Acting PM knocks Twitter’s Trump ban

 

Australia's acting prime minister says he "doesn't support censorship" as multiple social media giants remove US President Donald Trump from their platforms.

Twitter permanently removed Mr Trump's account, followed by 88 million users, after Thursday's deadly coup attempt on Capitol Hill that 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 but unsuccessful attempt to prevent politicians from rubber stamping Joe Biden's election win.

 

Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack described Mr Trump's refusal to accept the election result as "unfortunate" but said he did not support deleting the President's accounts.

"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.

"I'm on all our social media platforms and the criticism you cop on Twitter is probably far in excess of what you cop on other social media platforms."

'SPREADING HATRED, SPREADING LIES'

Mr McCormack's comments come as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg refused to condemn Coalition backbencher George Christensen, who has peddled unsubstantiated claims about 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 echoed the comments to the ABC on Monday.

"George Christensen will make decisions he is accountable to his own electorate. He is the member of the Coalition. He is a good local member for his constituency," he said.

"When it comes to the events in the US, the Prime Minister I think spoke for the whole country and the government when he made very clear our disgust with what happened in the Capitol."

Fellow backbencher Craig Kelly also claimed on Facebook last week that "Marxists" may have co-ordinated the Capitol Hill attack, with Labor leader Anthony Albanese calling for those who peddle conspiracy theories to be censored.

Labor is calling for Craig Kelly (left) and George Christensen to be censored for peddling conspiracy theories over the Capitol Hill attack. Picture: AAP Image / Mick Tsikas
Labor is calling for Craig Kelly (left) and George Christensen to be censored for peddling conspiracy theories over the Capitol Hill attack. Picture: AAP Image / Mick Tsikas

"It's about time that people weren't given a platform to spread hatred, to spread lies, which has had consequences for people," he told 2SM Radio on Monday.

"I can't understand how someone like Craig Kelly can be allowed to promote these theories, along with George Christensen and others, and remain a part of mainstream society."

'DEEPLY UNCOMFORTABLE'

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," a Twitter statement said.

"After close review of recent tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them - specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter - we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence."

 

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 the precedent set by world leaders being removed from Twitter but said Mr Trump's Twitter 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.

Several terrorists were pictured with handcuffs in what was 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.

Originally published as Acting PM knocks Twitter's Trump ban