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Social media platforms could face content crackdown under proposed new laws

The federal government has pledged to introduce new legislation in parliament later this year that could give the Australian Communications and Media Authority new regulatory powers to tackle disinformation and misinformation.

Under the proposed legislation, the authority would be able to enforce industry codes and hold tech companies responsible for removing harmful or misleading information online if voluntary efforts prove insufficient.

It would also be able to use new information-gathering powers to increase online transparency, as well as improve access to Australian data on how anti-disinformation measures are working.

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The government is expected to hold consultations on the scope of the authority’s new powers in the coming weeks, with legislation due to be presented to parliament in the second half of the year.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said online misinformation and the deliberate spread of misinformation was a significant and ongoing problem.

“Digital platforms must take responsibility for what is on their sites and take action when harmful or misleading content appears,” he said.

“That is our government’s clear expectation, and just as we backed that expectation with action by recently passing the new Online Safety Act, we are taking action on disinformation and misinformation.”

The laws could also provide for the creation of an action group to tackle the problem, bringing together key stakeholders from government and the private sector.

The bill follows a report from the authority on how the issue was handled online.

The report contained five recommendations, which were well received by the government.

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But independent think tank Reset Australia has expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the government’s proposed laws.

“The era of big tech self-regulation is over. It’s a failed project. These new laws underscore that reality, which global tech regulatory experts have had for years,” said Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran, Director of Reset Australia’s technology policy, in a statement. Monday morning.

“The critical next step for this legislation is to move away from regulating bad content and bad actors, and instead regulate platform systems and processes. [including algorithms]“said Ms. Sooriyakumaran.

“The Australian Disinformation and Misinformation Code of Practice does not allow this in its current form. It is disappointing that we are heading into another election without systemic regulatory protections in place,” she added.


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