Data as a key digital asset

Australia: Content Moderation - Misinformation/Disinformation

Latest Developments 

In Australia, content moderation issues typically arise out of defamatory, illegal, age-inappropriate, misleading or harmful (for example cyberbullying) content. Updates on the regulation of each are set out below.

In its Digital Platforms Report, the ACCC recommended that a mandatory code of conduct for the digital platform industry be implemented to govern the handling of complaints about disinformation. In February 2021 , the non-profit, Digital Industry Group Inc. (DIGI), released a voluntary Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation (the DM Code), which outlines how the major digital platforms who have signed up to the DM Code will address concerns regarding disinformation and credibility signalling for news content. In December 2022, the DM Code was revised following a public consultation process. One of the key changes that came from this review included the amendment of the definition of the term ‘harm’ to include harm caused by mis and disinformation, and the removal of the word ‘imminent’ to account for chronic harms.

In March 2022, the federal government under previous Prime Minister Scott Morrison (Morrison Government) announced it would introduce new legislation to combat harmful misinformation and disinformation online. The legislation would give the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) further powers to hold big tech companies accountable for harmful content on their platforms. The Morrison Government also released a report prepared by the ACMA in June 2021 regarding existing disinformation and misinformation regulation.

On 25 June 2023, the Albanese Government released the draft Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023 (the draft Bill) for public consultation. The purpose of the draft Bill is to provide greater transparency of the actions taken by digital platforms to manage seriously harmful mis and disinformation on their services and to provide ACMA with powers to combat mis and disinformation. The Albanese Government intends to introduce the legislation in Parliament later this year.


The core objective of the DM Code is to provide appropriate safeguards to prevent harms that may be caused by disinformation and misinformation.

Signatories have agreed to:

  • Develop and implement measures which aim to reduce the propagation of, and potential exposure of users of digital platforms to, disinformation and misinformation; and
  • Provide an annual report to DIGI regarding their progress towards achieving the outcomes contained in the DM Code (which DIGI will publish publicly).

Signatories may (the DM Code provides that digital platforms can opt-out) also agree to:

  • Implement and publish policies, procedures and any appropriate guidelines or information:
    • Relating to the prohibition and/or management of user behaviours and/or content that may propagate disinformation and/or misinformation via their services or products;
    • That will enable users to report the types of behaviours and content that violates such policies; and
    • That aim to disrupt advertising and/or monetisation incentives for disinformation;
  • Take measures that prohibit or manage the types of user behaviours that are designed to undermine the integrity and security of their services and products;
  • Implement measures to enable users to make informed choices about digital content and to access alternative sources of information;
  • Develop and implement policies that provide users with greater transparency about the source of political advertising carried on digital platforms; and
  • Support and encourage good faith independent efforts to research disinformation and misinformation both online and offline.

The DM Code provides that signatories are not required to (although they may elect to) signal the veracity of content uploaded and shared by their users nor take measures that require them to delete or prevent access to otherwise lawful content solely on the basis that it is or may be misleading or deceptive or false.

  • It could be strengthened through an opt-out rather than an opt-in model, as signatories should only be allowed to opt out of outcomes where that outcome is not relevant to their services and should also be required to provide justification for that decision.
  • Private messaging services should be included within the scope of the DM Code, with appropriate caveats to protect user privacy, given that private messaging apps are increasingly being used to spread misinformation due to their less restrictive content moderation policies.
  • The DM Code does not oblige individual signatories to have robust internal complaints processes.

The proposed legislation is likely to comprise the following:

  • Empowering the ACMA with new information- gathering powers (including powers to make record keeping rules) to incentivise greater platform transparency and improve access to Australian- specific data on the effectiveness of measures to address disinformation and misinformation;
  • Empowering the ACMA with reserve powers to register and enforce industry codes or make industry standards, and;
  • The establishment of a Misinformation and Disinformation Act Group, which includes participates from the public and private sector and is designed to collaborate and share information on emerging issues and best practice responses to disinformation and misinformation.

How could it be relevant for you?

Digital platforms should be aware that they could be subject to further regulation on online disinformation and misinformation.

Next steps

The Federal Government intends to introduce legislation in Parliament later this year. In the meantime, digital platform providers should also be aware of the DM Code and consider whether to sign up to it.

*Information is accurate up to 27 November 2023


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