Dystopian bill against ‘misinformation’ unveiled to ‘Keep Australia safe’.
The Australian government is proposing a draft bill that would impose significant fines on tech and social media giants if they fail to remove false information from their platforms.
The new draft bill would give the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the country’s media regulator, the power to require digital platforms such as Google and Facebook to maintain records of false and misleading information on their platforms. These companies would be required to provide these records whenever the ACMA requests them.
In addition, the ACMA would be able to request and enforce an industry-wide “code of practice” that introduces new measures to combat false information. The ACMA would be able to create and implement its own industry standard.
Any breach of this proposed new standard would result in significant fines for tech giants, with fines of up to 6.88 million Australian dollars ($4.6 million) or 5% of global turnover. For perspective, 5% of Facebook parent company Meta’s global turnover amounts to approximately AU$8 billion ($5.3 billion).
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According to a June 26 ABC report, Federal Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the current Labor government “is committed to keeping Australians safe online.”
The new bill will ensure “the ACMA has the powers it needs to hold digital platforms to account for mis and disinformation on their services,” according to Rowland.
Rowland added that the bill would allow the AMCA “to look under the hood of what the platforms are doing and what measures they are taking to ensure compliance.”
Online safety is a shared responsibility. We all have a role to play in protecting Australians from scams, mis & disinformation, and cyber abuse. Today I met with the Meta team, including their Global VP for Public Policy, Joel Kaplan, to discuss how we can do just that. pic.twitter.com/l8BiKS1yee
– Michelle Rowland (@MRowlandMP) June 6, 2023
Some are concerned that the proposed legislation may have a significant impact on freedom of speech, especially considering the bill’s definition of false information, which remains open to interpretation.
The draft bill defines false information as “unintentionally false, misleading, or deceptive content.” Disinformation is defined as “false information intentionally disseminated to cause serious harm.”
David Coleman, shadow minister for communications for the opposing Liberal Party, raised some concerns, stating that “this is a complex area of policy and government overreach must be avoided.”
“[The] public will want to know exactly who decides whether a particular piece of content is false or misleading,” he added.
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Public consultation for the Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023 ends on Aug. 6.
The Australian government has been pushing hard to bring tech giants to heel for some time. On Aug. 12, Google paid a AU$60 million ($40 million) fine for misleading Australian consumers about data collection.
In February 2021, Facebook temporarily banned Australian users from viewing or sharing news content on their newsfeeds after a conflict with the government over proposed media bargaining laws escalated.
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