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FameEX Hot Topics | Protecting Australia's Safety: Unveiling a Dystopian Proposal Targeting 'Misinformation

2023-06-26 16:53:10

The Australian government has introduced a draft bill that poses a significant threat to tech and social media giants by imposing hefty fines if they fail to remove misinformation from their platforms. Under the proposed legislation, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the country's media regulator, would be empowered to compel digital platforms like Google and Facebook to maintain records related to misinformation and disinformation on their platforms. These companies would be obligated to hand over these records whenever requested by the ACMA.

Moreover, the ACMA would have the authority to request and enforce an industry-wide "code of practice" that introduces new measures to combat misinformation. It would also be able to establish its own industry standard and ensure compliance. Violating this proposed standard would result in severe penalties for tech giants, including fines of up to 6.88 million Australian dollars ($4.6 million) or 5% of their global turnover. To put this in perspective, a 5% fine on Meta, the parent company of Facebook, would amount to approximately AU$8 billion ($5.3 billion).

Federal Communications Minister Michelle Rowland emphasized the commitment of the current Labor government to safeguard Australians online. She stated that the new bill would provide the ACMA with the necessary powers to hold digital platforms accountable for misinformation and disinformation on their services. Rowland also noted that the bill would enable the ACMA to closely scrutinize the platforms' actions and measures taken to ensure compliance. However, concerns have been raised regarding the potential impact on freedom of speech, particularly due to the bill's interpretation of misinformation, which remains open-ended. According to the draft bill, misinformation is defined as "unintentionally false, misleading, or deceptive content," while disinformation refers to "misinformation intentionally disseminated to cause serious harm."

David Coleman, the shadow minister for communications from the opposing Liberal Party, expressed reservations about potential government overreach in this complex policy area. He emphasized the need for clarity regarding the decision-making process for determining whether specific content qualifies as misinformation or disinformation. Public consultation for the Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023 will continue until August 6.

The Australian government has been actively pursuing measures to rein in tech giants. In August 2021, Google paid a fine of AU$60 million ($40 million) for misleading Australian consumers about data collection. In February 2021, Facebook temporarily banned Australian users from accessing news content on their newsfeeds during a dispute with the government over proposed media bargaining laws.

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