Elon Musk and other social media giants like Twitter could face massive fines after the Australian government unveiled new laws targeting misinformation and disinformation. The draft legislation grants the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) greater powers to combat harmful content online, with penalties of up to $2.75 million or two percent of global turnover for breaches of the new code of practice. While concerns have been raised about government overreach and determining what constitutes misinformation, the public is invited to submit recommendations on the legislation before August 6, 2023.
1. The Australian government has released new laws targeting “misinformation and disinformation” on social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. The legislation grants the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) greater powers to combat harmful content online.
2. The draft legislation introduces a two-tiered system of regulation. In the first tier, ACMA will request social media companies to develop a code of practice, which will be registered and enforced by ACMA. Violations of this code could result in significant fines. If the code fails, the second tier allows ACMA to create and enforce an industry standard, which carries even higher penalties.
3. Critics have expressed concerns about how ACMA will determine what constitutes “mis- or disinformation” and the potential for government overreach. Some argue that the legislation may lead to fines being imposed for content that is not actually misinformation. Elon Musk’s Twitter has also faced scrutiny from Australian authorities, with the eSafety commissioner threatening daily fines unless Twitter addresses “hate speech” on its platform.
Elon Musk’s Twitter and other social media platforms could face massive fines as the Australian government introduces new laws targeting misinformation and disinformation. The draft legislation, released by Communications Minister Michelle Rowland, grants greater powers to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to eliminate harmful content online. The first tier of regulation requires social media companies to develop codes of practice, with breaches resulting in fines of up to $2.75 million or two percent of global turnover.
If the code fails, ACMA can create and enforce an industry standard, with penalties of up to $6.8 million or five percent of global turnover. However, concerns have been raised over who determines what constitutes misinformation or disinformation. David Coleman, the shadow communications minister, warns against government overreach and the potential concentration of power in the hands of officials. Dr. Nick Coatsworth, former deputy chief medical officer, argues that legislation targeting misinformation is difficult to implement and can lead to fines for content that is not actually misinformation.
The public is encouraged to give feedback on the proposed legislation until August 6, 2023. ACMA recently threatened Twitter with daily fines of up to $700,000 for failing to combat hate speech on its platform. The eSafety commissioner blames Elon Musk’s staffing cuts and the company’s decision to end its public policy presence in Australia for an increase in online abuse. Twitter’s lack of engagement with authorities could further work against the platform.