New laws in Australia would allow the country’s media watchdog to force Big Tech to turn over data on how they deal with misinformation, bringing yet a new twist to the country’s ongoing efforts to rein in the negative effects of the growing digital economy.
As Reuters reported Monday (March 21), the laws also let the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) enforce an internet industry code on platforms that don’t cooperate, part of a worldwide effort to curb the prevalence of misinformation and disinformation online.
The laws are a response to an investigation by the authority that found that 80% of adults in Australia had encountered COVID misinformation, and 76% want online platforms to do make more of an effort in dealing with false or misleading content.
“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.
Read More: Addressing Big Tech’s power over speech.
The ACMA said Australians were most likely to come across misinformation on Twitter and Facebook. The authority added that false narratives usually began with “highly emotive and engaging posts within small online conspiracy groups” and were “amplified by international influencers, local public figures and by coverage in the media.”
In addition, the ACMA said that disinformation – false information that’s intentionally spread to spark discord or influence politics – continues to target people in Australia. Between 2019 and 2020, Facebook removed four disinformation campaigns in the country.
The ACMA said conspiracy groups have urged users to flock to smaller, less-moderated platforms like Telegram. If those platforms reject industry content standards, the authority said, “they may present a higher risk to the Australian community.”
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