Sight Magazine – Australia to force Big Tech to hand over disinformation data

Sydney, Australia

Australia’s media regulator will be able to compel internet companies to provide internal data on how they have handled misinformation and misinformation, the latest move by the country’s government to crack down on Big Tech.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority will also be able to enforce an internet industry code on uncooperative platforms, the federal government announced on Monday, joining governments around the world seeking to reduce the spread of harmful lies online.

The Facebook, Google and Twitter logos are seen in this combination photo from Reuters files. PHOTO: Reuters.

The planned laws are a response to an ACMA report which found four-fifths of Australian adults had experienced misinformation about COVID-19 and 76% believed online platforms should do more to reduce the amount of content false and misleading shared online.

The laws broadly align with Europe’s efforts to limit harmful online content, which are due to come into force by the end of 2022, although the European Union has said it wants further measures more stringent to stop disinformation given some claims by Russian state media during the invasion of Ukraine.

The crackdown also comes as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison faces what is expected to be a close federal election next month, with his conservative Liberal Party-led coalition currently trailing the main opposition Labor party in the polls. .

“Digital platforms must take responsibility for what is on their sites and take action when harmful or misleading content appears,” Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a statement.

Australians were most likely to see misinformation on larger services such as Meta Platforms’ Facebook and Twitter Inc, according to the ACMA report. The fake stories typically started with “highly emotive and engaging posts in small online conspiracy groups” and were “amplified by international influencers, local public figures and media coverage”, he added.

The report also noted that disinformation, which is the intentional spreading of false information to influence policy or sow discord, continued to target Australians. Facebook had taken down four disinformation campaigns in Australia from 2019 to 2020, it said.

The report notes that conspiracy groups often urge people to join smaller platforms with looser moderation policies, like Telegram. If these platforms rejected industry-defined content guidelines, “they could pose a higher risk to the Australian community,” the ACMA said.

DIGI, an Australian industry body representing Facebook, Alphabet’s Google, Twitter and video site TikTok, said it backed the recommendations and noted it had already put in place a system to deal with complaints about misinformation.

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