The Null Device

South Australia bans anonymous speech

The state of South Australia has long been at the vanguard of Australia's lurch towards authoritarianism; the conservative state's veto is keeping video games unsuitable for children illegal in Australia, and the state recently required R-rated films to be displayed in plain packaging; now, Australia's Deep South continues its position of leadership by banning anonymous online comments about the upcoming state election, a law supported by both major political parties.

I imagine that once such a law becomes established in South Australia, it will most probably spread federally, expand into a general mandate for online communications to be labelled with the sender's legal identity, and be hard to eradicate; after all, a law making all internet content legally trackable would be a boon not only for the plan to eradicate pornography (for a broad definition of that word) from the Australian-viewable internet but would also be welcomed by Big Copyright, who would undoubtedly have hefty electoral donations for politicians favouring it. And the fundamental ideas of liberalism—that it is unacceptable to restrict the rights of individuals unless they actively harm others—are looking decidedly shaky in post-Howard Australia.

Update: the law has been retroactively repealed, after mass opposition, and after South Australia's Attorney-General and Wowser-In-Chief, Michael Atkinson, went on air claiming that an online critic, Aaron Fornarino, didn't exist, after which the website AdelaideNow posted a picture of Fornarino.

There are 2 comments on "South Australia bans anonymous speech":

Posted by: Trevor Norman Sun Feb 7 05:41:37 2010

"The state of South Australia has long been at the vanguard of Australia's lurch towards authoritarianism"

What a load of rubbish, have you ever been to Queensland?

Anyway, it has always been the case that it is illegal to publish material on elections anonymously in Australia, it's just that when done in the internet there wasn't a great deal the electoral commission could do about it.

Posted by: acb Sun Feb 7 14:20:17 2010

Queensland took a massive step back from the authoritarian front when Bjelke-Petersen lost power, and has been relatively civilised since then. South Australia, under Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, has taken up the baton.