A controversial bill claimed to combat 'online misinformation,' put forward by Australia's Labor government, is facing heightened scrutiny amid concerns over potential political motivations and threats to free speech.
The proposed legislation grants the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) increased powers to address what it might see as 'false, misleading, or deceptive content on digital media platforms that may cause serious harm.'
Critics argue that the government's role in determining the scope of investigations could stifle freedom of expression, with accusations of undue influence over the ACMA's operations.
Internal documents obtained through freedom of information laws reveal that the Minister for Communications could dictate the terms of ACMA's investigations, including its scope and particulars.
Shadow communications minister David Coleman expressed unease over the revelations, stating that the government, not just bureaucrats, could dictate the terms of investigations, raising troubling implications.
Despite promises to rework the draft laws following public consultation, concerns persist over potential censorship and political interference.
The proposal faces opposition from various quarters, including the Liberal-National Coalition, One Nation, and external entities such as the Australian Human Rights Commission and Law Council.
With a new draft in the works, the legislation is not expected to be introduced into parliament until 2024.