Tech giants may face substantial fines for their failure to address misinformation under proposed Australian legislation, which aims to establish mandatory standards in the largely unregulated sector. Under the proposed laws, platforms such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, TikTok, and podcasting services could be subject to penalties worth up to five percent of their annual global turnover, making it one of the highest penalties globally.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), a government watchdog, would be granted new powers under the legislation to compel digital platforms to prevent the spread and monetization of misinformation and disinformation. An ACMA spokesperson told AFP, “If passed, the legislation would empower the ACMA to compel information from digital platforms, register and enforce industry codes, and set industry standards.”
The ACMA, however, would not have the authority to remove or sanction individual posts. Its role would instead be focused on holding platforms accountable for their failure to monitor and combat intentionally false, misleading, and deceptive content that could cause significant harm.
These proposed laws are similar to legislation expected to be implemented in the European Union, where tech giants could face fines of up to six percent of their annual turnover and possible bans on operating within the EU.
Australia has been at the forefront of regulating digital platforms, leading tech companies to make empty threats of withdrawing from the Australian market. The new bill aims to strengthen the existing voluntary Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation introduced in 2021, which has had limited impact.
Various tech giants, including Adobe, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Redbubble, TikTok, and Twitter, have already signed the current code.
These proposed laws were announced in light of a surge in misinformation in Australia surrounding an upcoming referendum on Indigenous rights. The referendum will ask Australians whether the constitution should recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and whether an Indigenous consultative body should be established to influence proposed legislation.
The Australian Electoral Commission has noted an increase in online misinformation and abuse regarding the referendum process. Election commissioner Tom Rogers expressed concerns about the “aggressive” tone of online comments.
The government argues that combating disinformation is crucial for keeping Australians safe online and preserving the country’s democracy. Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland states, “Misinformation and disinformation sow division within the community, undermine trust, and can threaten public health and safety.”
Stakeholders have until August to provide their feedback on the legislation.
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Deepak Sen is a tech enthusiast who covers the latest technological innovations, from AI to consumer gadgets. His articles provide readers with a glimpse into the ever-evolving world of technology.