News on Digital Platforms

ACMA releases guidance to digital platforms on voluntary misinformation and news quality code

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has today released a position paper outlining its expectations for a voluntary code or codes of practice on misinformation and news quality to be developed by digital platforms.

The position paper— Misinformation and news quality on digital platforms in Australia - A position paper to guide code development— includes a model code framework for consideration, including objectives and outcomes to be achieved for the benefit of Australian users of digital platforms.

According to the University of Canberra’s Digital News Report: Australia 2020 , 48 per cent of Australians rely on online news or social media as their main source of news. But 64 per cent of Australians are concerned about what is real or fake on the internet.

“That should rightly be of immense community concern. False and misleading news and information online has the potential to cause serious harm to individuals, communities and society,” ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said.

“In developing this new code, digital platforms will need to balance the need to limit the spread and impact of harmful material on the internet while protecting Australians’ important rights to freedom of speech.

“Digital platforms should not be the arbiters of truth for online information. But they do have a responsibility to tackle misinformation disseminated on their platforms and to assist people to make sound decisions about the credibility of news and information.

“We know that major platforms have stepped up their processes during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the prevalence of information potentially harmful to health and property.

“It’s now time for digital platforms to codify and commit to permanent actions that are systematic, transparent, certain and accountable for their users in addressing such potentially harmful material.”

The Australian Government has asked the ACMA to oversee the platforms’ code development process and report to Government by June 2021. This follows recommendations by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in its 2019 Digital Platforms Inquiry.

The ACMA’s position paper identifies three key objectives to be achieved through the code:

  • reduce the impact of harmful misinformation
  • empower people to better judge the quality of news and information
  • enhance the transparency and accountability of platforms’ practices.

The ACMA anticipates the digital platforms will work together, including undertaking public consultation, to develop and have in place a single, industry-wide code by December 2020.

The position paper, Misinformation and news quality on digital platforms in Australia - A position paper to guide code development has been published on the ACMA website.

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Digital Platforms commit to action on Disinformation

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has welcomed the new Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation released today by the Digital Industry Group (DIGI).

In 2020, more than two-thirds of Australians were concerned about what is real or fake on the internet. False and misleading news and information online—like that spread through the 2020 Bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic— has the potential to cause serious harm to individuals, communities and society.

In response, digital platforms, represented by DIGI, have agreed to a self-regulatory code to provide safeguards against serious harms arising from the spread of dis- and misinformation.

Under the Code, all signatories commit to develop and implement measures to deal with mis- and dis-information on their services. Actions may include labelling false content, demoting the ranking of content, prioritising credible sources, suspension or disabling of accounts and removal of content.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin welcomed the code as a flexible and proportionate approach to dealing with mis- and disinformation online.

“The Code anticipates platforms’ actions will be graduated and proportionate to the risk of harm. This will assist them to strike an appropriate balance between dealing with troublesome content and the right to freedom of speech and expression.

“Signatories will also publish an annual report and additional information on actions that they will take so that users know what to expect when they access these services,” said Ms O’Loughlin.

The Code also contains a range of non-mandatory objectives including disrupting advertising and monetisation incentives for disinformation and empowering consumers to make better informed choices. Signatories have until May 2021 to sign up to commitments under the Code.

“We encourage all platforms to sign up to the full suite of objectives included in the Code and even go beyond them to deal with the significant harms caused by mis- and disinformation,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

“The ACMA thanks DIGI for its leadership in steering the Code’s development and looks forward to continuing our work with them and code signatories, including as they develop a facility to make complaints about the code.”

The ACMA will report to government by 30 June 2021 on initial compliance with the code by signatories, the state of dis- and misinformation and the code’s effectiveness in responding to the problems identified by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s 2019 Digital Platforms Inquiry.

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