Australia plans strict measures to combat disinformation on social media platforms

The proposed laws will grant the Australian Communications and Media Authority the power to hold digital platforms accountable for the dissemination of harmful fake news.

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The Albanese government plans to impose strict measures on social media giants to tackle the issue of disinformation and misinformation on their platforms. The proposed legislation, to be released by Communications Minister Michelle Rowland, will grant powers to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to hold digital platforms accountable for spreading harmful fake news. 

The ACMA will have the authority to enforce a ‘code’ on specific companies or an industry-wide ‘standard’, compelling them to remove harmful content or face significant fines. The maximum penalties for breaching the code or standard would be up to $2.75 million or 2% of global turnover and up to $6.88 million or 5% of global turnover, respectively. 

The proposed laws will not affect individual pieces of content, authorised electoral material, or professional news content. The draft legislation will undergo public consultation, allowing companies and the public to provide input. This crackdown on social media companies follows similar actions the EU took.

Tech giants have been anticipating the introduction of a voluntary code of practice, and some have already released transparency reports detailing their efforts to combat misinformation. The legislation aims to strike a balance between protecting against harmful misinformation while safeguarding freedom of speech. Western governments are increasingly concerned about the dissemination of disinformation by authoritarian countries to undermine democracies.