The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released a report to the government on the adequacy of digital platforms’ disinformation and news quality.
As part of the Digital Platforms Inquiry, the Australian government is preparing a voluntary code of practice to address disinformation and misinformation online. This code was launched on 22 February 2021 and has been adopted by major players such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, TikTok, and Apple. The ACMA is responsible for overseeing the operation of the code and assessing its benefit to consumers. The ACMA has reported that over the past 18 months, there has been an “infodemic”, with increased misinformation arising after the COVID-19 pandemic. This misinformation and disinformation have caused real harm to individuals and businesses, and despite digital platforms adopting new measures to counter misinformation and disinformation, the ACMA believes that the Australian government needs to bolster industry self-regulatory arrangements to contain future infodemics.
As such, the ACMA has proposed five recommendations:
- The government should encourage the Digital Industry Group Inc to consider the findings of this report when reviewing the code
- The ACMA will continue to oversee the operation of the code and should report to the government on its effectiveness no later than the end of the 2022-23 financial year. The ACMA should also continue to undertake relevant research to inform the government on the state of disinformation and misinformation in Australia.
- To incentivise greater transparency, the ACMA should be provided with formal information-gathering powers (including powers to make recordkeeping rules) to oversee digital platforms, including the ability to request Australia specific data on the effectiveness of measures to address disinformation and misinformation.
- The government should provide the ACMA with reserve powers to register industry codes, enforce industry code compliance, and make standards relating to the activities of digital platforms’ corporations.
- In addition to existing monitoring capabilities, the government should consider establishing a Misinformation and Disinformation Action Group to support collaboration and information-sharing between digital platforms, government agencies, researchers, and non-government organisations.
With these new practices, the ACMA hopes to minimise misinformation and disinformation online and bring together action groups from public and private sectors to protect Australian consumers.
For the full reading of the report, see here.