Peter Dutton is threatening to sue Twitter users for defamation over claims that he was a “rape apologist”.
On Thursday, the Guardian Asutralia’s Paul Karp and Amy Remeikis reported that one Twitter user had received a legal letter from the Australian Defence Minister about their tweets.
“Guardian Australia is aware of at least one social media user who has received legal letters demanding they delete tweets containing similar accusations that Dutton is a ‘rape apologist’ and asking for a public apology of at least 28 days duration,” they wrote.
This comes after Greens senator Larissa Waters publicly apologised for making the same claim in late February.
“Apology to Peter Dutton On 25 February 2021 I published a media release on my website, posted on my Twitter account, and made in the course of a press conference false and defamatory statements that Peter Dutton is a rape apologist, that he has sought to conceal and dismiss,” she tweeted.
Waters made the claim in response to Dutton’s assertion that Brittany Higgins’ rape allegation was a “he said, she said” situation. Soon after Waters tweeted the now-deleted comments, #DuttonIsARapeApologist began trending on Twitter.
Gizmodo does not suggest that this claim about Peter Dutton is true.
Why this is important is that Dutton represents a part of politics that has long stood for free speech. What this legal threat represents is Dutton — someone who is quite wealthy — using the threat of the legal system to stop individuals commenting on him, a public figure.
Notably, the Guardian reports that the Twitter user who received a letter is unemployed, making him extremely unlikely to do anything but acquiesce to the demands.
Taken alongside the rest of the government’s agenda, including the expansive Online Safety Bill and a proposal to remove anonymity online by forcing social media users to verify their identity, it reveals a conceptualisation of an Australian internet that’s more restricted than ever before.