This research report has been prepared to provide an analysis of the Exposure Draft of the Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023.
The analysis finds:
- The meaning of misinformation in the Bill is so broad and subjective that it would be impossible for a person to know how the rules would be enforced over time. It would be open to regulators to pick and choose which perspectives qualify as meeting the definition of misinformation, and truth would not be a defence.
- The Bill would also give ACMA extraordinary new powers to directly interpret and apply the meaning of misinformation, and enforce on big tech companies an obligation to adopt measures to prevent misinformation. In effect, the big tech companies would become the censorship enforcement arm of
the federal government.
- Under the Bill, the meaning of misinformation would not apply to government authorised content, but would apply to critics of the government. Also protected are professional media entities and academia, which are collectively the most powerful potential conveyers of false information in society.
- The structure of the Bill and the potential penalties would incentivise big tech companies to over-comply with their obligations to censor. ACMA, who is imposing the obligation, would not be accountable to Australians who have no right of appeal or review if their communications are wrongly censored.