Tech firms unveil anti-disinformation code in Australia as call for action follows government inquiries

DIGI, a nonprofit industry association that represents tech giants in Australia, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, has announced that the sites have agreed to a code of practice to fight misinformation on their platforms.

The group, incorporating Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Redbubble, TikTok and Twitter, has agreed, following pressure from the Australian government, to take the actions outlined in the new code, including labeling false content, demoting it, prioritizing credible information and removing repeat offenders or bots.

The Australian government has conducted a number of inquiries into the issue of misinformation and the country's Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been looking into the problem of fake news online. 

In a statement, DIGI said that “all signatories commit to safeguards to protect Australians against harm from online disinformation and misinformation and adopting a range of scalable measures that reduce its spread and visibility.” 

However, despite the announcement from DIGI, the Australian government refused to rule out introducing stricter measures against tech giants if the newly laid out code doesn’t achieve the goal of tackling misinformation.

Australia’s communications minister, Paul Fletcher, said the government would give the code some time, to see if it works, but warned companies it will be “watching carefully” and seeking to ensure the code is “effective in providing safeguards” against disinformation.

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Reset Australia, a group that describes its work as countering digital threats to democracy, criticized DIGI’s proposed code of practice, describing it as “laughable.”

“This limp, toothless, opt-in code of practice is both pointless and shameless. It does nothing but reinforce the arrogance of giants like Facebook,” Reset Australia’s executive director, Chris Cooper, said in response to DIGI’s suggestion.

Politicians in Australia have been in a standoff with tech giants in recent weeks, with the government looking to force social media companies to pay news organization’s for journalistic content on their platforms. While Google responded by reaching an agreement with the country’s main news outlets, Facebook reacted by banning Australian news from its platform.

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