The federal government plans to introduce new laws that will give the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) the power to request information on complaints handling and misinformation efforts from tech giants.
Communications minister Michelle Rowland is planning to introduce laws that would let the watchdog probe the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and Google on their actions to prevent the spread of harmful content, should they fail to meet the standards of a voluntary misinformation and disinformation code of practice.
The ACMA would also be able to register and enforce new codes or industry standards should the voluntary efforts prove unsatisfactory. The proposal is expected to be legislated by the end of the year.
Paul Fletcher, the previous communications minster tried to introduce the same laws but was unable to get them through before the election last year.
“Misinformation and disinformation poses a threat to the safety and wellbeing of Australians, as well as to our democracy, society and economy,” Rowland told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“A new and graduated set of powers will enable the [Australian Communications and Media Authority] to monitor efforts and compel digital platforms to do more, placing Australia at the forefront in tackling harmful online misinformation and disinformation.”
The Digital Industry Group (DIGI), a non-profit which put forward the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation and signed by Apple, Adobe, Google, Meta, Microsoft, Redbubble, TikTok, and Twitter, broadly welcomed the new proposal.
“DIGI is committed to driving improvements in the management of mis- and disinformation in Australia, demonstrated through our track record of work with signatory companies to develop and strengthen the industry code,” said DIGI managing director Sunita Bose.
“We welcome that this announcement aims to reinforce DIGI’s efforts, and that it formalises our long-term working relationship with the ACMA in relation to combatting misinformation online.”
Updated 20/01 with comment from DIGI.