The government just passed the ‘Karen’ Bill
Opinion|Oct 18, 2021

The government just passed the ‘Karen’ Bill

The New Censor-In-Chief Should Be A Concern For All Australians.
Dara MacDonald

The new censor-in-chief should be a concern for all Australians. The Online Safety Bill, which recently passed parliament, is a piece of legislation granting a huge new array of powers to the eSafety Commissioner, including the ability to order content be removed from the internet. 

The controversial (though not widely reported) Online Safety Bill passed both Houses of Parliament on the 23rd June 2021. Amazingly, we have the Greens to thank for not passing this bill in its original form but proposing changes to moderate this draconian piece of legislation The coalition government, which introduced this bill, seems oblivious to the fact that it has just given cancel culture a government bureaucracy, or as comedian Neel Kolhatkar put it, the government just passed the ‘Karen’ Bill. 

This bill will Twitterfy the entire internet by allowing everyone to report content and gives a central authority power to order its take down.

The test for whether content can be considered “cyber-abuse material targeted at an Australian adult,” and therefore vulnerable to a take-down order, is if “ordinary reasonable… Australian adults would regard the material as being… offensive.” 

Who’s considered the ‘reasonable’ Australian in such polarised times is anyone’s guess. What’s considered offensive differs dramatically depending on if you ask the nearest tradie or the nearest blue-haired university student.

Whether you’re a wokeling or a culture warrior, a fetish enthusiast or a social conservative, you should be concernedEven before this law was passed, the video game Disco Elysium was refused classification in Australia because it contains themes that “offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults” and therefore, according to the legislation, could be reported to the eSafety Commissioner. This ban has since been overturned, but it goes to show how such a law can create a chilling effect where content isn’t even created or released in the first place for fear it will be reported. 

Many on the left may like this bill because it cracks down on bullying but, in doing so, it enables the moral panic of social conservatives. 

A clear example of where leftwing groups may find themselves in hot water for the content they put out there is the controversial education program from the Safe Schools Coalition. The merits of the teaching materials aside, their explicit nature could make it subject to reporting under this legislation. 

In fact, any kind of sexual content – from sex work to sex education – could be a target. As such, websites and apps that currently take a liberal attitude to sexual imagery, for instance dating apps like Tinder and Grinder, might update their terms of use to prohibit it.

Ultimately, government censorship is a very bad idea. Censorship is never a power that can be safely wielded without empowering the preferences of some (usually those doing the censoring) and disempowering those whose views or preferences are to the contrary. 

Australians need to look past the innocent-sounding title and objectives of the Online Safety Bill and see it for what it is: a weapon to be used against every single Australian for putting out content on the internet that others don’t like.