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Twitter's decision to ban Donald Trump breaks open political divide in Australia

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Michael McCormack wearing a suit and tie: Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack disagreed with Twitter's decision to ban Donald Trump. (ABC News: Sean Davey)

Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack disagreed with Twitter's decision to ban Donald Trump. (ABC News: Sean Davey)

Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack has criticised Twitter for censoring US President Donald Trump, saying it shows double standards.

Social media giants have booted the President from their platforms, despite his prominent status and a huge number of followers, after the riot at the US Capitol last week.

Twitter cited the "risk of further incitement of violence" and Mr. Trump's past breaches of the company's rules as the reason for their decision.

But Mr. McCormack — acting for Scott Morrison as Australian leader this week — disagreed with the decision.

"Well, I don't believe in that sort of censorship," he said.

"There's been a lot of people who have said and done a lot of things on Twitter previously that haven't received that sort of condemnation or indeed censorship, but again, I'm not one who believes in that sort of censorship."

He said the decision was a matter for Twitter.

It follows comments over the weekend from Liberal backbencher Dave Sharma, who described the decision to ban Mr. Trump as the "right decision on the facts", but said he was uncomfortable with "the precedent of big tech making decisions about whose speech, and which remarks, are censored and suppressed."

"Such decisions should be taken by a publicly accountable body, on a basis of transparent reasoning and principles," he said.

However, he later clarified he was not proposing a new body to be established.

Social media use in the spotlight

Coalition backbencher George Christensen has previously echoed Trump-ish views on his social media channels.

He and Liberal MP Craig Kelly have spread views that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for the coronavirus.

In November, during vote counting following the US election, around the time Twitter began tagging Mr. Trump's tweets with content warnings, Mr. Christensen posted on Facebook:

"All they can do now is cheat. And that's what the President's now saying and Twitter is censoring."

Later that month, he posted "I'm going to say it. Masks and lockdowns don't work", alongside an article he argued supported the point.

When asked whether Mr. Christensen's social media behaviour needed to be addressed, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Monday: "He is accountable to his own electorate, he's a member of the Coalition, and he's a good local member for his constituency."

Mr. Frydenberg's comments appear to affirm the position articulated by Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week.

"Australia's a free country," Mr Morrison said when asked about Mr Christensen.

"There's such a thing as freedom of speech in this country. And that will continue."

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said it was "about time" social media companies banned Mr Trump and criticised the Prime Minister for failing to condemn Mr Christensen and others spreading mistruths on social media.

"It's about time that people weren't given a platform to spread hatred, to spread lies, which has had consequences for [other] people," he said.

Mr Christensen is running a petition addressed to his Coalition colleague and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher that calls for laws to prevent social media companies from choosing what content to show on their platforms in Australia.

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