Will We Soon Need a Government-Issued Licence to Use Social Media?

“The only way the authorities can prevent children from accessing social media is by requiring adults to submit some form of personal identification as proof of eligibility.”

Politicians in Australia appear to be using a concern for child welfare as a pretext for obtaining greater regulatory powers over social media use.

The South Australian government proposed a social media ban for children under the age of 14, citing “mounting evidence” of adverse impacts on youngsters, their mental health, and their development.

Of course, their sudden concern would be a little more believable if the mental health and development of children was taken into consideration when our state premiers shut down schools and enforced seemingly indefinite lockdowns.

Curiously, the new proposal comes just weeks after politicians and mainstream media in Australia called for greater powers to regulate content shared across social media, particularly on Elon Musk’s free-speech platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

While I’d wholeheartedly agree that social media is no place for young children without parental oversight, I’d also argue that the family is no place for government intrusion.

By all means, offer recommendations. Highlight the dangers. Warn parents of potential threats and negative consequences they may not be aware of. But parenting is the responsibility of parents, not our state premiers.

Once we set a precedent for the state government to interfere with parenting responsibilities, it won’t be long before they’re dictating what our children can eat, what they can read, and how much exercise they’re required to do each day. But let’s not pretend that’s what they’re really concerned with here.

Once a state or nationwide social media ban is put in place for children, the next obvious question is, how exactly is it going to be enforced? At the moment, anyone can create a social media account under any alias or anonymous identity, regardless of age.

The only way the authorities can prevent children from accessing social media is by requiring adults to submit some form of personal identification as proof of their own eligibility. This would mean users will no longer be able to create or operate anonymous social media accounts.

This sounds an awful lot like a system the Federal Government floated not that long ago. The proposed set-up would operate like a “passport,” and require Australians to submit 100 points of identification when using social media.

The reforms, which were being considered by the Morrison Government at the time, were part of recommendations handed down by a Parliamentary inquiry into social media abuse.

According to media reports, police would also be granted access to social media accounts to monitor and crack down on bad behaviour online.

In other words, a social media licence could provide authorities with a means of tracking and punishing anyone who says anything the government, in their arbitrary judgment, deems “misinformation” or “hate speech.” What’s more, such measures could also give the powers the ability to revoke social media access and ban individuals from posting content online.

While the move to ban children from social media may appear benign or well-intentioned to concerned parents, it’s important to remember that our personal freedoms, which largely mean freedom from government interference, are not usually taken all at once.

Freedoms are removed incrementally, sometimes with motions so small that you can barely notice them — and if you do, you can promptly be dismissed as a paranoid conspiracy theorist.

George Orwell once said, “Threats to freedom of speech, writing, and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.”

Ronald Reagan made a similar observation when he said, “Government has an inborn tendency to grow. And, left to itself, it will grow beyond the control of the people. Only constant complaint by the people will inhibit its growth.”

Parents not only have an obligation to protect their children from the dangers of social media, they also have an obligation to protect their children from an overreaching state. We do this by protecting the freedoms our children will someday inherit from ever-intruding governments who are convinced they’re the answer to our every problem.

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