on social media after police bashed in his front door for his support of anti-lockdown protests on Facebook.
There is an anti-lockdown protest planned for Saturday in Melbourne, where protesters will obviously break social distancing rules.
The “Freedom Walk” in Melbourne is set to begin at 11 am, according to a schedule doing the rounds on social media. However, the turnout might be low, considering Facebook removed the event a few days ago.
The government has deemed this protest unlawful, and the police are expected to be on high alert, paying particular attention to those who they have identified on social media in advance.
Yesterday, during a press briefing, Victorian Assistant Commissioner of the Police, Luke Cornelius, said that the protesters are “selfish” and forcing the police to “keep doing this.”
“I feel a bit like a dog returning to eat his own vomit. I’m sick of it,” a dejected Cornelius said. “…Don’t take us for fools. We’ll have no hesitation in issuing fines.”
The Premier of Victoria also urged people not to participate in the protests.
“All you’re potentially doing is spreading the virus,” said Premier Daniel Andrews.
A similar protest held last Saturday led to the arrest of 17 individuals and over 160 fines. However, the police have a long road ahead since posts on social platforms suggest that the anti-lockdown rallies will be held every Saturday until the government lifts the restrictions and so it’s social media where police will pay extra attention to.