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In a bid to stand up for freedom of speech, Australian free-to-air broadcast networks have raised criticisms about a proposed legislation aimed at combating so-called “misinformation.” The targets of controversy are the bill’s nebulous definitions of harm, potential violations of freedom of expression, and the risk of content censorship by social media platforms complying with government-imposed obligations.
The focal point of the dispute is drawn from the quote by Free TV which expressed concerns, similar to the Australian Human Rights Commission and various legal authorities. They pointed out that the suggested definition of “harm” is “harm to the health of Australians” and “disruption of public order,” allowing for room for misunderstanding and misuse, and potentially threatening freedom of expression on governmental and political matters.
This legislation hands over a wide range of new powers to ACMA, which includes the enforcement of an industry-wide “standard” that will obligate digital platforms to remove what they determine as misinformation or disinformation. The punitive response for non-compliance is a harsh fine of up to $6.88 million or up to 5% of the company’s global turnover, whichever is greater.
Meanwhile, Free TV has ardently championed a total dismissal of all free-to-air content from the potential law, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. The opposing side includes The Greens, who may have a substantial influence if the laws pass the Senate. They argue against giving exemption to news content, pointing fingers at News Corp as a potential source of concern.
In response to the criticisms thrown against the proposed legislation, pro-censorship Communications Minister Michelle Rowland, during a press conference, assured that the concerns raised during the consultation process will be thoroughly considered, to “ensure that we get this balance right.”
This exemplifies a challenge for those who value the fundamental right to freedom of speech and uncensored information, facing a battle against the potential misuse of vaguely defined laws, which could risk hampering the expression of views and debates on essential matters related to health, the economy, and the environment.
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Reclaim The Net is a free speech and online privacy organization that defends our individual liberty by pushing back against big tech and media gatekeepers. Much of their work focuses on exposing digital tyrants and promoting free speech and privacy-friendly alternative online services. Visit reclaimthenet.org