Australian intelligence urged to confront misinformation threatening national security

By taking these steps, Australia aims to bolster its intelligence capabilities and effectively safeguard its national interests.

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Australian intelligence agencies have been advised to openly confront online false information that threatens the country’s security. A parliamentary committee has suggested that the head of ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) should take more opportunities to speak out against misinformation and propaganda.

The committee’s annual review of six intelligence agencies in the country, including ASIO, found a notable increase in misinformation during 2020 and 2021, especially during the COVID-19 lockdowns. The committee believes that intelligence agencies should play a larger role in sharing information with the public about misinformation, disinformation, and harmful propaganda.

This recommendation is one of four made in the committee’s latest annual review, which also includes improving information sharing between intelligence agencies and addressing staffing issues in the sector. The committee emphasises that the personnel in Australia’s intelligence agencies are crucial and proposes a national strategy to recruit and retain skilled individuals to effectively address intelligence priorities.

Why does it matter? Earlier this year, intelligence agencies in the US have also been called upon to help counter these threats, preserving public trust and showing commitment to transparency and citizens’ well-being. The Australian Government’s move follows the lead of other governments in recognising the dangerous potential of misinformation as a tool for manipulating public opinion, influencing elections, inciting violence, and destabilising societies. However, involving intelligence agencies in combating misinformation also raises concerns about privacy, civil liberties, and potential misuse of power. Striking the right balance between protecting national security and safeguarding individual rights remains an ongoing challenge for governments.