The Australian Government has today announced its intention to provide the ACMA with new powers to combat harmful disinformation and misinformation. This follows the ACMA’s report on the adequacy of digital platforms’ disinformation and news quality measures.
The report released today includes an examination into the online disinformation and misinformation environment in Australia and the ACMA’s assessment of the landmark Australian Code of Practice for Disinformation and Misinformation.
ACMA’s report finds that most Australians are concerned about, and have experienced, online misinformation. The propagation of falsehoods and conspiracies undermines public health efforts, impacts businesses, causes harm to democratic institutions, and in some cases, incites individuals to carry out acts of violence.
The digital platform industry in Australia, steered by the industry association, DIGI, navigated a range of complex matters to put in place a voluntary industry-developed code of practice to address this issue.
The ACMA’s report identifies several opportunities for industry to make improvements to the Code and raises concerns regarding the quality of platform reporting and the strength of administrative processes.
To address these concerns, the government has agreed to ACMA’s recommendations that it continue to play an oversight role and be granted new regulatory powers to bolster the self-regulatory scheme. These powers include information gathering and reserve code-making powers.
In recognition that addressing misinformation is a joint responsibility, an action group will be established to bring together key stakeholders across government and the private sector to collaborate on emerging issues and best practice responses.
Since the Code commenced, the industry has established a web portal to accept complaints by members of the public who are concerned platforms are not meeting their obligations under the code, appointed an independent assessor to review the members’ activity reports, and appointed a panel to review the code and its administration. The second annual reports on actions taken under the Code are due to be published in May.
The ACMA will continue to monitor platforms’ measures and the implementation of code arrangements to inform additional advice to government by the end of the 2022–23 financial year.
The ACMA thanks representatives of the platforms, DIGI, broader industry, academics, government agencies, impacted stakeholders and fellow international regulators for their contribution to its report.
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