The Australian government is proposing a new bill to hold tech and social media giants accountable for removing misinformation from their platforms. Failure to comply can result in hefty fines, reflecting the government’s commitment to online safety.
The draft law introduced by the Australian government aims to tackle the problem of misinformation on digital platforms such as Google and Facebook. Under the proposed law, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will be empowered to compel these platforms to maintain misinformation and misinformation records on their services.
Companies such as Google and Facebook must provide these records whenever ACMA requests them. In addition, the ACMA will be able to establish industry-wide “codes of practice” that introduce new measures to combat misinformation. ACMA will be responsible for creating and implementing its own industry standards.
Violating these proposed standards would have dire consequences for tech giants, as they could face a maximum penalty of up to $4.6 million (AUD 6.88 million) or 5% of their global turnover. For example, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, could potentially face fines of around $5.3 billion (AUD 8 billion), equivalent to 5% of its global turnover.
Federal Communications Minister Michelle Rowland emphasized the government’s commitment to ensuring the safety of Australians online. He stated the bill would give ACMA the necessary powers to hold digital platforms accountable for misinformation and disinformation on their services. Rowland further explained that the bill would allow ACMA to closely monitor and assess the measures implemented by platforms to ensure compliance.
However, concerns have been raised regarding the potential implications for free speech due to the bill’s broad definition of misinformation. The bill defines misinformation as unintentionally false, misleading or deceptive content, while disinformation refers to misinformation that is intentionally disseminated with the aim of causing serious harm.
Shadow Minister for Communications, David Coleman, voiced reservations about the potential for government outreach and emphasized the need for clarity regarding the decision-making process when classifying content as misinformation or disinformation.
The proposed law is open for public consultation until Sunday, August 6. The Australian government has been actively pursuing steps to hold tech giants accountable, as seen by previous conflicts with Google and Facebook over data collection laws and media bargaining.
The Australian government’s draft law aims to combat misinformation and hold tech giants to account, although concerns about free speech remain.