Australia’s New Social Media Regulations 2023

March 7, 2024

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is authorized and empowered by new powers to access, the information-gathering of social media platform companies to prevent misinformation and disinformation.

The move follows the Digital Industry Group Inc – whose members include Google, Apple, Meta, Twitter and TikTok – toughening up its voluntary code of conduct in December. The ‘DIGI’ welcomed the announcement, which it said would give ACMA “longer-term mandate to oversee” the code against online misinformation and disinformation while still leaving Digi to develop and administer it. The DIGI will be solely responsible of hosting its content in the social media.

The Australian Information Minister, Michelle Rowland said ACMA would be able to enact an enforceable industry code if industry self-regulation measures prove insufficient. New information-gathering powers will extend to non-signatories of Digi’s voluntary code.

The code and standard making powers will not apply to professional news and authorised electoral content.

This step was put forward to protect the Australian society from misinformation and disinformation as well as the economy of the nation as she expressed her concerns.

A new and graduated set of powers will 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.

“The Albanese government will consult with industry and the public on an exposure draft of legislation in the first half of this year and looks forward to constructive engagement with stakeholders and industry.”

‘DIGI’ managing director in Australia, Sunita Bose, said it was “committed to driving improvements in the management of mis- and disinformation in Australia, demonstrated through our track record of work with signatory companies to develop and strengthen the industry code. We welcome that this announcement aims to reinforce Digi’s efforts, and that it formalises our long-term working relationship with the ACMA in relation to combatting misinformation online,” she said.

This is applied even in the consumer sector where business are channelled through social media. Claims must be truthful which is advertised and sold through this medium.

Businesses must not make false or misleading claims on social media.

Any information a business posts on social media must be accurate and truthful, including:

• Prices for products and services.

• Images and descriptions of products and services.

• Claims about the value, benefits, qualities or performance of their products or services.

• Information about shipping options and delivery times.

Businesses are responsible for all posts on their pages. Businesses are also responsible for comments and posts that others make on their social media pages which are false or likely to mislead.

Businesses should:

• Set clear rules for how others can post on their page and display them prominently.

• Block users who break the rules about posting.

• Remove or respond to any posts, including reviews, that may be false or misleading.

The response a business makes to any misleading comment must be enough to override the false impression made by the original post, so it is usually safer to remove the comment.

Mass or orchestrated direct messages have played a role in false rumours about child abduction spreading in India through WhatsApp and in Australia in the death tax scare campaign at the 2019 election via Facebook messenger.

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