New legislation aims to strike a balance between threat of disinformation and freedom of speech
The Australian Government has announced that it will provide the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) with new powers to combat disinformation and misinformation on digital plaftorms.
The ACMA will have information gathering and record keeping powers to create transparency about platforms’ efforts to combat disinformation and misinformation on their services.
The graduated and needs-based powers will enable the ACMA to register an industry-based code, or to create a standard to compel digital platforms to comply if self-regulation fails. This could include measures to better protect Australians, such as stronger tools to empower users to identify and report disinformation and misinformation.
The design of the ACMA powers will aim to strike a balance between the public interest in combatting the serious harms from disinformation and misinformation, with the right to freedom of speech. For instance, it will focus on systemic issues which pose a risk of serious harm, while ensuring that platforms have the systems and processes in place to combat them. Platforms will continue to be responsible for the content on their sites.
The ACMA will not have a role in determining what is truthful, nor will it be able to take down individual pieces of content, and the powers will not apply to professional news content. Authorised electoral content will also be exempt from the code and standard-making powers.
The Digital Industry Group Inc (DIGI), which operates the current voluntary industry code, gave in-principle support to ACMA’s recommendations to establish the powers in March 2022, which they reiterated with the release of the revised industry code in December 2022. The new legislation aims to bolster and support the voluntary code, encouraging platforms to strengthen their own safeguards. The powers will also extend to non-signatories of the code.
The Government will open consultation on an exposure draft Bill in the first half of 2023, with stakeholders and the public encouraged to have their say on the world-leading new powers. It is anticipated that the legislation will be introduced later in 2023.
More information about ACMA’s 2021 report recommendations is available at: https://www.acma.gov.au/report-government-adequacy-digital-platforms-disinformation-and-news-quality-measures
Find out more:
- Minister’s media release