This is about the Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023. On 25 June 2023, the Australian Government commenced public consultation on exposure draft legislation to provide the ACMA with new powers, purportedly to hold digital platforms to account and improve efforts to combat so-called harmful misinformation and disinformation in Australia. Public consultation closed on Sunday 20 August 2023, and it is anticipated that legislation will be introduced in parliament later in 2023. There was apparently an enormous number of public submissions, which have not yet been published. Fortunately, the Liberal Party has come out strongly against the Bill (see below). We can only hope that they will maintain this pro-freedom of speech stance. Shadow Minister David Coleman has given a good summary of the problems with the bill, which we quote below.
Labor's shocker misinformation bill should be torn up
David Coleman, Shadow Minister for Communications, Member for Banks has said that the Coalition will not support Labor’s proposed Misinformation laws.
He has said the Government’s exposure draft of the Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023 would suppress legitimate free speech in Australia.
“This is a very bad bill. The Government should rip it up.” “Freedom of speech is fundamental to our democracy." "The Bill gives the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) extraordinary powers. It would lead to digital companies self-censoring the legitimately held views of Australians to avoid the risk of massive fines.”
The many problems with the Bill include:
- The definition of “misinformation” is so broad that it could capture many statements made by Australians in the context of political debate.
- Authorised content by the Albanese Government can’t be misinformation, but criticisms of the Albanese Government by ordinary Australians can be misinformation.
- Nothing an academic says can be misinformation, but statements by somebody disagreeing with an academic can be misinformation.
- Good faith statements made by entertainers cannot be misinformation, but good faith statements made by ordinary Australians on political matters can be misinformation.
- Journalists commenting on their personal digital platforms could have their content removed as misinformation.
- If the Minister has a favoured digital platform, then that platform could be entirely removed from the application of the misinformation laws.
Under the Albanese Government’s proposed laws, ACMA would gain sweeping powers to require any Australian to appear at a time and place of its choosing to answer questions about misinformation or disinformation. Heavy fines would apply for non-attendance.
“The Albanese Government has got this horribly wrong,” Mr Coleman has said. “This Bill is appalling and will be strongly opposed by the Coalition.” (Source: https://www.liberal.org.au/latest-news/2023/08/01/labors-shocker-misinformation-bill-should-be-torn)
Some Resources and Comment
The Censors Down Under: The ACMA Gambit on Misinformation and Disinformation at https://www.globalresearch.ca/censors-down-under-acma-gambit-misinformation-disinformation/5828450
Australia’s Misinfo Bill Paves Way for Massive Censorship - Global ResearchGlobal Research - Centre for Research on Globalization at https://www.globalresearch.ca/australia-misinfo-bill-paves-way-massive-censorship/5829844
‘Keep Australia safe’: Dystopian draft bill against ‘misinformation’ unveiled at https://cointelegraph.com/news/australian-draft-misinformation-bill-revealed
Labor's shocker misinformation bill should be torn up | Liberal Party of Australia at https://www.liberal.org.au/latest-news/2023/08/01/labors-shocker-misinformation-bill-should-be-torn
Fake news? – ACMA to receive new powers to hold digital platforms to account | Gadens at https://www.gadens.com/legal-insights/fake-news-acma-to-receive-new-powers-to-hold-digital-platforms-to-account/
Millions of dollars in fines to punish online misinformation under new draft bill - ABC News at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-06-25/fines-to-punish-online-misinformation-under-new-draft-bill/102521500
ACMA 'Tips to spot misinformation or disinformation
The ACMA website explanation contains arbitrary assertions which I would call disinformation. It repeats propaganda about 'credible sources' and 'official sources,' implying that RMIT, AAP, and AFP 'fact-checker' websites are reliable, when we know that they are used to certify propaganda, especially war-propaganda, because to question it would be to question the Australian government and its US-NATO allies. See "Tips to spot misinformation or disinformation," (from the ACMA website at https://www.acma.gov.au/online-misinformation)