Anthony Albanese sounds alarm on Facebook ‘laws of the jungle’ trumping Australian law | Australia news

Anthony Albanese will on Saturday fire a warning shot over the bow of Facebook, arguing it is becoming impossible for voters to distinguish real and fake information on “complacent” platforms that decline to exercise any editorial or civic responsibility.

In a speech to a conference organised by a Labor thinktank, the Labor leader will recount a story about a men’s rights activist who doctored a social media image from his Facebook page, co-opting it into a campaign against the family court.

Albanese will say unless people had seen the original image “there is no way that you would know the image was a fake” – with the fake image even containing an authorisation, which is a “clear breach of Australia’s electoral laws”.

“When we raised this with Facebook, they shrugged,” the Labor leader will say on Saturday. “They said it wasn’t a breach of community guidelines.”

“This is a far-right candidate, creating a fake graphic fraudulently purporting to be from a progressive party, and Facebook sees no issue. Well I do. And it begs the question: if this doesn’t breach community standards, then what does?”

“And, perhaps more importantly – why do Facebook’s laws of the jungle trump Australia’s laws of the land? What then happens when platforms become so complacent with misinformation that they become unable to filter it out?”

Albanese will say the sophistication of artificial intelligence technologies means bad actors are now capable of doctoring video so effectively “we’re unable to distinguish fake from real”. He will warn these techniques are being honed “as we edge closer to each election.”

“Mark 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?”

Albanese’s outing on Saturday is a broad-ranging reflection on the state of democracy, and is his third “vision statement” since taking the Labor leadership.

As well as addressing the dangers of misinformation in democracies, Saturday’s speech:

  • Floats an option for parliamentarians to debate but not veto any decision for Australians to go to war, including examining changes that have been made in the United Kingdom, “where there is now a higher parliamentary threshold for decisions to go to war”.

  • Proposes “an independent speaker whose loyalty is to the standing orders, not a political party” and exploring the idea of a parliamentary integrity commissioner “to align the conduct of our parliamentarians with community expectations”.

  • Renews Albanese’s concern about the importance of breaking down echo chambers if progressives are to advance various causes, including climate action. “What we need is a little less anger and a little less outrage. We could also do with a little less volume”.

The Labor leader will argue the volume of the culture war in Australia is currently crowding out the capacity for rational discussion.

“The monotonous pattern of culture war arguments is now well established. If you disagree with someone, your facts are fake, your character is questioned, and you’re denounced as an elite.”

“On the other side of the coin, if you’re not progressive enough, you’re cancelled.”

Albanese will argue debate has become so fierce and personal that “people are subject to attack for putting their views, even if they’re only 15 or 16 years old”.

“I recently heard David Attenborough’s right to speak about the destruction of the world’s endangered species questioned because he flies the world to make his documentaries.”

“Questioning people’s motives has now gotten so ridiculous that some of Australia’s most experienced firefighters couldn’t get the ear of their own government to warn of the dangers of this year’s fire season – just because they accepted the reality of climate change.”

“Time and again they tried. Time and again they were ignored. Even firefighters are now denounced as cultural elites. This has got to stop”.

But he says the flip side of this is progressives have to listen as well as talk if they are to change minds. “I think those of us who advocate change need to understand the viewpoints of those who will feel insecure by that change.

“We need to talk with people who disagree with us. Engage. Debate. Advance. We need to argue our case – every forum, every opportunity. Because politics in an echo chamber does nothing to advance a progressive agenda.”

Labor increasingly has been muscling up about misinformation on digital platforms, having been burned by a fake news campaign alleging Bill Shorten would introduce a death tax if he won the May election.

At the same conference this weekend, the ALP president Wayne Swan will declare nothing can be off the table “including breaking up the social media platforms where the concentration of their market power is damaging society”.

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