Tech giants in Australia launch anti-disinformation code

AFP
Global tech firms in Australia unveiled a new code of practice today to curb the spread of disinformation online.
AFP

Global tech firms in Australia unveiled a new code of practice today to curb the spread of disinformation online, following pressure from the government.

The lobby group DIGI — representing Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, TikTok and Redbubble — committed under the code to a range of actions including labelling false content on their platforms, demoting fake content and prioritizing credible sources of information.

They also agreed to suspend or disable offending and fake accounts, including “bots” that automatically disseminate information.

The measures — which largely codify existing practices — are said to target paid and political advertising as well as content shared by users.

“All signatories commit to safeguards to protect Australians against harm from online disinformation and misinformation, and adopting a range of scalable measures that reduce its spread and visibility,” the group said.

The voluntary code was developed in response to a government inquiry into the role of online platforms in the spread of misinformation and disinformation.

The problem became particularly acute during historic bushfires that swept the country in late 2019 and 2020 and during the coronavirus pandemic.

The government’s Communication and Media Authority, which will oversee the code’s implementation, said yesterday that in 2020 more than two-thirds of Australians expressed concern over the extent of online misinformation.

“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,” it said in a statement.

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