Labor urged to include news outlets in social media crackdown to curb ‘dangerous’ misinformation

This story by Paul Karp first appeared in The Guardian on 21st September 2023.

The Albanese government has been urged to remove the “professional news content” exemption from its crackdown on misinformation on social media, amid concerns that news coverage of the voice and Covid has spread false information and lies.

The Greens, independent MPs Zali Steggall and Zoe Daniel and the media law academic Michael Douglas have all questioned the blanket exemption in Labor’s disinformation crackdown.

Government information is also excluded from the crackdown.

Kevin Lynch, a media lawyer and partner at Johnson Winter Slattery, said it would be difficult to police the distinction between “factual assertions” and other material that was typically online “including commentary, claims, beliefs or even delusions”.

He said this could force a “cautious digital service provider” to take down material that fell outside the definition of misinformation.

“This regulation, which has government information as one class of excluded content, is likely to exacerbate distrust, isolation and the anti-establishment preoccupations of the very online combatants who are its targets.”


Daniel, a former ABC journalist, told parliament earlier in September that “excluding government information and online news media content” from the bill’s remit was “questionable”.


“I say: don’t bin the bill; fix the bill.”


Guardian Australia contacted News Corp for comment.

A spokesperson for the communications minister, Michelle Rowland, said the government sought feedback during consultation on whether the bill struck the right balance between “protecting Australians from serious harms online and protecting freedom of expression that is fundamental to democracy”.

“The government … is giving careful consideration to feedback received before the bill is finalised and introduced to parliament later this year.”


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