Senior government ministers have lashed Twitter’s ban on Donald Trump as multiple social media giants removed the outgoing US President from their platforms.
Twitter permanently removed Mr Trump’s account, followed by 88 million users, after Thursday’s deadly coup attempt on Capitol Hill, which killed five people.
Mr Trump has been accused of inciting the riots via social media as he claimed, without evidence, November’s US election result was rigged.
Pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol building in a violent attempt to prevent politicians from rubber stamping Joe Biden’s election win.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters on Monday he was “uncomfortable” with the ban, but conceded monitoring dangerous speech online was a “fast-moving space”.
“Freedom of speech is fundamental to our society. As Voltaire said, I might not agree with what you say, but I defend your right to say it,” he said.
“Those decisions were taken by commercial companies, but personally I felt uncomfortable with what they did.
“When it comes to breaching of hate or very violent terrorist-related material on the internet, the government has taken action.”
Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack described Mr Trump’s refusal to accept the election result as “unfortunate” but said he did not support the ban.
“I don’t believe in that sort of censorship. There have been a lot of people who have said and done a lot of things on Twitter previously who haven’t received that sort of condemnation or indeed censorship,” he told ABC Radio on Monday.
Although the decision to ban Mr Trump was a matter for Twitter, the platform had a history of allowing controversial speech, Mr McCormack said.
“They’ve got a business to run and they’ve made that decision. That’s up to them and people will use that platform if they feel they need to,” he said.
“There are a lot of things said and done on Twitter that wouldn’t be said on other social media platforms.”
Mr McCormack also said the Capitol Hill attack was “similar” to last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in May.
‘CRACKPOTS IN CHARGE’
Mr Frydenberg also refused to condemn Coalition backbencher George Christensen, who has peddled unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the US.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison declined to criticise misinformation from within his own government on Friday, saying Australia is “a free country”.
Mr Frydenberg said Mr Christensen was accountable to his electorate.
“He can explain his actions when it comes to the ability of an MP to tweet and to speak. They are democratically elected into the parliament,” he said.
Fellow backbencher Craig Kelly also claimed on Facebook last week that “Marxists” may have co-ordinated the Capitol Hill attack.
Labor treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers accused the Prime Minister of a “failure of leadership” for refusing to censor the pair.
“These are dangerous characters, expressing dangerous views and the Prime Minister needs to shut them up,” he told reporters on Monday.
“The Prime Minister, Treasurer and others are content to just sit by and let these dangerous views be espoused.
“Every day that the Prime Minister lets this go on, is further proof that the crackpots are in charge in Scott Morrison’s LNP.”
In a statement justifying its ban on Mr Trump on Friday, Twitter cited the “risk of further incitement of violence” if his account remained active.
“In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter rules would potentially result in this very course of action,” it said.
The ban has raised questions over whether the public deserves to hear from world leaders on social media platforms.
Liberal MP Dave Sharma said he was “deeply uncomfortable” with a precedent of world leaders being removed from Twitter, but said Mr Trump’s ban was the “right decision on the facts”.
He later clarified he was not calling for a new body to regulate speech online.
Twitter said it was committed to the principle of allowing elected officials to be held to account but had “made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules entirely”.
Facebook also suspended Mr Trump’s account at least until Inauguration Day, claiming the risk posed by allowing him to use the platform was “simply too great”.
THREATS TO PENCE
Twitter has confirmed it prevented “Hang Mike Pence” from trending during the Capitol Hill riot.
Rioters were videoed chanting the phrase while storming the Capitol, while Reuters journalist Jim Bourg said he heard multiple rioters call for Vice President Mike Pence to be executed.
Mr Pence refused demands from the President to block the confirmation of his election loss.
The US Department of Justice has confirmed two men accused of carrying plastic restraints in the Capitol have been charged.
The items were seen as preparation to abduct politicians or officials. A noose was erected on makeshift gallows in front of the Capitol.
Mr Pence will attend Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.