Social media platforms might face content material crackdown beneath proposed new legal guidelines
The federal government has pledged to introduce new laws to parliament later this year that could provide the Australian Communications and Media Authority with new regulatory powers to counter disinformation and misinformation.
Under the proposed legislation, the authority would be able to enforce industry codes and hold tech companies to account to remove harmful or misleading information online should voluntary efforts prove to be inadequate.
It would also be able to use new information-gathering powers to increase transparency online, as well as improve access to Australian data on how measures to address misinformation are working.
The government is expected to consult on the scope of the authority’s new powers in coming weeks, with the legislation expected to be introduced to Parliament in the second half of the year.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said misinformation online and deliberately spread disinformation was a significant and ongoing issue.
“Digital platforms must take responsibility for what is on their sites and take action when harmful or misleading content appears,” he said.
“This is our government’s clear expectation, and just as we have backed that expectation with action in recently passing the new online safety act, we are taking action when it comes to disinformation and misinformation.”
The laws could also see an action group set up to tackle the issue, bringing together key stakeholders from government and the private sector.
The proposed legislation comes off the back of a report by the authority on how the issue was being addressed online.
The report made five recommendations, which have been welcomed by the government.
But independent think tank Reset Australia has expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the government’s proposed laws.
“The era of big tech self regulation is over. It is a failed project. These new laws point to this reality, which globally tech regulation experts have for years,” Reset Australia’s director of tech policy, Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran, said in a statement on Monday morning.
“The next crucial step for this legislation is shifting away from regulating bad content and bad actors, and instead regulating the platform’s systems and processes [including algorithms],” Ms Sooriyakumaran said.
“The Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation does not allow for this in its current form. It is disappointing we are heading into yet another election without systemic regulatory protections in place,” she added.