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Online misinformation

Misinformation is false, misleading or deceptive information.

Misinformation explained

Misinformation can include:

  • made-up news articles
  • doctored images and videos
  • false information shared on social media
  • scam advertisements.

Misinformation can pose a risk to people’s health and safety. We have seen this with misinformation about COVID-19 and 5G technology.

Some misinformation is deliberately spread to cause confusion and undermine trust in governments or news media. It is also used to attract users to webpages where they may click on ads or be lured into financial scams.

But not all misinformation is deliberately spread to cause harm. Sometimes users share misinformation without realising it.

The spread of misinformation online

Online, there is such a large amount of information from different sources that it can be hard to know who or what to believe. It may not be clear where the information has come from, who wrote it, or when it was produced.

When we share something online, we do not always stop to think whether it is true. Misinformation can be new, surprising, or emotive. This can make us more likely to share it and it can often spread faster than the facts.

Tips to spot misinformation

Check the source. Does the story come from a credible website or a verified account? Check if other credible sources are covering the story.
Look for the facts. Is the story factual, or is it just someone’s opinion or personal experience? Is the story plausible? Be extra careful if the material is related to an emotionally charged or divisive issue.
Read the full story. Headlines and images can be misleading and may only give part of the story. Check the date of publication to see if the story is current.
Verify the information. Check official sources or visit a factchecking website. Try RMIT ABC Fact Check and AFP Fact Check.
Look at images and videos closely. See if they have been or could have been manipulated.
If in doubt, don’t share it. You can also contact the platform directly if you have concerns.

Development of a voluntary code

As part of the government’s response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Digital Platforms Inquiry, the ACMA is helping digital platforms to develop a voluntary code (or codes) of practice to address online misinformation.

The ACMA has released a position paper that outlines what we think the code(s) should cover.

Email the ACMA to find out more about our role in the code development process.

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