February 6, 2020

by Dafyd Martindale

If Australians want to open a bank account, they have to come up with 100 points of identification before they can carry out everyday banking.

Much the same rules apply to our interactions with many government agencies.

The reason?

The government wants to track us, and ensure that if we break the rules further down the line they can haul us into court and get a quick, easy win.

The one drawback of this system is that not everyone interacts with all the different government agencies that require proof of identity.

Not everyone needs a bank account, either.

But the march of technology is steadily making the number of people who fall through these thin cracks much smaller.

And one day in the near future the chance of evading government tracking will almost completely disappear.

So we must ask: why isn’t the Federal Government legislating to require 100 points of ID to open a social media account?

Right at the moment, anyone can open a social media account (or dozens, or hundreds of them) without a single shred of proof about who they are, where they are or that they actually exist.

They can then go on to defame good people, spread wild-eyed conspiracy theories and even interfere with elections secure in the knowledge that thanks to the current open door policy of social media, they are immune from the consequences of their actions.

And these actions aren’t trivial.

Many of the worst abuses of social media that are committed under the veil of anonymity would attract massive legal fines and/or prison time if they were committed in the everyday world.

Online trolling has already pushed many Australians to suicide.

Social media’s anonymity has also helped foster the growth of extremist and terrorist groups.

And in the USA, the lies spread on it have now splintered the country into two camps, almost ready to go to war over idiotic theories about cannibal elites.

These days, Facebook is – if you go into the wrong areas – an open sewer of everything that’s bad, warped and sick about modern society.

Even in the day-to-day areas most of us inhabit, it is still louder, ruder and downright nastier than it is if we meet the same people on the street.

We think the quickest way to clean up Facebook and other social media is to mandate 100 points of ID for every social media account.

Doing this would strip away anonymity; eliminate duplicate, bogus accounts at a stroke; and force users to recognise that they will now be held legally responsible for what they say in public.

Yes, it would be a small inconvenience to submit 100 ID points to every social media we want to use.

And yes, it would be a big task for Facebook, Twitter and other social media to collect, secure and police this data.

But we’ve all seen the negative consequences social media has brought to our society, and this would be a quick, simple and inexpensive way to put a stop to it.

Right now our Government is preparing for a stoush with Google and Facebook over the way both companies have used the news content of media organisations to enrich themselves, destroying a lot of Australian journalists’ careers in the process.

That is serious, yes, but the much wider damage social media is inflicting on society is an even greater evil – one that’s even more important for Government to address.

The solution we suggest is quick, simple and cost-free for taxpayers.

It does not disadvantage ordinary, honest people in any way (outside the small inconvenience of putting 100 ID points together).

But it does pull the rug out from under the crazies and criminals, and force the gutter-dwellers to reconsider the wisdom of spewing their bile out into the wider world.

So when the Federal Government sits down with Google and Facebook soon to negotiate their behaviour, we hope this suggestion gets put on the table, too.

We think it’s an idea that’s long overdue.

* * *

Some of the ads that have been foisted on to my telephone … thank you Google Play store

by Anne Miller

For people who make their living off the Internet, you’d think Dafyd and I would be more positive about the benefits that it has brought to society.

And there are many – knowledge at your fingertips, easy and quick communication and emergency alerts –  but we’re getting heartily sick of the “wild west” that has been foisted on us by the big American tech companies.

In the name of the US Constitution’s “1st Amendment”, we are now drowning in misinformation and scams.

As well as the vile and dangerous comments Dafyd has highlighted above, there is the matter of advertising.

You may have noticed that like many other platforms, we run Google ads on this website. This brings in some income, but the work involved behind-the-scenes to keep trash away from the eyeballs of our readers is getting more arduous every month.

There’s fake ads, ads using (illegally) photos of well-known Australians such as Dick Smith and Scott Morrison in get-rich-quick scams … we block, report and kill these ads every day. But Google just keeps on serving them up …

And then there’s the ads that get foisted on to our telephones via games from “trusted” sources such as the Google Play store.

I have highlighted above some of these from just one (presumably Chinese-based) company whose ads regularly pop up on my phone.

They include fake money (which has been passed at times in Queensland), illegal weapons and bikie paraphernalia. And there’s ads for sex toys too graphic to be shown here.

Some of these items are illegal in Queensland, some are illegal in other parts of Australia, but I submit none should pop up in games that can be downloaded by children.

I’ve reported these to Google. But they still pop up.

Likewise, over the years I have reported literally hundred of posts to Facebook about comments encouraging violence, racist memes, Q Anon conspiracy theories etc.

Almost universally, I get a message back telling me the post doesn’t go against Facebook’s community standards.

What this really means is US standards. One post that I reported which used the “n” word, was banned immediately.

But posts encouraging a man to burn his Muslim neighbours’ kids was given the green light … free speech?

These are the same US companies that have stripped advertising income from Australian media companies.

We live in a world where Dafyd and I are considered “publishers” and have to uphold advertising standards and risk being sued at the drop of a hat; but Google and Facebook for some reason are not publishers, just “platforms” much like the newsprint that a newspaper is printed on.

It’s about time these tech giants from the American Wild West were brought to heel to obey Australian laws – advertising laws, defamation laws and privacy laws.

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2 Responses to "How To Clean Up Social Media"

  1. Disgruntled  February 7, 2021

    Another of your very, good thought-provoking editorials that is very topical at the moment. Social media nowadays is one of the real scourges of society, and something MUST be done as it has already gone too far. Here’s hoping our Governments have the “bottle” to fix things.

    You did not mention the censorship by social media companies where a big amount of what is really conservative stuff gets pulled and shut down while what is obviously extreme left content stays and does appear to be promoted (ie the fake image of an Aussie soldier cutting the throat of a child, and who can forget all of the Isis material including a child running around holding a severed head by the hair?). The march of the very extreme left seems to be really picking up pace, and it is helped and enabled by nothing other than the social media.

    Another reason for Government intervention would be juvenile crime, where the perpetrators broadcast their misdemeanors for all to see. Shut this out and a big reason to play up would disappear.

    Again, thanks for raising this issue on your site. I must add that a lot of the time I do wonder about the sanity of a lot of people posting on social media. Surely they must have better things to do with their time as a lot of the posts out there are nothing but drivel.

  2. Rod Long  February 8, 2021

    I agree with Disgruntled that social media is a major problem that government needs to address but I disagree it is biased towards the left wing (or any other wing).

    If that were true, what roused Trump’s followers?

    The perceived bias of social media comes about because Facebook forces people into silos where they only see what Facebook wants them to see.

    They get caught in a silo and rarely exposed to any views outside that silo. Over time, this force-fed diet of tailored misinformation is dividing the population and destroying critical thinking.


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