New ACMA powers to combat misinformation and disinformation

Public submissions are now all available on this page (submissions on the draft legislation have now closed).

Why we want your input

This is your chance to have a say on the proposed laws to hold digital platform services to account and create transparency around their efforts in responding to misinformation and disinformation in Australia.

We are seeking your views on the draft Bill and whether it strikes an appropriate balance on a range of issues, including:

- freedom of expression
- the complexity of content exemptions
- the scope of the private message exemption
- the size of the penalties and any other issues.

How you can voice your opinion

After reading the exposure draft Bill and the accompanying documents, click on the 'Have your say' button below to provide your input to the review. The submission deadline has been extended to 20 August 2023. All submissions (other than private submissions) will be published on the website. Comments will not be published but will inform the review process in the same manner as submissions.

What will be the outcome of this consultation?

Your submission will inform any changes to the draft Bill.

The Issue

Misinformation and disinformation pose a threat to the safety and wellbeing of Australians, as well as to our democracy, society and economy.

In January 2023, the Minister for Communications announced that the Australian Government would introduce new laws to provide the independent regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), with new powers to combat online misinformation and disinformation.

The new powers will enable the ACMA to monitor efforts and require digital platforms to do more, placing Australia at the forefront in tackling harmful online misinformation and disinformation, while balancing freedom of speech.

The proposed powers would:

  • enable the ACMA to gather information from digital platform providers, or require them to keep certain records about matters regarding misinformation and disinformation
  • enable the ACMA to request industry develop a code of practice covering measures to combat misinformation and disinformation on digital platforms, which the ACMA could register and enforce
  • allow the ACMA to create and enforce an industry standard (a stronger form of regulation), should a code of practice be deemed ineffective in combatting misinformation and disinformation on digital platforms.

The ACMA will not have the power to request specific content or posts be removed from digital platform services.

The ACMA powers will strengthen and support the existing voluntary framework established by the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation (the voluntary code), and will extend to non-signatories of the voluntary code.

These powers are consistent with the key recommendations in the ACMA's June 2021 Report to government on the adequacy of digital platforms' disinformation and news quality measures.

We want to hear your feedback on the proposed legislation. It's easy to have your say—simply read the exposure draft Bill and the supporting documents and:

  • Make a submission below by clicking the 'Have your say' button.
  • Email us in writing, via video, or by sending an audio recording.

Submissions will be published after 20 August 2023. They will be uploaded in tranches.

If you want your submission to be published, please ensure the submission is uploaded as an attachment. Comments in the comment box, or the body of an email will not be published. If you require alternative arrangements to make a submission, please contact us at the email address above.

Please do not include any personal information in your submission that you do not want to be public.

There are legal considerations relevant to what we can publish on our website. We will not publish submissions that include content that is offensive, discriminatory, illegal or defamatory to any third party and/or contains threatening or aggressive language.

Disclaimer: The submissions published on this consultation page have been authored by parties other than the Commonwealth of Australia. The content of submissions does not represent the official views of the Commonwealth or its officers or employees. The Commonwealth accepts no responsibility or liability for damage, loss or expense incurred as a result of the content of these submissions. The information in these submissions has been provided in good faith and for informational purposes only.

Relevant documentation

The Guidance Note for the exposure draft Bill provides an explanation of the key parts of the Bill. For a short explanation of some of the Bill's key elements, please see the fact sheet.

Outcome

All public submissions – now available

On 25 June 2023, the Australian Government released the draft Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023 for public consultation.

All of the 2,418 public submissions to the consultation are now available below.

The Department previously indicated that it anticipated a total of 2,500 public submissions. The actual amount is slightly lower after accounting for duplicate submissions and confirming that a number of submissions were private or confidential.

The public consultation on the draft Bill has been an important opportunity for industry and the wider Australian community to have their say. This feedback is important to ensure the proposed legislation meets community expectations before it is introduced into Parliament in 2024.

The Australian Government will consider a number of changes to the Bill including refinements to definitions, transparency and accountability, clarification on religious freedoms, and improvements to the workability of the Bill to ensure it can be implemented by the platform industry.

The views contained in the public submissions represent the views of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Department or the Australian Government.

If you are having trouble accessing the information contained within these public submissions or have any questions, please send an email to information.integrity@infrastructure.gov.au.

Comments on the draft Bill

The consultation also provided the opportunity for the public to provide comments on the draft Bill. These were short form comments made through a form on the Department’s website and by email, designed to be a simple way to contribute views to a consultation.

The Department has received approximately 20,000 comments. A sample is provided that is representative of the feedback on several key themes including freedom of expression, censorship, definitions, content exclusions and penalties. 

