Digital platforms in Australia commit to action on disinformation

disinformation Australia
Image by plahotya | Bigstockphoto

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has welcomed the new Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation released today by the Digital Industry Group (DIGI).

In 2020, more than two-thirds of Australians were concerned about what is real or fake on the internet. False and misleading news and information online—like that spread through the 2020 Bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic— has the potential to cause serious harm to individuals, communities and society.

In response, digital platforms, represented by DIGI, have agreed to a self-regulatory code to provide safeguards against serious harms arising from the spread of dis- and misinformation.

Under the Code, all signatories commit to develop and implement measures to deal with mis- and dis-information on their services. Actions may include labelling false content, demoting the ranking of content, prioritising credible sources, suspension or disabling of accounts and removal of content.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin welcomed the code as a flexible and proportionate approach to dealing with mis- and disinformation online. 

“The Code anticipates platforms’ actions will be graduated and proportionate to the risk of harm. This will assist them to strike an appropriate balance between dealing with troublesome content and the right to freedom of speech and expression.

“Signatories will also publish an annual report and additional information on actions that they will take so that users know what to expect when they access these services,” said Ms O’Loughlin.

The Code also contains a range of non-mandatory objectives including disrupting advertising and monetisation incentives for disinformation and empowering consumers to make better informed choices. Signatories have until May 2021 to sign up to commitments under the Code.

“We encourage all platforms to sign up to the full suite of objectives included in the Code and even go beyond them to deal with the significant harms caused by mis- and disinformation,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

“The ACMA thanks DIGI for its leadership in steering the Code’s development and looks forward to continuing our work with them and code signatories, including as they develop a facility to make complaints about the code.”

The ACMA will report to government by 30 June 2021 on initial compliance with the code by signatories, the state of dis- and misinformation and the code’s effectiveness in responding to the problems identified by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s 2019 Digital Platforms Inquiry.

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