Digital platforms warned: tackle disinformation or face regulation

If major digital platforms don’t deal with harmful online disinformation, they will be made subject to regulation and a mandatory industry code, the federal government has warned. 

The government said an exposure draft of legislation giving the Australian Communications and Media Authority regulatory power over platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok will be released during the first half of this year.

Authorised electoral content and what the government calls “professional news” will be exempt from the code.

The ACMA will be given the power to gather information and keep records of platforms’ efforts to combat disinformation, to make the platforms’ response to disinformation more transparent.

If the regulator decides those efforts – such as the voluntary code put together by the Digital Industry Group (DIGI) – are inadequate, it will have the power to create a mandatory code, communications minister Michelle Rowland said in a media statement.

As a first step, DIGI’s code will be extended to platforms that aren’t signatories to it.

Rowland said ACMA’s focus will be on “systemic issues” rather than individual content items.

The exposure draft of the legislation will form the basis of a subsequent public consultation, with legislation to be introduced later in the year.

The moves are in response to recommendations made by the ACMA in 2021.

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