The comments are de-identified given that it was made clear to individuals that their comments or details would not be published, but would inform the review process in the same manner as submissions.

Key themes Extract of comments on the Draft Bill
Freedom of expression
  • Free speech is a fundamental and non negotiable human right! This proposed bill will remove free speech which also happens to be the foundation of any free society.
  • Freedom of speech is a fundamental right of every Australian. This proposed “misinformation” law is an attack on our basic human rights by a government that is supposed to uphold those rights, not stifle them.
  • Freedom of speech and freedom of press is one of the most important factors for a healthy, evolving humanity. Without the ability to question authority, we will find ourselves in a dictatorship, not a democracy.
  • I am completely against the introduction of any restrictions on free speech. Free speech is an inalienable right given to everyone. What is there to fear from everyone exercising this right? The truth on every issue will always prevail no matter what is done to silence it.
  • The bill aims to suppress free speech in the media and social media. Free speech is the basis of any democracy and such legislation spells its death.
  • My view is that the Australians right of free speech is hugely important. Yes, there are false and misleading information out, however…this is no reason to interfere with our freedoms of independent thought-provoking speech!
  • As an Australian citizen, I do not agree or consent to Government censorship of our freedom of speech. This is undemocratic and unconstitutional. We all, as Australian citizens, have the right to have our voices and opinions heard and expressed.
  • I do not agree with this proposed Bill. We need to always maintain freedom of speech, it is the basis of a democratic society.
  • I do not approve of this bill – all people in Australia should be able to have their opinions heard and stated across all mediums of communication. Free speech has been our inherent right, just as we are custodians of these lands.
  • Freedom of speech is an absolute must for democracy. Everyone has the right to have an opinion. You might not agree with what they say but that’s OK. Civilised debates regardless of the subject matter is healthy.
Censorship
  • I do not support the proposed censorship of online digital freedom of speech which is being disguised as a way to control misinformation and disinformation.
  • No to censorship. My voice and my opinion is everything to me. No government should get to decide what is misinformation and what is not.
  • It is not appropriate for the government to impose duties of censorship on third parties. If these is to be a standard for truth, it should be applied to all, including big media and government.
  • I am writing to inform you that I strongly oppose the proposed laws compelling online service providers to censor online speech that it would consider harmful. I therefore disagree with the Bill.
  • The proposed ‘Misinformation Bill’ appears to be censorship in the extreme. Sorting fact from fiction is not always easy. What someone thinks is true might be what someone else thinks is false. We need debate and the free flow of information to consider ideas.
  • I say NO NO NO NO NO!!! While is true that as long as humans exist, that misinformation will exist on all levels, on all platforms, CENSORSHIP IS NOT THE ANSWER!!! The government is not and should not be in control of defining what is the truth!
  • I am writing to oppose the new bill stopping people to having an opinion on information passed on through social media. Censorship is destructive to how people are informed about issues and information.
  • No censorship please, this leads us down a VERY dark place. When censored, hate groups and similar go underground, where they aren’t so easy to find. When they speak in public, we can all realise how silly they really are. Censorship has NO place in a free society.
  • I oppose any form of censorship in Australia so I don’t support this legislation.
  • I am seriously concerned that providing the ACMA with new powers to combat online misinformation and disinformation could lead in time to excessive censorship and serve the purposes of a selected group with specific targets and aims.
Definitions
  • I think the definitions of misinformation and disinformation need further consideration. The fact sheet states that misinformation “…is shared or created without an intent to deceive…” Yet the definition for disinformation is misinformation that “…is intentionally disseminated with the intent to deceive…” How can this be? These definitions are logically inconsistent as we have just seen that misinformation is shared or created without an intent to deceive. Once there is an intent to deceive it is not misinformation.
  • After reviewing the Bill’s amendments, I believe a number of issues are very worrying, but the main concerns are:
    • Misinformation and disinformation has a very vague definition and would appear to be subject to ACMA’s opinion/whim rather than fact.
    • The definition of a threat to safety or harm is also not explained.
    • The definition of a threat to wellbeing is non-existent.
  • The bill’s definitions of “misinformation” and “disinformation” are open to interpretation and abuse by those in power. There are already instances where official fact checkers have gotten it wrong. The definition of harm in this proposed bill is also highly subjective. It could include anything deemed hateful or harmful to various aspects of society, democracy, environment and economy. These terms are also open to interpretation and cannot be considered facts.
  • While I appreciate the need to address the rampant spread of false information, I fear that the current bill grants the ACMA extensive powers that lack clear definitions and guidelines.
  • The definition of “misinformation” and “disinformation” is very vague, and open to very subjective interpretation.
Authorised Government content
  • The exclusion of government-authorised content from this censorship regime is hypocritical and inconsistent. It establishes an asymmetry, resulting in one rule for the government and another for the Australian people in terms of what they can say.
