Australia is proposing to fine digital platforms millions of dollars if they allow harmful misinformation and disinformation online.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) would be the regulating body, according to draft legislation, the Communications Legislation Amendment (Combating Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023, now open for public consultation.
Fines of up to $6.88 million or 5% of global turnover could be imposed.
The draft framework focuses on systemic issues which pose a risk of harm on digital platforms. It does not empower the ACMA to determine what is true or false or to remove individual content or posts. The code and standard-making powers will not apply to professional news content or authorised electoral content.
Platforms will continue to be responsible for the content they host and promote to users. If platforms fail to act to combat misinformation and disinformation over time, ACMA would be able to draw on its reserve powers to register enforceable industry codes with significant penalties for non-compliance.
The proposed powers implement the key recommendations in the ACMA’s June 2021 report to government on the adequacy of digital platforms’ disinformation and news quality measures.
The new powers are intended to strengthen and support the voluntary code developed by the Digital Industry Group Inc. (DIGI) adopted by 8 digital platforms – Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, TikTok, Redbubble, Apple and Adobe.
Communications minister Michelle Rowland says mis and disinformation sows division within the community, undermines trust and can threaten public health and safety.
“The Albanese Government is committed to keeping Australians safe online, and that includes ensuring the ACMA has the powers it needs to hold digital platforms to account for mis and disinformation on their services," she says.
“This consultation process gives industry and the public the opportunity to have their say on the proposed framework, which aims to strike the right balance between protection from harmful mis and disinformation online and freedom of speech.
“I encourage all stakeholders to make a submission and look forward to introducing the Bill into Parliament later this year, following the consultation process."
Public consultation closes Sunday, August 6.
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