ACMA Could “Abuse” Proposed Misinformation Law: Meta

ACMA Could “Abuse” Proposed Misinformation Law: Meta

Meta’s head of public policy in Australia, Josh Machin, has told a Senate inquiry that a proposed law that would give the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) ways to punish tech firms for spreading misinformation online could be open for “abuse.”

Manchin told the inquiry that the law “empowers the ACMA to, for example, develop binding standards around misinformation and disinformation with some very substantial civil penalties and also criminal penalties for individuals who are involved”.

He added that the tech giant was looking at that part of the law “quite closely.”

“We can see some potential for that power to be abused, or for it to be used in a way that inadvertently chills free and legitimate political expression online. We’re thinking through some constructive suggestions.”

The new law, initially proposed in January, was put into draft legislation last month by communications minister Michelle Rowland. Under the draft rules, ACMA would be able to impose a new “code” on specific companies if they fail to combat mis- and disinformation or meet an industry-wide standard forcing digital platforms to remove harmful content.

The law would also include hefty fines for systematic breaches of a registered code — the greater of $2.75 million or two per cent of global turnover. In the case of the large tech platforms, it would be two per cent of turnover.

For breaching an industry standard, platforms could be hit with a fine of $6.88 million or five per cent of global turnover, whichever is higher.

“Mis- and disinformation sows division within the community, undermines trust and can threaten public health and safety,” Rowland said last month.

“The Albanese government is committed to keeping Australians safe online, and that includes ensuring the ACMA has the powers it needs to hold digital platforms to account for mis- and disinformation on their services.”

Manchin told the inquiry that while Meta was happy to be part of a voluntary industry code, the company was concerned about a compulsory scheme.

The draft legislation defines misinformation as material that is “false, misleading or deceptive” and is “reasonably likely to cause serious harm.” The definition of disinformation is largely the same except for the caveat that it is deliberately spread.

Mainstream media companies would be exempt from the rules.

Examples of misinformation provided in the draft bill include posts that question the impartiality of the Australian Electoral Commission ahead of an election or referendum.

ACMA is due to appear in front of the inquiry today

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ACMA Meta misinformation

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