Human rights and civil liberties groups have expressed serious doubts about Labor’s move to quash misinformation, claiming its proposed law threatens free speech and democratic rights. Source: Sydney Morning Herald.
The rights groups join a growing coalition of voices criticising the Albanese Government’s bid to give the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) powers to penalise groups like Meta if they fail to remove misinformation and disinformation.
NSW and Queensland’s peak civil liberties bodies have both revealed their opposition to sections of Labor’s draft bill, arguing it gives the government body too much power to police speech.
The Australian Human Rights Commission last week also sounded the alarm about the draft laws.
The proposal in the bill to clamp down on people whose commentary may disrupt public order or cause economic harm could have a “chilling effect on the right to protest, stifling debate and freedoms of assembly,” according to NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Josh Pallas.
Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president Michael Cope said the proposal was about the creation of “a body run by politicians … to be put in charge of deciding what statements made about politics and society are true or false”.
In its submission, the Australian Human Rights Commission acknowledged the harms caused by online mis- and disinformation, the former being unintentionally misleading information and the latter being known falsehoods.
“This necessarily requires a balance between censoring harmful untruths without unduly curtailing the human right to freedom of expression,” it said.
“The commission holds serious reservations about the current version of the exposure draft bill’s ability to strike the correct balance.”
In a statement on Friday, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the proposal “aims to strike the right balance between protection from harmful mis- and disinformation online and freedom of speech”.
Labor misinformation law ‘a dangerous proposition for society’ (By Paul Sakkal, Sydney Morning Herald)