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The Australian government’s bill warns tech and social media giants against having to remove disinformation from their platforms or be prepared to pay hefty fines.
The new bill will give the country’s media regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the power to require digital platforms such as Google and Facebook to keep a record of misinformation and disinformation on their platforms.
These companies will be required to hand over these records at any time the ACMA so requests.
In addition, ACMA will be able to request and enforce an industry-wide “code of practice” that introduces new measures to combat disinformation. ACMA will be able to create and implement its own industry standard.
Any breach of this proposed new standard would result in the tech giants paying a maximum fine of up to $4.6m (AU$6.88m) or 5% of global turnover. By comparison, parent company Facebook Meta’s 5% of global turnover is approximately $5.3 billion (AU$8 billion).
According to an ABC report on June 26, Federal Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the current Labor government is “committed to keeping Australians safe online”.
According to Rowland, the new bill will provide “ACMA with the powers necessary to hold digital platforms accountable for misinformation and misinformation about their services.”
Rowland added that the bill would allow AMCA to “look under the hood of what the platforms are doing and what steps they are taking to ensure compliance.”
Online safety is a shared responsibility. We all have a role to play in protecting Australians from scams, mis & disinformation, and cyber abuse.
Today I met with the Meta team, including their Global VP for Public Policy, Joel Kaplan, to discuss how we can do just that. pic.twitter.com/l8BiKS1yee
— Michelle Rowland (@MRowlandMP) June 6, 2023
Some are concerned that the proposed law could have a significant impact on free speech, especially given the bill’s definition of disinformation, which remains open to interpretation.
The bill defines disinformation as “unintentionally false, misleading or misleading content. Disinformation is defined as “disinformation deliberately disseminated with the intent to cause serious harm”.
David Coleman, shadow communications minister for the opposition Liberal Party, expressed concern, saying “this is a complex area of politics and government abuse should be avoided.”
“[Общественность] wants to know exactly who decides whether this or that content is disinformation or disinformation,” he added.
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The public consultation on the Communications Legislation Amendment (Combating Disinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023 ends Sunday, August 6th.
The Australian government has been working hard to force the tech giants into compliance for some time now. Google was fined $40 million (AU$60 million) on August 12 for misleading Australian consumers about data collection.
In February 2021, Facebook temporarily banned Australian users from viewing or sharing news content in their News Feeds following an escalating conflict with the government over proposed media bidding laws.