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AJP Submission to the Communications Legislation Amendment

The AJP Victoria Submission to the "Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023" is now available here is now available here. 

In January 2023, the Minister for Communications announced that the Australian Government will introduce new laws to provide the independent regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), with powers to combat  online misinformation and disinformation.

The Bill aims to "incentivise digital platform providers to have robust systems and measures in place to address misinformation and disinformation on their services, rather than the ACMA directly regulating individual pieces of content. The Bill does not seek to curtail freedom of speech, nor is it intended that powers will be used to remove individual pieces of content on a platform. The proposed definition of misinformation and disinformation is intended to provide guidance on the types of harms the powers are designed to address. The concept of ‘serious harm’ is intended to ensure that the ACMA’s use of its powers, and the platforms’ systems and processes, are targeted at harms with significant implications for the community." 

The Government provided an opportunity for feedback on the exposure draft (ED) Bill and whether the proposed legislation strikes an appropriate balance of a range of issues such as freedom of expression, the complexity for platforms to operationalise various content exemptions (e.g. professional news and authorised electoral content), the scope of the private message exemption, the size of the civil penalties and any other relevant issues. 

The Animal Justice Party contributed a 12-page submission to this consultation and made 10 recommendations.

Our Submission Conclusion 

In an increasingly digital world, the possibilities for misinformation and disinformation, as well as the potential implications, become more significant. This proposed legislative amendment is aimed at obstructing those who intend to use these platforms to cause harm, usually directed to those more vulnerable. It also creates a greater requirement for social media platforms to take responsibility for the content they publish, holding them to a higher standard.

We wholeheartedly support the principles of freedom of speech, and believe this bill is not aimed at curtailing this, but at protecting us from ‘fake news’.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights from 1966, does apply a specific caveat to freedom of expression:

The exercise of the rights … carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals. 

In light of the disinformation that has been disseminated over the past three years, we should bear in mind that intervention to correct or obstruct future nefarious communication of this nature, falls well within the above caveats and guides the intervention required.


You can download and read our full submission below.

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