By Jeff Thompson
If you currently live in Australia, you’re probably already aware that some pretty draconian measures have taken place in the name of public health.
But this next step has crossed the Rubicon into entirely new territory – one in which authorities can legally go into a citizen’s social media account and change what they posted and can make changes to their browsing histories.
The bills passing through the Australian Parliament of late have been mind-boggling but this one goes so far beyond the pale that it’s practically unbelievable.
Why? And why is this an issue?
Because just the other day, the Surveillance Legislation Amendment Bill of 2021 – otherwise known as the Identify and Disrupt Bill – was passed by both houses after having originated within the House of Representatives.
Even more alarming for Americans is the question that must be running through your head. “Is Australia the testing ground for a Brave New World coming to the USA soon?”
Consider this. You live in Australia and regularly read the fantastic website, The Daily Express. Occasionally, you’ll post a link to one of these articles on your social media along with a quick blurb such as “great read,” “something to consider,” or the like.
That’s all you’ve done. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Surely this won’t be a problem, will it?
Thanks to the new law, it sure could be.
The Identify and Disrupt Bill gives both the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission the authority to “disrupt data by modifying, adding, copying, or deleting data to frustrate the commission of serious offences online.” It also allows the police to “take over a person’s online account for the purposes of gathering evidence to further a criminal investigation.” [source]
Australian Spokesperson for Justice heavily criticized the bill
Senator Lidia Thorpe released a statement on August 27, stating, “…this bill enables the AFP and ACIC to be ‘judge, jury and executioner.’ That’s not how we deliver justice in this country.” Senator Thorpe goes on to say amendments put forward to protect innocent people from abuse of power were outvoted by the major parties. She also brings up concerns that the bill does not identify why these powers are needed. [source]
The bill, framed as being targeted only towards serious criminal activity, does not define that serious criminal activity. This is where it becomes ambiguous and could lead to abuse of power. Essentially, the Australian government could frame anyone, and they will then have no power to say ‘that isn’t me,’ as it’s under the person’s online signature.
Activist support group says the new powers may be used against activists
MALS (Melbourne Activist Legal Support) raised concerns that the “language” of the bill enables authorities to identify and disrupt not only criminals, but activists as well. This would mean that anti-war activists, anti-mining and climate action groups, and others could face serious federal offenses. These groups could be considered “criminal networks” simply by visiting the same websites as organized criminals.
The Human Rights Law Centre explains it like this: “if someone commits a relevant offence using WhatsApp, then … every user of WhatsApp worldwide would be a member of that “criminal network of individuals.” [source]
What does this mean?
If we go back to our initial example, authorities could easily decide that you are promoting harmful content or some other similar nonsense. For those Americans who haven’t been paying attention, this is not uncharted waters for Australians.
We’ve recently witnessed Australia arrest a pregnant woman in her home – in front of her screaming children – simply because she attempted to organize an anti-lockdown/pro-freedom protest via a Facebook post. She was thus deemed a threat to public safety and hauled away in handcuffs one hour before an ultrasound appointment. [source]
We later saw Australian police arrest hundreds at (yet another) large anti-lockdown/pro-freedom protest within the country. [source]
Then we saw the creation of veritable concentration camps for Australian citizens. [source]
How far will this go?