The Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation, one year on

Today marks one year since The Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation was launched, the first technology industry code of its kind globally to include safeguards against misinformation and mandatory commitments for all signatories.

This code provides the public, industry and Government different avenues to strengthen tech efforts to combat misinformation, and we’re using the anniversary to highlight some of those opportunities.

–> We’re encouraging the public to avail themselves of the complaints portal on DIGI’s website if they’re concerned that signatories aren’t meeting their commitments under the code, and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is helping us get the word out today to consumers.
–> We’re encouraging other technology companies to sign the code, which has been designed so that a diverse range of services can make commitments to protect Australians against misinformation and disinformation. Two additional companies adopted the code since it was first launched in February 2021.
–> We’re also encouraging the Government to release the report provided by the ACMA in June 2021 that assessed the code, which will be a crucial input in DIGI’s efforts to strengthen the code.

Anniversaries always provide a good opportunity to look back and look forward. Looking back:
1. Since the code was launched, it has been adopted by eight signatories – Apple, Adobe, Google, Meta, Microsoft, Redbubble, TikTok and Twitter – who have cemented their mandatory commitments, and nominated additional opt-in commitments, through public disclosures on the DIGI website.
2. In May 2021, they each released a transparency report with insights into the scale and management of misinformation and disinformation on their services. The reports outline the work being undertaken to remove harmful content, flag false claims, address fake accounts, elevate reputable content, improve Australians’ media literacy and partner with researchers.
3. In October 2021, DIGI strengthened the code with an independent complaints committee to resolve complaints about possible breaches by signatories of their code commitments, and a portal on its website for the public to raise such complaints. The independent members of that committee are Dr Anne Kruger, Victoria Rubensohn AM and Christopher Zinn.

Looking forward, DIGI will continue to strengthen the code in 2022 by:
1. Introducing guidelines to drive improvements and consistency in the next set of annual transparency reports.
2. Appointing an independent reviewer Hal Crawford who will fact check and attest all signatories’ transparency reports prior to publication.
3. Conducting a review of the code in 2022 which will proactively invite the views of the public, civil society and Government on how it can be improved.

In order to strengthen the code in line with the Government’s expectations, the review will be most effective if it can take into account the report provided by the ACMA in June 2021 that assessed the code.

While DIGI has not yet seen that report, we do believe that the ACMA’s powers need to be strengthened in relation to misinformation and disinformation. For example, as we highlighted in our recent submission to the Online Safety and Social Media Inquiry, DIGI has asked the Government if the ACMA could be afforded powers to provide an appeals mechanism in the event that there are disagreements in the final outcomes of complaints raised through DIGI’s complaints portal.

DIGI also intends for the review to take into account the revised European Union disinformation code which is expected by the end of March – the primary comparable code globally, which is focused on disinformation and with opt-in commitments only – as well as the next set of signatories’ transparency annual reports.

We look forward to our shared work with many of you in addressing harmful mis- and disinformation, and maximising The Australian Code of Practice of Disinformation and Misinformation’s role in that effort.

Sunita Bose
Managing Director, DIGI