Australia’s communications regulator will ask Big Tech companies to take down online misinformation, but is to be given powers to force them if the fail to “play nice”.
Under proposed laws, media regulator the ACMA would be forced to hand over information about their efforts.
The previous government is reported to have had plans for similar legislation, but failed to bring it to parliament before losing the last election.
Communications minister Michelle Rowland (pictured) said a “new and graduated” set of powers would 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”.
Proposed laws should be legislated by the end of 2023, and will enable the ACMA to “legally to request information” from tech platforms including Meta, Google and Twitter such as data on complaints handling and how they manage the spread of harmful content.
The ACMA will also be able to register and enforce new codes or industry standards, should voluntary efforts prove inadequate. This could include measures such as stronger tools to empower users to identify and report harmful content online.
The announcement has been welcomed by ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin as “a significant step forward in combatting harmful online misinformation and disinformation in Australia”.
Tech lobby group DIGI had introduced a voluntary code of practice on disinformation and misinformation at the request of the federal government, revising it last December.
Rowland is also reported to be reviewing the broadcasting services act and the anti-siphoning scheme.
The UK government is also understood to be planning laws that could make tech chiefs such as Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg criminally liable for harmful content consumed by children on social media.