  • The bill excludes government-authorised content from this censorship regime. This is hypocritical at least and at worst one rule for government and another for Australian citizens!
  • Allowing those in the seat of government to dictate by so called State Authorised Media is an abomination and serves only those currently seated to choose by influence the next and up and coming by controlling the narrative.
  • The bill is hypocritical in that it exempts government-authorised content from the censorship process to be required of digital service providers. Governments of all stripes have a long history of misinformation, obfuscation and even prevarication on critical issues. This double standard permits the government of the day to distribute ideological views without guaranteeing those of a different opinion the right of expression or reply.
  • One very concerning aspect of the bill is that content authorised by the government would be exempt. It is incredible that a government would be willing to make a law and exempt itself from that law. The bill proposes one rule for the government and a different rule for everyone else.
Arbiter of truth
  • The government is not the arbiter of truth. You are here to serve the people. You do not get to determine what information is right or wrong.
  • I write to strongly oppose this act being passed into legislation. I strongly oppose any authority or government body determining what is truth which will ultimately become their version of the truth.
  • I am extremely disturbed about the government’s proposed ‘Misinformation Bill.’ Although I know the internet can be used to promote all kinds of information, some of which is untrue. However, the solution is not to make the government the arbiter of truth and to censor those it disagrees with. The solution is open and honest debate.
  • I hugely submit that the proposed Bill raises huge concerns for Australia as a democracy and I raise two that are foundational. To allow a single body to define truth and then to punish the publication of information that doesn’t conform is autocratic and oppressive.
  • I’m writing to express my severe concern over a panel who will decide what is and what is not the truth on social media platforms. Government should not have the right to tell people what is the truth and what is not the truth as we all have our own minds and opinions and can think for ourself.
Content exclusions
  • ACMA’s restrictions on misinformation and disinformation will exclude “professional news content”. I find that these exclusions are not merely utterly hypocritical, but a licence for the promotion of “woke” and other “politically correct” viewpoints without any opportunity for critical evaluation. The major news networks have an extremely poor track record when it comes to unbiased, even-handed and factual reporting of such viewpoints.
  • Many mainstream media streams such as professional news including electoral content have been misleading or false but the standards would not apply to them. If this amendment is for the everyday user on a social media platform it should also apply to them. This rings alarm bells to me.
  • ACMA’s restrictions on mis and dis information would exclude “professional news content” or “content produced by or for an accredited education provider.” This sounds a lot like what we know to be the state of play in countries run by totalitarian dictatorships.
  • The EXCLUSION of comedy/entertainment, professional news platforms from obeying the codes set by ACMA is an act of discrimination against other social media platforms.
  • The proposed bill is highly hypocritical in that professional news outlets are exempt. The public will eventually become highly sceptical that these entities are not giving factual information but have become purveyors of whatever propaganda the government is wanting to promote.
Enforcement and penalties
  • Any penalties outlined in the bill should be proportional and fair, taking into account the severity of the offense committed. Disproportionate penalties can have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and hinder open dialogue.
  • My very real concern is the significant penalties associated with this legislation potentially places substantial power in the hands of Government officials.
  • The severity of the penalties for failing to comply with the misinformation codes and standards and for failing to provide evidence requested by ACMA is excessive. The threat of severe penalties for spreading misinformation or disinformation could create a chilling effect on individuals and media organisations, discouraging them from engaging in legitimate debates and discussions due to fear of prosecution.
  • The concern is that this bill may become a tool to suppress & manipulate the population into one way of thinking through excessive penalties.
Supportive of action
  • While the Australian government’s efforts to combat online misinformation and disinformation are commendable, it is essential to approach the proposed legislation with caution.
  • I commend the wish of the Government in its desire to protect the population for “disinformation and misinformation”, but legislation should never be used in such a way as to restrict freedom of speech.
  • It is quite clear that the AU government needs to do something in relation to what content is allowed to be shared in the public domain on the internet, via social media platforms, as currently anyone can post just about anything – anonymously.

Participate

24 Jun 2023 23:00 AEST
20 Aug 2023 23:59 AEST
Closed
This consultation is closed.

Submissions

A George
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A New Approach
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Abby
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ABC
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ACCAN
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Adam
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Adam C Smith
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Adam Kachwalla
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Adam Sughito
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Adrian Adair
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