Facebook-Backed Group Launches Disinformation Arbitration Panel in Australia

The Facebook, Google and Twitter logos can be seen in this combined photo from Reuters files. REUTERS

SYDNEY, Oct. 11 (Reuters) – A tech body backed by Australian units of Facebook, Google and Twitter announced on Monday that it had established a special committee to adjudicate on disinformation complaints, a day after the government threatened to toughen it up laws against forgery and defamation. online messages.

The issue of damaging social media posts has emerged as a second battle front between Big Tech and Australia, which passed a law last year requiring platforms to pay license fees for content, triggering an outage. Facebook temporary in February.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week called social media a ‘palace of cowards’, while the government said on Sunday it was considering measures to make social media companies more accountable, including imposing legal liability to platforms for the content published there.

The Digital Industry Group Inc (DIGI), which represents the Australian units of Facebook Inc (FB.O), Alphabet (GOOGL.O) Google and Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), said its new oversight subcommittee of disinformation showed the industry was willing to self-regulate against harmful messages.

The tech giants had already adopted a code of conduct against disinformation, “and we wanted to strengthen it further with independent expert oversight and public accountability,” DIGI chief executive Sunita Bose said in a statement. .

A three-person “independent complaints subcommittee” would seek to resolve complaints about possible violations of the code of conduct through a public website, DIGI said, but would not take complaints about individual posts.

The industry code of conduct includes things like taking action against disinformation affecting public health, which would include the novel coronavirus.

DIGI, which also has Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and TikTok as signatories, said it could issue a public statement if a company is found to have violated the code of conduct or revoke its signatory status with the group.

Australia’s Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, who has been among leading lawmakers pledging tougher measures against platforms hosting deceptive and defamatory content, welcomed the measure, while consumer groups argued that it did not did not go far enough.

“I am pleased that DIGI is announcing an important development to strengthen how the code will protect Australians from disinformation and disinformation,” Fletcher said in a statement.

But Reset Australia, an advocacy group focused on the influence of technology on democracy, said the monitoring panel was “laughable” because it involved no penalties and the code of conduct was optional.

“DIGI’s code is nothing more than a publicity stunt given the negative public relations that have surrounded Facebook in recent weeks,” Reset Australia director of technology policy Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran said in a statement. , urging regulation for the industry.

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network CEO Andrew Williams said the move was “a step in the right direction,” but too limited, as only people with a Google account can file complaints about the new one. website.

“It is important that all the information that consumers need to know about the DIGI Complaints Portal is easy to find and accessible to everyone,” he said.

Reporting by Byron Kaye; edited by Richard Pullin

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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