ONE rule for the left – another rule for conservatives.
The message could not be any clearer after the despicable behaviour of Guardian Australia journalist Ben Eltham over the last few days.
Previously independent MP Craig Kelly joined Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party. As part of the UAP’s election campaign, the party sent out thousands of SMS messages to a random group of people. This is a perfectly legal and common practice among political parties in Australia.
In ordinary times, these messages get deleted or ignored. On this occasion, the left decided to mount an abusive online campaign against Craig Kelly in retaliation for the ‘great torture’ of having to read an SMS.
Their hate for Kelly is a matter of public record. His speeches in defence of liberty have caused outrage within the Labor Party and its supporters – although why they take such personal offence at one man standing against Big State tyranny and the abuse of human rights is anyone’s guess. The Liberal Party similarly begrudge him because he poses a serious risk to their re-election campaign. Kelly is everything the Coalition should be and his existence serves as a tide marker for how far they’ve receded down the beach.
All we know for sure is that if these political opponents can’t get Kelly cancelled, they’re happy to use social media as a weapon to invade his personal life.
On August 31st, Crikey News posted a tweet recommending that people mass-spam Craig Kelly’s mobile phone number – which they subsequently provided in the article. This broke Twitter’s community safety policy by deliberately using Twitter to orchestrate online harassment against another person.
Who's up for a mass act of political trolling? Since Craig Kelly is spamming people's mobiles, why not give him a dose of his own medicine?@BernardKeane offers several ways to hack Kelly and the UAP – and the contact details to do it [Unlocked] #auspol https://t.co/2HZiveFHCZ— Crikey (@crikey_news) August 31, 2021
There is no room for misunderstanding. This was an undisputed doxxing for the purpose of targeted harassment against an individual.
The author of the Crikey article, Bernard Keane, has since complained that he has been ‘abused’ by people replying to his article.
“Far-right conspiracy theories with fake photo and 37 followers – just the Russian bot I like getting abused by,” said Keane.
Keane put up his own Tweet doxxing Kelly, which also should have resulted in an immediate suspension of his account.
Disappointed to learn that publishing Craig Kelly's mobile number - [REDACTED] - is considered "dangerous". Should we have published that his number is [REDACTED]? In particular this article, in which Kelly's number - [REDACTED] - is published? https://t.co/GYJc1SMsIu— Bernard Keane (@BernardKeane) September 1, 2021
The Guardian Australia’s Ben Eltham went one step further and reblogged the Crikey article with Craig Kelly’s phone number, along with an invitation to his 52k followers to send Kelly a text. Many of them obliged, dutifully sending obscene messages. While Eltham didn’t ask them to be abusive, he must have guessed it would be a predictable outcome of his actions. Once he became aware of the nature of the messages being sent, he doubled down on his invitation rather than stopping.
These tweets from Crikey, Keane, and Eltham all remain up.
Suffice to say, if a conservative had posted the same thing about a female Labor MP, not only would their online account be taken down, there’s every chance of police involvement over misusing a carriage service to intimidate and harass.
The left media are, as we know, untouchable.
While Crikey’s tweet might have been borderline, Eltham’s was not. He directly violated Twitter Safety guidelines and was reported by thousands of Twitter users.
If this had been anyone else, his account would be under a permanent suspension almost immediately as Twitter prioritises breaches in privacy. Instead, Twitter has chosen not to touch Eltham in clear violation of its own terms of service.
Is it because he works for the Guardian Australia – or simply because Twitter thinks that it’s perfectly okay to harass and intimidate political personalities that it disagrees with? Either way, Twitter owes its users an explanation regarding the inconsistent policing of its terms, especially when personal safety is in question.
Social Media might appear to be the internet’s version of the ‘Wild West’, but there are some firm rules that cannot be crossed. ‘Doxxing’ is one of them.
Doxxing occurs when a user posts private details about another user related to their identity or contact information. It is illegal in some parts of the world where social media servers are housed and expressly forbidden by community guidelines.
Bizarrely, this is not the most outrageous part of the saga.
Ex-Liberal candidate, Indigenous Advocate, Sky News contributor, and author Warren Mundine vented his frustration at Eltham’s appalling behaviour by calling Eltham something nasty in a tweet.
We’re all adults and Twitter is not daycare. If adults want to insult each other, they are free to do so. Eltham himself made a post showing that he was unconcerned by the comment.
Instead of punishing Eltham for breaking some pretty serious ethical codes and possibly violating the law regarding carriage services, it was Warren Mundine who found himself in trouble.
Labor turned around and asked the government to remove Mundine from his position on the SBS board. This is the same Labor Party that did not have a problem with Eltham inciting abuse online. If Mundine’s tweet was in breach of the SBS board’s code of conduct, what was Eltham’s to the Guardian Australia?
One was mildly offensive, the other was potentially criminal.
Mundine has apologised for his outburst, but Eltham has not. Both his tweet and the article it links to remain published.
Labor has since whinged to the Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher that the Governor General should remove Mundine from his position at the SBS.
The rest of Twitter’s blue-tick journalists were quick to support efforts to cancel Mundine.
Eltham has returned to gloat about his victory.
“For the record, I was not offended by Warren Mundine’s tweet, and I defend his right to freedom of speech. We should try and keep our public sphere free of abuse and concentrate on the big issues. Also please send only nice text messages to Craig Kelly,” said Eltham.
A strange message from someone who deliberately set out to abuse a political rival.
This is the future of politics in Australia if we allow the government to encourage social media companies like Twitter to use their community guidelines as a tool of political censorship rather than a genuine level playing field for its users.
Maybe we should thank Eltham. He has shown us the inequality of the social order we live under – an environment where the left are free to intimidate the right into silence.
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Alexandra Marshall (@ellymelly on social media) is The Good Sauce's Editor-At-Large, as well as the host of "Curtain Call", a Good Sauce show exploring the leading personalities in the culture war. She writes on liberty, philosophy and geopolitics. You can find her on Twitter or read her articles over at her blog.
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