The federal government is calling for consistency from social media giants after Donald Trump’s Twitter ban sparked fresh questions over their role in policing free speech online.
The US President has been removed from a slew of social media platforms, most notably Twitter, after being accused on inciting a deadly assault on the US Capitol.
The federal government has urged social media giants to be consistent when enforcing their rules, with Technology Minister Karen Andrews accusing them of having subjective processes.
“There have been many instances of comments that have been taken down from various platforms. Yet in some instances, these platforms are very quick to act when it seems as if the subject content is something that they don’t personally agree with,” she told 3AW Radio on Tuesday.
“That is unfair, it is inconsistent and it lacks the transparency that we are looking for.”
Ms Andrews said although there was “nothing new” in private corporations applying their own terms, she said there was a “deeper question” over the consistency and fairness of the rules.
She confirmed the government was considering stronger powers for the eSafety commissioner to combat dangerous content online but said the conversation on Mr Trump’s ban was “about social media ethics”.
Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen said it was hypocritical for Coalition members to promote free enterprise while calling for a private company to be regulated.
“I’m a bit old-fashioned, I believe in free enterprise. I believe that Twitter is a free enterprise and should be able to ban whoever is inciting hate speech as they wish,” he said on Tuesday.
“I found it extraordinary to see some allegedly free enterprise politicians call for stronger regulation of Twitter and other social media.”
The bans prompted questions over whether social media executives should have the right to censor world leaders online.
The suspension of Mr Trump’s personal Twitter account came despite a New York federal appeals court ruling in 2019 that he was not able to block users.
The ruling stated that given the account was frequently used to conduct official business, blocking users would violate their First Amendment rights.
Liberal MP Dave Sharma said last week he supported the decision to ban Mr Trump from Twitter, arguing it was the “right decision on the facts”.
But he was troubled by the precedent of social media giants curtailing the speech of a world leader.
Twitter’s approach to Iranian leader Ali Khamenei has prompted further accusations of inconsistency.
New posts on the Ayatollah’s English-language account, which regularly shares his statements despite not being officially verified, have been suspended.
But the account remains online despite accusations it has incited violence towards Israel.
Parler, a “free speech social media alternative” favoured by many Trump supporters, has also been decimated after Amazon, Google, and Apple removed it from their servers within 24 hours.
Apple accused Parler of failing to implement adequate safeguards against the spread of violent or hateful material.
But the bans have been criticised for silencing Trump supporters by effectively removing Parler from the internet.