Australian Prime Minister: Social Media Is Like Electronic Graffiti

from the accelerated-and-intense dept

Here on Techdirt we’ve been reporting on a depressing stream of really bad legislative proposals coming out of Australia concerning copyright and surveillance. Much of this seems born of ignorance: some senior ministers clearly do not understand how the Internet works. Sadly, that includes Tony Abbott, Australia’s Prime Minister, as this report in The Age indicates:

“I’ll leave social media to its own devices. Social media is kind of like electronic graffiti and I think that in the media, you make a big mistake to pay too much attention to social media,” Mr Abbott said on Australia Day. “You wouldn’t report what’s sprayed up on the walls of buildings.”

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time he’s made that comparison. Here’s what he said in March last year:

“The thing about social media is that it is anonymous, so it can be much more vitriolic and extreme than normal media and yet it is there for everyone to see. It is kind of like electronic graffiti. The political process is accelerated and intense in a way that I don’t believe it ever really has been before.”

That acceleration, and the loss of control it implies, probably goes a long way to explaining the fear and loathing that many leading politicians display towards digital technologies — and not just in Australia.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Comments on “Australian Prime Minister: Social Media Is Like Electronic Graffiti”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

“You wouldn’t report what’s sprayed up on the walls of buildings.”

You would if it happened to be more accurate and factual than what’s being reported via ‘traditional’ media, and you actually cared whether or not you are reporting what’s true.

He and other politicians may try and dismiss social media and non-traditional forms of media, but the reason isn’t that they have some unpleasant characters, you can find those everywhere, including traditional media. No, what causes them so much annoyance is that social media is uncontrolled. It’s not one person telling many the facts and that’s the end of it, it’s many people presenting and discussing the facts, finding out where those facts are false, and pointing that out too.

It’s much harder to get away with a lie or misdirection when you have hundreds, if not thousands fact checking everything you say, and that’s the main reason politicians hate social media and the emerging ‘new media’ if you’d care to call it that, because they don’t control it, and more often than not it ends up pointing out where their claims fail or are flat out lies.

Anonymous Coward says:

He really shouldn’t try and disparage social media as graffiti. If he annoys it too much, it’ll start openly disparaging the ‘normal’ media as propaganda.

You really don’t want to have the ‘normal’ media to do an article on your campaign, or your latest proposal, and have most people talking about it calling it your latest propaganda piece.

It’s just the sort of thing that tends to make life more difficult for you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well, according to the politicians here, social media in general has increased the abusive language and threats towards them significantly. Being a politician when zealots from the oppositions youth parties try to troll you to quitting and some other lowlifes send death threats over social media takes a hard person or a very good secretary…

While the olden days lacked the amazing sharing of ideas we see today, it also lacked the amount of death threats and abuse politicians would have to take.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, according to the politicians here, social media in general has increased the abusive language and threats towards them significantly.

Obviously they do not frequent pubs, where they have been cursed, and proposals for their fate have been suggested for as long as men have been drinking. Social media is just making them more aware of how well respected they are by their electorates.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t even know how to respond to PM Abbott’s “electronic graffiti” comment. His metaphor doesn’t even make any sense. I believe he’s attempting to say everyone’s opinions on social media are the equivalent of trash. Or perhaps he’s saying people who express their opinions on social media are defacing the internet?

I have no idea. I’m just going to go with the general sense that PM Abbott believes commoners should keep their opinions to themselves.

eye sea ewe says:

Re: Not the worst -

He is however amongst the group who have done a great disservice to the job. Bob Menzies, Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and now Tony Abbott.

The job is now up for grabs. His days left in Kirribilli House are numbered. He has raised the angst of his own backbench, his front bench are circling like vultures.

Unfortunately, none of the current front bench is any better as a replacement. The opposition parties are also no better.

In other words, as a nation, we’re going to hell in a handcart. We are starting to out-race the USA and UK for the title of worst run government.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

A large number of people voted “none of the above”. The g’ment vote dropped eight percent while the Libs only got a two percent increase. In the senate, we got a whole range of protest vote senators, including one from the motoring enthusiasts and almost getting a sports party and a sex party candidate.

anyway, some context for the non-Aussie readers: In the last referendum on the matter, a little under half Aussie voters voted for Australia to become a republic (the other half either voted for Australia to keep the UK monarchy or voted against the particular model on offer). Abbot recently reintroduced the knighthood into Australia to some scorn and derision. He then decided that the most worthy Australian to receive the title is the UK queen’s spouse, in a move even his right-wing, Murdoch press commentator supporters have denounced as stupid. Not surprising, then, that the electronic graffiti is running hot with the electronic writing on the wall.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I never said he looked good, just that all sides are bad. So what dung throwing mindless moron would you vote for? I have Labour Party politicians in the family and I wouldn’t vote for them even if they were the only ones on the ballot paper. One of them even managed to get the to be Leader of the Party. Brought shame to the family name. There is no middle of the road, mindful of the country politicians at the moment. They are either Right-Wing paid for pollies or Left-Wing paid for pollies or just paid-for pollies.

None of them are willing to stand up to the ridiculous bureaucracy that we have in this country (at all levels). They encourage waste at every level and then we the people are left to pay for it all by their theft of our hard earned wages. They all appear to be weak-kneed MIAH’s.

I am disgusted with all of them (of every party and affiliation).

GEMont (profile) says:

You are being managed

…fear and loathing that many leading politicians display towards digital technologies

Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.

In order for this mantra to be repeated ad infinitum by even the wisest of men, it is necessary that those in leadership positions appear always to be ignorant fools.

By appearing to know nothing about the things they have been charged with repairing, those in power can never be blamed for purposely screwing the public over.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: You are being managed

“Or, y’know, they could just be stupid.”

… repeated ad infinitum by even the wisest of men…

Odd then how they are always smart enough to fool the public year after year after year into electing them to office, often repeatedly…

Almost as odd as the fact that every one of them for centuries has been exactly as “stupid” as the one before, with nary a single smart one ever showing up in all those years.

Looks like the ploy works perfectly, if you’re representative of the general public.

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