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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 - this is called disinformation - 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 or disinformation

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 overseeing the development of a voluntary code of practice by digital platforms to address online disinformation.

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

The Digital Industry Group Inc (DIGI) is developing the code on behalf of digital platforms. A draft code of practice on disinformation has been released for public consultation. Submissions close 24 November 2020. Further detail on the draft code and the public consultation process can be found on the DIGI website.

All enquiries about the draft code or the submission process should be emailed to DIGI at hello@digi.org.au.

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

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