The Australian Government will introduce legislation this year to combat harmful disinformation and misinformation online.
The legislation will provide the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) with new regulatory powers to hold big tech companies to account for harmful content on their platforms.
The new powers follow the release of a report by ACMA on the adequacy of digital platforms’ disinformation and news quality measures, including the effectiveness of the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation which was launched by industry in February 2021. The report highlights that disinformation and misinformation are significant and ongoing issues.
The growth of disinformation and misinformation erodes trust in democratic institutions and causes harm to individuals and businesses. Digital platforms must take responsibility for what is on their sites and take action when harmful or misleading content appears.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, rampant disinformation and misinformation on social media undermined public health efforts to contain and treat the virus. More than 4 in 5 Australians reported having experienced COVID-19 misinformation in the 18 months to June 2021.
The new powers include:
- Information gathering powers which will incentivise greater platform transparency and improve access to Australia-specific data on the effectiveness of measures to address disinformation and misinformation
- Additional powers to register and enforce industry codes or make industry standards to encourage platforms to be ambitious in addressing the harms of disinformation and misinformation. These will provide ACMA with the ability to hold platforms to account should their voluntary efforts prove inadequate or untimely.
A Misinformation and Disinformation Action Group will be established, bringing together key stakeholders across government and the private sector to collaborate and share information on emerging issues and best practice responses.
The Government will consult on the scope of the new powers ahead of introducing legislation into the Parliament in the second half of 2022.
For more information on the report, visit www.acma.gov.au/report-government-adequacy-digital-platforms-disinformation-and-news-quality-measures