Tech giants could potentially face significant fines for their failure to address disinformation under proposed Australian laws. These laws, introduced by a government watchdog, aim to establish mandatory standards in the largely unregulated sector. Platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter, TikTok, and podcasting services may be penalized up to five percent of their annual global turnover, making these some of the highest fines proposed worldwide.
Under the proposed legislation, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) would be empowered with various tools to compel companies to prevent the spread and monetization of misinformation or disinformation. While the ACMA would not have the authority to remove or sanction individual posts, it could hold platforms accountable for their failure to monitor and combat intentionally misleading content that could cause serious harm.
These rules draw inspiration from similar legislation anticipated in the European Union, where tech giants might face fines of up to six percent of their annual turnover and be banned from operating within the bloc.
Australia has been at the forefront of efforts to regulate digital platforms, leading to the issuing of mostly unfulfilled threats by tech firms to withdraw from the Australian market.
The proposed bill aims to strengthen the current voluntary Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation, which was launched in 2021 but has had limited impact. Notably, Adobe, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Redbubble, TikTok, and Twitter have all endorsed the existing code.
These laws were unveiled in response to a surge of misinformation in Australia regarding an upcoming referendum on Indigenous rights. Australians will be asked to vote on whether the constitution should recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and whether an Indigenous consultative body should be established to provide input on proposed legislation.
The Australian Electoral Commission has witnessed an increase in online misinformation and abuse surrounding the referendum process. Election commissioner Tom Rogers expressed concern over the “aggressive” tone of online comments.
The government argues that addressing disinformation is crucial for ensuring Australians’ online safety and protecting the country’s democracy. Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland emphasized that misinformation and disinformation sow division, erode trust, and pose threats to public health and safety.
Stakeholders have until August to provide input on the legislation.
In other news, Apple unveiled its first mixed reality headset, the Apple Vision Pro, at its annual developer conference. The company also introduced new Mac models and upcoming software updates. To learn more about these announcements and other important updates from Apple at WWDC 2023, tune in to Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and wherever you prefer to listen to podcasts.
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