A quick guide to the Australian “Fake News” Code
Research from an Australia 2020 report found that 48 per cent of Australians rely on online news or social media as their main source of news, but 64 per cent of Australians remain concerned about what is real or fake on the internet.
The Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) has just released a Misinformation position paper in order for the tech platforms to establish a code of conduct to help Australians better judge the bona fides of what they are reading online and provide them with a complaints process.
Such a code is already in place in Europe where it was signed by Facebook, Google, Twitter, Mozilla and several advertising industry groups in October 2018, Microsoft in May 2019, and TikTok just now in June 2020.
The EU Code of Practice on Disinformation is a non-binding, voluntary code that sets out a list of high-level commitments and principles that signatories agree to follow to protect users from disinformation and is a single code applied equally to all signatories.
The EU Code outlines a range of commitments that signatories can choose to meet, including:
- greater scrutiny of ad placements, including disrupting advertising revenues of certain accounts and websites that spread disinformation
- making political and issue-based advertising more transparent
- addressing fake accounts and online bots
- empowering consumers to reporting disinformation and access different news sources, while improving the visibility and findability of authoritative content
- empowering the research community to monitor online disinformation through privacy-compliant access to the platforms’ data.
ACMA considers that an Australian code should cover misinformation across all types of news and information (including advertising and sponsored content) that:
- is of a public or semi-public nature
- is shared or distributed via a digital platform
- has the potential to cause harm to an individual, social group or the broader community.
It is expected a representative body will be established to oversee the administration of the code and that the code will be up and running by December this. Year. ACMA will report to government by June next year on how effective the voluntary code has been but may report sooner if the industry fails to set one up.
But what does the Code mean for advertisers?
Weeding out misinformation benefits both consumers and advertisers, builds trust as it diminishes the possibility of advertising being placed next to brand damaging content. The code is set to empower users of the tech platforms in identifying ‘fake news’ and give them access to a straight-forward complaints process. The code is also intended to make the source of all advertising (including political and issue based) more transparent improving accountability.
An example from Google’s policy response in the EU code highlights what to expect in Australia – the Google ads policy “prohibits the placement of Google ads on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about themselves, their content, or the primary purpose of their web properties; also prevents monetization of content about politics, social issues, or matters of public concern to users in another country if the advertiser misrepresents or conceals its country of origin or other material details.”