ACMA to get teeth to act against social media misinformation

Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will get new information-gathering and record-keeping powers as social media continues to pedal misinformation.

The federal government committed to legislating new powers in line with recommendations in ACMA’s June 2021 report ‘on the adequacy of digital platforms’ disinformation and news quality measures’.

The only problem is that its current social media signatories are Adobe, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft, Redbubble, TikTok and Twitter – which are largely trying to do the right thing – and that this relies on voluntary codes of practice. The Code will be loosely based on the European Union Code of Practice.

The ACMA report also recommended establishing a Misinformation and Disinformation Action Group to ‘support collaboration and information-sharing between digital platforms’. The Albanese government has yet to announce if this will be established. Public consultation on the draft bill will take place in the first half of 2023 before being introduced to Parliament later this year.

“Misinformation and disinformation pose a threat to the safety and well-being of Australians and our democracy, society, and economy. A new and graduated set of powers will enable the ACMA to monitor efforts and compel digital platforms to do more, placing Australia at the forefront in tackling harmful online misinformation and disinformation”.

Communications minister Michelle Rowland

List of recommendations to regulate social media misinformation

1: The government should encourage DIGI to consider the findings in this report when reviewing the code in February 2022.

2: The ACMA will continue to oversee the operation of the code
and should report to government on its effectiveness no later than the end of the
2022–23 financial year. The ACMA should also continue to undertake relevant
research to inform government on the state of disinformation and misinformation in

3: To incentivise greater transparency, the ACMA should be
provided with formal information-gathering powers (including powers to make record
keeping rules) to oversee digital platforms, including the ability to request Australia-
specific data on the effectiveness of measures to address disinformation and

4: The government should provide the ACMA with reserve powers
to register industry codes, enforce industry code compliance, and make standards
relating to the activities of digital platforms’ corporations. These powers would provide
a mechanism for further intervention if code administration arrangements prove
inadequate, or the voluntary industry code fails.

5: In addition to existing monitoring capabilities, the government
should consider establishing a Misinformation and Disinformation Action Group to
support collaboration and information-sharing between digital platforms, government
agencies, researchers and NGOs on issues relating to disinformation and

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