New ACMA powers to combat harmful online misinformation and disinformation
The Albanese Government will legislate to provide the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) with new powers to hold digital platforms to account and improve efforts to combat harmful misinformation and disinformation in Australia.
This marks a major step forward in addressing the spread of online misinformation and disinformation which has grown rapidly in scale and speed.
The ACMA will be given new information-gathering and record-keeping powers to create transparency around efforts by digital platforms to respond to misinformation and disinformation on their services, while balancing the right to freedom of expression so fundamental to democracy.
The ACMA will also be empowered to register an enforceable industry code and to make a standard, should industry self-regulation measures prove insufficient in addressing the threat posed by misinformation and disinformation. This graduated set of powers includes measures to protect Australians, such as stronger tools to empower users to identify and report relevant cases.
These powers are consistent with the key recommendations in the ACMA’s June 2021 report to government on the adequacy of digital platforms’ disinformation and news quality measures. They are intended to strengthen and support the voluntary code arrangements undertaken by industry through the Digital Industry Group Inc (DIGI) and will also extend to non-signatories of the DIGI Code,
The new framework will focus on systemic issues which pose a risk of harm on digital platforms, rather than individual pieces of content posted online.
Digital platforms will continue to be responsible for the content they host and promote to users. In balancing freedom of expression with the need to address online harm, the code and standard-making powers will not apply to professional news and authorised electoral content, nor will the ACMA have a role in determining what is considered truthful.
The Government intends to undertake public consultation on the powers through the release of an exposure draft Bill in the first half of 2023 and introduce legislation in Parliament later this year following consultation.
For more information on ACMA’s 2021 report recommendations visit: https://www.acma.gov.au/report-government-adequacy-digital-platforms-disinformation-and-news-quality-measures
Quotes attributable to the Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP:
“Misinformation and disinformation poses a threat to the safety and wellbeing of Australians, as well as to our democracy, society and economy.
“A new and graduated set of powers will enable the ACMA to monitor efforts and compel digital platforms to do more, placing Australia at the forefront in tackling harmful online misinformation and disinformation.
“The Albanese Government will consult with industry and the public on an exposure draft of legislation in the first half of this year and looks forward to constructive engagement with stakeholders and industry.”