Australia prepared to hand the country’s media watchdog additional authority to monitor and combat harmful content on online platforms, with new laws to give the agency wider information-gathering powers to encourage more transparency.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) released a report identifying areas for the industry to improve a code of practice on disinformation and misinformation while also raising concerns regarding the quality of reporting and strength of the scrutiny process.
ACMA oversees the code, which the largest digital platforms in the country agreed to follow.
In a statement, ACMA explained the government agreed to its call for “new regulatory powers” to boost “the self-regulatory scheme”, including gathering data from platforms if their voluntary efforts are insufficient.
The agency will be given reserve powers to register and enforce industry codes or make industry standards.
An action group will be set up to bring together representatives “across government and the private sector to collaborate on emerging issues and best practice responses”.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher argued in a separate statement the proposed laws will encourage platforms to “be ambitious in addressing the harms of disinformation and misinformation, while providing ACMA with the ability to hold platforms to account should their voluntary efforts prove inadequate”.
“Digital platforms must take responsibility for what is on their sites and take action when harmful or misleading content appears. This is our government’s clear expectation”.
Peter Lewis, director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology, stated in a release the ACMA report highlights “significant shortfalls in industry self-regulation particularly around the distortion of public health information” related to the pandemic.
“Increasing platform accountability is important regulation that deserves bipartisan support.”
“It needs to be recognised that any limit on information flows works against the business models of these companies.”
In October 2021, ACMA welcomed moves by Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, TikTok, Twitter and others introduce an independent oversight and public complaints facility, and appoint a committee to oversee potential breaches under the guise of the Digital Industry Group.
ACMA had previously submitted a report on the adequacy of digital platforms’ disinformation and news quality measures.
Earlier this month, four Australian agencies established a regulatory body to collaborate on information sharing to streamline scrutiny of digital platforms.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back