Review of tech sector misinformation code launched, inviting public submissions on potential changes
Monday June 6, 2022: Today the Digital Industry Group Inc. (DIGI) launched its planned review of The Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation, inviting public submissions on potential changes to the code.
The code was launched in February 2021, and it commits DIGI to a review of it after a year of operation. DIGI has timed the review so that it can take into account the latest set of signatories’ misinformation transparency reports, released last week, and the ACMA’s report on the code, released in late March.
The code also commits DIGI to releasing an annual report which has been published today to support the review. The report contains information about how the code has evolved since it was launched, detailing governance arrangements, complaints and evolutions in the transparency reporting process.
The annual report also contains new research undertaken by Resolve Strategic about misinformation, using a nationally representative survey that examined Australians’ views on the meaning of the term ‘misinformation’, its prevalence and sources, and the factors that influence their perceptions.
In addition, DIGI has released a discussion paper that provides background and specific questions and proposals to assist public consultation on the code review. The paper covers feedback on the code raised by the ACMA in their report.
On the launch of the review, DIGI Managing Director Sunita Bose said: “The goal of the code is to incentivise best practice by technology companies in relation to misinformation and disinformation, through driving greater transparency, consistency and public accountability.”
“Hearing the views of academics, civil society and other Australians through our previous public consultation helped DIGI shape the code, and now we want to hear from them again as to whether it needs to be amended.”
As noted at the time of release of the ACMA’s report to the previous Government on the code, DIGI supports in principle the regulator’s five key recommendations to strengthen its oversight of the code and misinformation more broadly.
As that report was provided to the Coalition Government in June 2021, its assessment pre-dates DIGI’s announcement in October 2021 about the code’s governance arrangements which included an independent complaints committee to resolve public complaints about possible breaches by signatories of their code commitments.
DIGI will be accepting public submissions to inform potential changes to the code between June 6, 2022 until July 18, 2022 via its website at digi.org.au/disinformation-code/code-review, where the annual report and discussion paper are both available for download.
The Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation has so far been adopted by eight signatories – Apple, Adobe, Google, Meta, Microsoft, Redbubble, TikTok and Twitter – that have cemented their mandatory commitments, and nominated additional opt-in commitments, through public disclosures on the DIGI website.
Signatories have all released two sets of annual transparency reports under the code; inaugural reports that were released on May 22, 2021 and 2021 calendar year reports released last week on May 30, 2022. Both sets of reports are available on the DIGI website at digi.org.au/disinformation/transparency.
The Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation was developed in response to policy announced in December 2019, in response to the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry, where the digital industry was asked to develop a voluntary code of practice on disinformation. DIGI developed the code with assistance from the University of Technology Sydney’s Centre for Media Transition, and First Draft, a global organisation that specialises in helping societies overcome false and misleading information.
Mandatory code commitments include publishing & implementing policies on misinformation and disinformation, providing users with a way to report content against those policies and implementing a range of scalable measures that reduce its spread & visibility (Mandatory commitment #1). Every signatory has agreed to annual transparency reports about those efforts to improve understanding of both the management and scale of mis- and disinformation in Australia (Mandatory commitment #7).
Additionally, there are a series of widely adopted opt-in commitments that signatories select if relevant to their business model: (Commitment #2) Addressing disinformation in paid content; (#3) addressing fake bots and accounts; (#4) transparency about source of content in news and factual information (e.g. promotion of media literacy, partnerships with fact-checkers) and (#5) political advertising; and (#6) partnering with universities/researchers to improve understanding of mis and disinformation.
DIGI is a non-profit industry association that advocates for a thriving Australian digitally-enabled economy that fosters innovation, a growing selection of digital products and services, and where online safety and privacy are protected.
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