Albanese warns ‘complacent’ Facebook putting democratic values at risk

In a direct attack on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, he will accuse the social media giant of failing to address the spread of misinformation and hiding behind its own community guidelines.


“Zuckerberg says he thinks people should be able to see what politicians are saying. But what happens when it turns out that what politicians are saying isn’t real at all?” Mr Albanese will say in a speech to a Chifley Research Centre conference in Sydney.

“Facebook usually won’t do anything at all. They’ll argue that it doesn’t violate their community guidelines. They say that so long as they eventually note the information is fake, the community can judge for itself.”

He will say he was affected by “fake news” himself this week when self-described men’s rights activist Leith Erikson used a doctored social media image pushing a “loopy campaign” against the Family Court.

“Unless you’d seen the original, there is no way that you would know the image was a fake. My words were replaced. The image even included my legal authorisation at the bottom – a clear breach of Australia’s electoral laws,” Mr Albanese will say.

“When we raised this with Facebook, they shrugged. They said it wasn’t a breach of community guidelines.”

Mr Albanese will also urge those engaging in the political debate to “think before we tweet”.

“Take some heat out of our debates. Passion is good. Trolling is bad. It undermines the potential for rational discussion.”

He will say in its seventh year, the Coalition government is at the point where it won’t support freedom of the press. He will say journalism is “essential” to preserving Australia’s democracy and call on the government to replace a “culture of secrecy” with “a culture of disclosure”.


“Protect whistle-blowers – expand their protections and the public interest test,” he will say in the speech. Reform freedom of information laws so they can’t be flouted by government. The current delays, obstacles, costs and exemptions make it easier for the government to hide information from the public. That’s not right,” Mr Albanese will say.

“And bring in stronger protections for public interest journalism. Don’t prosecute journalists just for doing their jobs.”

Calling for “proper, grown-up, democratic” conversation, he will say expert knowledge must be treated with respect.

“Let’s talk to each other with level heads. With reason, not anger. With respect, not condescension.”

He says while Coalition members too often see climate change as “little more than a conspiracy cooked up by academic scientists to get research grants” those who advocate change need to understand the viewpoints of those who will feel insecure about that change.

“We must consider their point of view, their interests, their security, their future, their solutions,” he will say.

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