Facebook support group introduces misinformation judging panel in Australia

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A technology organization backed by the Australian units of Facebook, Google and Twitter set up an industry panel on Monday to deal with complaints related to misinformation, a day when the government threatened stricter laws on false and defamatory online posts.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison labeled social media last week as “a cowardly palace”, while on Sunday said the government was looking at measures to make social media companies more accountable, including forcing legal responsibility for the content published on them.

The issue of damaging online posts has emerged as the second battleground between Big Tech and Australia, which caused a temporary Facebook shutdown in February last year and passed legislation to pay license fees for content sites.

Digital Industry Group Inc. (DIGI), which represents the Australian units of Facebook, Alphabet’s Google and Twitter, said its new misinformation oversight subcommittee was ready to self-regulate against offensive posts.

Technology companies have already agreed to a code of conduct against misinformation, “and we wanted to further strengthen it with the independent oversight of experts and public accountability,” DIGI Managing Director Sunita Bose said in a statement.

The three-member “Independent Complaints Subcommittee” will try to resolve complaints of code misconduct through a public website, the DIGI said, but will not take up complaints about personal positions.

The Code of Conduct for the Industry includes taking action against misinformation affecting public health, including the Corona virus novel.

The DIGI, which represents Apple and Dicto, said it could issue a public statement if a company is found to have breached its code of conduct or revoked its signature status with the board.

Reset Australia, an advocacy group centered on the influence of technology in democracy, said the oversight panel was “ridiculous” because there were no penalties and the code of conduct was optional.

“The DIGI code is no more than the negative PR given stunt around Facebook in recent weeks,” said Dakshini Suriyakumaran, Australia’s Director of Technology Policy, in a statement.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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