Australian government proposes massive fines for tech giants over 'fake news'

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland unveils a controversial new censorship plan to impose hefty fines on Facebook, Google, and Twitter for spreading misinformation.

Australian government proposes massive fines for tech giants over 'fake news'
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The Australian government is planning a highly controversial move against the dissemination of what it judges as 'fake news and misinformation' posted on websites such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland presented a new plan outlining proposed draft laws that would allow the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to impose substantial fines on these companies.

This move comes as the Albanese government gears up for a censorship showdown with Silicon Valley's most influential tech behemoths.

Politicians claim that the prevalence of misinformation on online and social media platforms has created significant challenges, leading to societal divisions and political turmoil.

The proposed legislation will grant the ACMA the power to impose multi-billion-dollar fines on tech companies that repeatedly fail to remove content that the government finds undesirable.

Rowland emphasised the 'detrimental impact of misinformation,' stating:

"Mis- and disinformation sows division within the community, undermines trust, and can threaten public health and safety."

She further highlighted the government's commitment to ensuring 'online safety' for Australians and empowering the ACMA to hold digital platforms accountable for the spread of 'false information'.

According to the proposed draft laws, systemic breaches could result in penalties amounting to 2% of a company's global turnover or 5% of global turnover, depending on the nature of the violation.

For industry giant Meta, formerly known as Facebook, such penalties could reach an astonishing sum of over $8 billion.

The legislation also envisions the introduction of new codes or standards by the media regulator, compelling companies to develop and employ more effective tools for identifying and reporting misinformation which could significantly impact independent journalism.

The draft legislation is now open for public consultation, encouraging stakeholders to submit their opinions.

Rowland expressed her anticipation for introducing the bill to parliament later this year after considering the input gathered during the consultation process.

She emphasised the need to strike a delicate balance between safeguarding against fake news and upholding freedom of speech.

"I encourage all stakeholders to make a submission," Rowland remarked, underscoring the importance of engaging various perspectives in shaping the legislation.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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