False Legal Information and Covid-19

The current Covid-19 lockdown laws have created confusion and frustration throughout society. It takes a legal and political mind to decipher the intricacies between the restrictions and the relevant laws surrounding these significant changes to society.

The impact on our usual freedoms is unprecedented, and as a result creating questions, irritation, and of course tension. Not all citizens of Australia will understand the relevant laws, in how they are created, enacted, and enforced. This is understandable because the majority of people are not experts in complex legislation and political systems. Unfortunately, certain individuals in seeking answers to the natural questions arising, have taken to social media in an attempt to inform other members of the public, the information being spread by social media pages is not always accurate. This false legal information can be extremely misleading, potentially causing further, and potentially misplaced angst and rage. The worst possible outcome is an audience member believing that the legal advice is accurate then going on to break the law and face the relevant consequences. False legal information can have a serious detrimental effect in any individual’s life, it is not information that should be given carelessly. 

Wild Accusations

Above is quite a laughable post, published by a member of the Australian public. This individual has made a post in which he tagged Australian Lawyers for Civil Liberties in the hope that they would reply to his thoughts. Correctly so, this individual has received no attention from the relevant page, or the general public. It is inspiring to see that in this extreme instance that most people can see that this individual is completely misinformed in his statement to arrest Scott Morrison. However, this does demonstrate how the general public can read a piece of legislation and not be able to grasp the connectivity between the legislation and its practical application.

NO CONSENT: For We Are Young and Free

Above is a page called “NO CONSENT: For We Are Young and Free”. This page is a little more problematic. They have some traction within the community, as seen in the screenshot above they have 1,895 followers. The about section describes that they are an educational page which attempts to inform the community on the constitution, their lawful rights, and expose government/corporate corruption.

There is never anything wrong with wanting to gain more information on a subject, this is a trait that should be encouraged, however it is important to use credible sources of information. The legal background and research skills of this particular individual are in serious question, which will be demonstrated below through a series of examples. The disturbing part is the attention which this individual is receiving from the general public, who are being completely misinformed by this page. 

The host of this page, regularly uploads videos of himself commenting on topics related to coronavirus, mainly surrounding the laws and policy enacted. This particular video is a rant about Dan Andrews, calling for his arrest on the grounds of “treason and corruption.” This individual goes on to make serious unsubstantiated allegations against Dan Andrews saying that he is involved in police cover ups, stealing taxpayer money, and the creation of unlawful legislation during the coronavirus. He then discusses the constitution saying that the current laws in Victoria are in breach. A large proportion of comments made by this individual in his video are lacking evidence and extremely misleading people in the area of law. 

This individual attempts to alienate the audience from the government of the day through aggressive commentary based on false information. The video attempts to create fear, distrust, and unrest in the audience members towards the restrictions and government. His videos have the potential to severely undermine the system, this particular video about Dan Andrews has been liked 152 times, shared 67 times, and viewed by 2,700 people. The false legal information presented to an individual who is not versed in the law, may seem accurate and create feelings of injustice in our political system.

An endorsement of false legal advice, with the page detailing that the above incorrect method is a way of contesting a fine. This post made on the NO CONSENT: we are young and free page, has been liked 35 times and again shared another 8 times. The original video was made by a different individual, discussed below.

The post has received considerable traction, 138 likes, 31 comments and 90 shares.

The words being depicted in the video read: Unclaimed. Do not consent to offer to contract, no consent equals no contract, return to sender for cause without dishonor.

This individual has received a fine from Victoria Police, he proclaims that this is the “easiest way to deal with a Covid infringement.” The individual goes on to explain that if you would like to avoid a fine that you should follow his method. The individual states that Victoria Police are operating at a commercial level, and as a result he/she is entitled to reject the contract being offered to him by the police, this being the fine. This person goes on to explain that this is covered under commercial law, and that people should read the Bills and Exchange Act 1909(Cth).

It is clear based on this one video that this particular individual has never had any formal legal training. Fines issued by the Victoria Police are not a matter for commercial law, it is a criminal matter, with potential criminal consequences if left untreated. A resource has been published by the Victorian Legal Aid on Police powers, and there is a section contained within which details the way in which to lawfully contest a fine

Evidence of reliance from the general public on seriously misleading legal advice.

When an audience member questions whether criminal law is a contract, the individual whose page it is goes on to explain his position with even further incorrect legal information. Ending his argument with “I do what I must to stand up to these evil tyrants.” It is evident that this person has issues with authority, who wishes to create a public outcry against police and coronavirus restriction enforcement. If the general public rely on this false information they may break the restriction laws believing that they will be able to evade the potential fine. Not only does this information have the ability to undermine the public health warning, but also the ability to cause serious detriment to the individual who relies on this person’s advice.

Know Your Rights Group

The page from the “Know Your Rights Group” adopts a similar approach to the “NO CONSENT: We Are Young and Free” page. This page, like the other, uses videos in an attempt to inform the public about their rights and the relevant laws during the coronavirus pandemic. The credentials of this individual need to be questioned when providing this advice, it seems on face value that this individual has also had no formal legal training. 

This particular video contains multiple horrific interpretations about certain sections of the Australian Constitution. This individual in their video, reads out a section of the constitution and provides his own commentary on that section. His interpretation and surface level understanding of a complex high level of law is extremely misleading. This person proclaims that GST is unconstitutional, that a progressive tax system is discrimination between states, and that the ATO is an illegal entity. This video, in which multiple false statements of law are regularly made, has been viewed 28 thousand times, shared 578 times, and was liked by 670 people. The next video he posted discusses his interpretation of section 69 of the constitution, which he believes makes the state restrictions unlawful, which is simply not true. His videos challenge the legitimacy of lock-down laws and provide false legal advice to support his claims. The issue with videos such as these is the reliance on this information by the general public and the unrest which this false information causes. These videos undermine the system of government, and their laws. This individual is entitled to his opinion that the restrictions may be unnecessary, however to call them unlawful with no legitimate legal premise is misleading and dangerous, by unduly influencing public opinion. 

The video in relation to the allegation that the state restrictions are unlawful due to section 69 of the Australian Constitution. 11 thousand views shared 260 times and liked by 388 people.

Comments from both videos:

Evidence of reliance on false information, and the distrust created towards the government as a result.

COVID-19 & Legal Misinformation

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a sense of anxiety throughout the Australian community. Freedoms have been taken away, resulting in questions raised over legal rights and the enforcement of relevant laws.

Some individuals have taken to social media to inform the public on matters of law and citizen’s rights. Yet the information they are spreading is not always accurate and their legal backgrounds highly questionable. They have published online pages and created videos, presenting themselves as a credible source of legal authority.

Regrettably, this material is being read on social media. Worse still, it is possible for others to follow the advice, break the law and face legal consequences.

Researched & Written by T.C.

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This article is part of the Online Hate Prevention Institute’s special focus on Coronavirus: Racism, Hate Speech and Fake News.