Scott Morrison Used Precious Debate Time to Blame Social Media for Killing Our Faith in Politics

Scott Morrison Used Precious Debate Time to Blame Social Media for Killing Our Faith in Politics
Image: Tada Images, Shutterstock

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been vocal over the last few years about his determination to “rein in” the tech giants, to make Big Tech accountable for what is said on their platforms and to have them “pay their fair share”, be that taxes or media organisation subsidies.

But as far as pre-election promises, the space has been a little dry.

In the first debate in the lead up to the 2022 Federal Election last night, both Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese made some remarks around social media and its affect on politics and touched on where they might target their interest should their respective parties gain power.

Interestingly, however, these remarks were made off the back of a question that highlighted only 55 per cent of those aged 18 were enrolled to vote. The question actually built off a prior question that stated voters have an all-time low level of faith in the integrity of both major party politicians. The second question asked how both leaders can look internally, as well as externally, to fix that.

In his response, Albanese picked out the ‘young people engagement’ piece.

“We need to engage with young people, we need to engage with issues that involve them because they are our future and I know that young people are particularly concerned about issues like climate change, making sure that the world that they inherit is one that’s at least as pristine as the one that’s there at the moment,” he said. This was said after he acknowledged there being so much “disillusionment with our political processes and our political system”, pointing then to his party’s plan for a national anti-corruption commission.

He said he wanted to reignite faith in politics. And that there’s a need for the country to be united.

Morrison’s response took a different direction. There’s been a lot of changes since he and Albanese were growing up, the Prime Minister said, and one of the things that has had the most corrosive impact, he said, was social media on our society.

“Particularly in the way that it robs and steals the confidence and hopes of young people, particularly the bullying that goes on online, the destroying of lives that goes on online and the big tech companies – I can tell you that our government has been leading the world in standing up to those big tech companies,” the Prime Minister said.

“We put the first online eSafety Commissioner in place in the world, we’ve ensured that we’ve introduced legislation which makes those companies pay when they allow on their platforms people to be bullied in this way.”

Further, Morrison is concerned about the way people engage on social media and its affect on politics.

“The way people engage on social media I think is incredibly dangerous – it has its great advantages, families stay connected in ways that we never could before – but at the same time, what has happened with social media in our political debate over the last 10 years, it makes me terribly sad and I think young people have been most affected by that,” he said.

“There are things that people would never say to each other, but they will write it in a comment and it’s hurtful and it’s destructive and the big tech companies have to take responsibility for that.”

According to Morrison, changing what goes on in social media spaces is one of the “best ways that we can get a better debate in this country, a better discourse, a better engagement – to be able to disagree better, rather than what we see on social media today, I think it’s really undermining our society”.