Witness K Bernard Collaery
(Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

Famous faces at a secret trial, Pauline Hanson’s money woes and Google and Twitter take out the trash (kind of).

Welcome to the police state

While Australia remains in the dark about the exact details — it is, of course, taking place behind closed doors — the pre-trial hearing began this week for lawyer Bernard Collaery, a man whom (along with his former client Witness K) Australia owes a great deal, .

A tipster got in contact to let us know there were a few high profile faces spotted in court yesterday:

“Ex-foreign minister Gareth Evans, retired admiral Chris Barrie and former ambassador John McCarthy were sighted in court [yesterday] afternoon,” they told us.

All three provided affidavits arguing the trial should be in open court, as did former Timor-Leste leaders Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos-Horta.

We understand some media outlets believe that even identifying Collaery’s witnesses is not permitted under Attorney-General Christian Porter’s attempts to censor the trial. This is incorrect: the identities of both Collaery’s and Porter’s witnesses were identified by the AG’s counsel Tim Begbie last year in open court.

Google it

Google’s has terminated 18 YouTube channels as part of an investigation into a “coordinated influence operation” which targeted the Indonesian provinces Papua and West Papua with messaging in opposition to the Free Papua Movement.

Google’s Threat Analysis Group updated its quarterly bulletin yesterday, which lists “coordinated influence operation campaigns” terminated on its platforms.

And another notable item, given Victoria University recently deleted references to war crimes committed in Bosnia from a human rights course after, apparently, “concern … was raised by a number of sources”:

We banned 1 Play developer and terminated 78 YouTube channels as part of our actions against a coordinated influence operation linked to Serbia. The domestic campaign was posting pro-Serbian political content. This campaign was consistent with similar findings reported by Twitter.

Power deficit disorder

One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, like much of the mainstream hard right in this country, seems to have drifted out of everyone’s consciousness lately.

Now she’s back, championing a High Court challenge to Queensland Premier Annastasia Palaszczuk’s closed borders which, according to Hanson, “are hurting Australians and the domestic economy”.

Yep, proving she doesn’t even know the meaning of the term “flip-flop”, Pauline Hanson is fighting for open borders.

She’s spruiking a GoFundMe campaign (set up by a third party) to help pay for the action, which at time of writing has made… $15,000, which is slightly short of the $1 million they’re asking for.

This could be a problem, given Hanson has threatened to go to court if she doesn’t get an answer from Palaszczuk by 4pm today. Also, as our colleague Michael Bradley points out, the action would cost $300,000 at most, which does raise a couple of questions…

Unity ticket

I think we can all agree there simply isn’t enough news to look into these days. So thank god for Amazon.

The Orwellian (in every sense) behemoth, whose owner will become a trillionaire by accretion in the next six years — is helping fill that gap, but not in the way you’d think.

Across the US, 11 local news organisations ran a suspiciously identical puff piece about Amazon’s response to COVID-19. Turns out the story’s footage was shot and edited by the company itself as a visual press release, and the news just ran it verbatim.

Back in February, journos from The Guardian, Nine and News Corp all ran uncritical pieces about the company’s first cashier-free supermarket. What is it about Amazon that causes journalists’ critical faculties to shrivel like rotting fruit?

Twitter v Trump v truth

2020 has an uncomfortable talent for rendering the previously unthinkable mundane and predictable.

As we noted yesterday, after Twitter slapped a fact check on the tweets of US President Donald Trump, he accused the platform of trying to fix the upcoming election. Gab, a “free speech” platform known for percolating race hate, offered to help.

All shocking things that landed with a dispirited shrug in our current reality.

The fact-check labels were initially introduced on May 11 to counter misinformation concerning COVID-19. In fact, Trump isn’t even the first world leader to fall foul of the system. The presidents of Brazil and Venezuala both had tweets deleted that went “directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information”.

While the platform says the Trump tweets in question didn’t break Twitter rules, the false claim that California is sending ballots to “anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there” was enough.

Given demonstrable falsehoods on Twitter are now subject to greater scrutiny, we wonder if and when it will fall on our own Scott Morrison.

His response to the outcry over a spectacularly tone deaf party ad during the bushfire crisis — that the video “simply communicates the government’s policy decisions and the actions the government is undertaking” — was clearly untrue.

The ad was not on behalf of the government, it was on behalf of the Liberal Party.

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Peter Fray

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