Australia's censorship czar called out for spreading misinformation

eSafety Commissioner accused of exaggerating Indigenous Voice referendum abuse as new data challenges her claims.

Australia's censorship czar called out for spreading misinformation
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eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant is under scrutiny once again, this time accused of misinformation, overstating the rise in online abuse against Indigenous Australians.

Inman Grant, known for her failed legal battle with Elon Musk, oversees misinformation control on social media for Australia. Amid the Voice referendum debate, she claimed surge in cyber abuse complaints from Indigenous Australians, predicting an intensifying wave of racial attacks online.

However, fresh documents obtained via Freedom of Information laws suggest her claims were overstated. Inman Grant anticipated a rise in race-based complaints, yet only two complaints related to the Voice referendum were made by Indigenous Australians between January 2022 and October 2023.

From July to September 2023, 30 complaints were lodged by Indigenous Australians, just 0.4% of total complaints to eSafety, marking a minor increase from the same period in 2022. None of these complaints met the threshold for content removal.

Inman Grant's August 2023 statement to The Australian anticipated a rise in cyber abuse reports approaching the referendum, expressing concern over the 'already high levels of online abuse faced by First Nations people.'

Her remarks followed a powerful funding boost for her agency from $10.3 million to $42.5 million annually by the Labor Government.

Despite confidentiality, data obtained by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) showed 169 complaints from Indigenous Australians in the year before the referendum.

Seven categories of harm, including harassment and hate speech, were identified as potentially race-related.

IPA Director of Law and Policy John Storey accused Inman Grant of "politically charged censorship" and misleading Australians.

"The narrative Julie Inman Grant has sought to establish, that there was a wave of racist cyber abuse during the referendum, is not supported by her own office’s data," Storey stated.

Storey’s analysis criticised Inman Grant for exacerbating community tensions with unfounded claims of online abuse during the divisive debate.

The data also contradicts assertions by media figures like Laura Tingle and Bridget Brennan, who claimed Australia exhibited widespread racism during the referendum.

"The data does not support the claims by journalists that the Voice referendum demonstrated the ‘nasty’ racism of the Australian community," Storey concluded.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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