What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, it was revealed that new SA laws would be imposed censoring anonymous political comment on the internet leading up to the March 20 election with those leaving comments having to supply their real name and post code. Less than 24 hours later, The Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson, released a statement late last night, indicating he would repeal his law censoring internet comment after the election. Mr Atkinson also said the law would not be enforced on comments made during the upcoming election.
What a way to underestimate social media. After the initial announcement in the Advertiser on February 2, absolute furore ensued with networking sites, news sites, blogs going into complete meltdown as comments made likened the SA Government to a communist regime. The law was panned nationally, as well as here, with critics confused as to how the law would actually be governed.
Electronic Frontiers Australia, a non-profit national organisation representing Internet users concerned with on-line freedoms and rights yesterday highlighted the problems with the legislation. It stated that it was poorly drafted, does not provide enough guidance and that no consideration was given as to how it would be monitored outside of South Australia. EFA also believes that it would be completely unenforceable due to the confusion and ambiguity as to how the legislation would actually apply and to what.
Web and Online Marketing Commentator, Steve Davis, agrees that the key attractions of this type of media are transparency and trust and advocates being honest in the social web sphere. However, the government’s ill-informed attempt at mass censorship should be resisted in order to protect our freedom of speech in the future.
It wasn’t just those posting comments who were targeted in the legislation, media organisations would be required to keep commentator’s personal information on record for 6 months and would be faced with a $5000 fine if they failed to give these records to the Electoral Commissioner.
While implemented by the current government, the law was in fact supported by the opposition and other political parties, with copious amounts of back-peddling playing out last night and this morning.
Tweeting last night (yes, does anyone else get the irony?), Premier Mike Rann said, “AG has listened. So no debate will be stifled. No political censorship of blogs or online comment whether named or anon.”
The opposition are apparently calling for Michael Atkinson’s resignation. But didn’t they support the legislation as well? It seems everyone wants to distance themselves from the legislation and the anger it has caused the online community.
There is a reason that Obama invested millions of dollars into social media during his 2008 election campaign. Because it works. Social media is the path to the future whether politicians like it or not and trying to censor it will ultimately lead to their demise. Surely knowing what the people want, in real time, is a much more valuable tool?
Well done everyone…people power lives on.