Regulating News and Disinformation on Digital Platforms Self-Regulation or Prevarication?

Main Article Content

Derek Wilding

Keywords

Digital platforms, communications, media, co-regulation, self-regulation

Abstract

In February 2021 two initiatives for regulating digital platforms in Australia were implemented. The News Media Bargaining Code (“News Code”) attracted international attention as a legislative means of forcing platforms to pay for news content, while the Australian Voluntary Disinformation and Misinformation Code (“Disinformation Code”) was modelled on an international initiative. Both were developed to meet Government policy formulated in response to Australia’s Digital Platforms Inquiry. Whereas the Inquiry recommended the use of co-regulation, Government policy switched to voluntary codes for both, then to a legislative scheme for the News Code. This article examines the schemes and critiques the policy on which they are based. It applies a conceptual framework to assess the optimum conditions for the use of co-regulation and self-regulation. It finds that a self-regulatory scheme of voluntary codes was never a suitable approach for the News Code, and that the close involvement of the regulator on the Disinformation Code — without a suitable remit or enforcement powers — distorts the self-regulatory model. This can in part be explained by the failure to address well-recognised flaws in the co-regulatory framework for telecommunications and broadcasting, the consequences of which are now being seen in attempts to regulate digital platforms.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.
Abstract 94 | 415-PDF-v9n2pp11-46 Downloads 11

References

Abbott, K., & Snidal, D. (2009). The governance triangle: Regulatory standards institutions and the shadow of the state. In W. Mattli & N. Woods (Eds.). The politics of global regulation (pp. 44–88). Princeton University Press.
Attorney-General’s Department. (2020). Privacy Act review: Issues paper. https://www.ag.gov.au/integrity/publications/review-privacy-act-1988-cth-issues-paper
Attorneys-General (Defamation Working Party). (2021). Review of Model Defamation Provisions – Stage 2: Discussion paper. https://www.justice.nsw.gov.au/justicepolicy/Pages/lpclrd/lpclrd_consultation/review-model-defamation-provisions.aspx
Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). (2020). Misinformation and news quality on digital platforms in Australia: A position paper to guide code development. https://www.acma.gov.au/australian-voluntary-codes-practice-online-disinformation
Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). (2015). Optimal conditions for effective self- and co-regulatory arrangements: Occasional paper. https://www.acma.gov.au/publications/2015-06/report/optimal-conditions-effective-self-and-co-regulatory-arrangements-2015-edition
Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). (2011). Optimal conditions for effective self- and co-regulatory arrangements. Occasional paper. https://www.acma.gov.au/publications/2015-06/report/optimal-conditions-effective-self-and-co-regulatory-arrangements-2015-edition
Australian Communications and Media Authority Act 2005 (Cth)
Australian Communications Consumers Action Network (ACCAN). (2020). Submission to Digital Industry Group Inc: Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation. https://digi.org.au/submissions/
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). (202o). Mandatory News Media Bargaining Code: Concepts paper. https://www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/digital-platforms/news-media-bargaining-code/concepts-paper
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). (2019). Digital Platforms Inquiry: Final report. https://www.accc.gov.au/publications/digital-platforms-inquiry-final-report
Australian Government. (2020). Australian Government guide to regulatory impact analysis. (2nd ed.). https://pmc.gov.au/resource-centre/regulation/australian-government-guide-regulatory-impact-analysis
Australian Government. (2019). Regulating in the digital age: Government response and implementation roadmap for the Digital Platforms Inquiry. https://treasury.gov.au/publication/p2019-41708
Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC). (2012). Classification—content regulation and convergent media: Final report. (ALRC report 118). https://www.alrc.gov.au/publication/classification-content-regulation-and-convergent-media-alrc-report-118/
Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (AMAN). (2020). Policy submission to DIGI on the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation. https://digi.org.au/submissions/
Ayres, I., & Braithwaite, J. (1992). Responsive regulation: Transcending the deregulation debate. Oxford University Press
Bartle, I., & Vass, P. (2005). Self-regulation and the regulatory state: A survey of policy and practice. (Centre for the Study of Regulated Industries research report 17). https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.553.3190&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth)
Caffarra, C., & Crawford, G. (2020, September 25). The ACCC’s News Media Bargaining Code: Experimenting with “decentralized regulation” of dominant digital platforms. ProMarket. https://promarket.org/2020/09/25/the-acccs-news-media-bargaining-code-experimenting-with-decentralized-regulation-of-dominant-digital-platforms/
Centre for Responsible Technology. (2020). Ensuring a strong and meaningful code on disinformation: Submission to the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation. https://digi.org.au/submissions/
Coglianese, C., & Mendelson, E. (2010). Meta-regulation and self-regulation. In R. Baldwin, M. Cave, & M. Lodge (Eds.). The Oxford handbook of regulation (pp. 146-168). Oxford University Press.
Communications Alliance. (2019). Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code. Industry Code C628:2019. https://www.commsalliance.com.au/Documents/all/codes/c628
Communications Decency Act of 1996 47 USC §§ 230
Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth)
Council of Australian Governments. (2007). Best practice regulation: A guide for ministerial councils and national standard setting bodies. https://pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/publications/COAG_best_practice_guide_2007.pdf
Department of Communications (DOC). (2014). Regulating harms in the Australian communications sector: Observations on current arrangements. (Policy background paper no. 2). https://www.communications.gov.au/publications/regulating-harms-australian-communications-sector-policy-background-paper-no2
Department of Communications and the Arts (DOCA). (2020). Review of Australian classification regulation. https://www.communications.gov.au/have-your-say/review-australian-classification-regulation
Department of Communications and the Arts (DOCA). (2019). Online safety legislation reform: Discussion paper. https://www.communications.gov.au/have-your-say/consultation-online-safety-reforms
Department of Communications and the Arts (DOCA). (2016, October). Review of the Australian Communications and Media Authority: Final report. https://www.communications.gov.au/documents/review-australian-communications-and-media-authority-final-report
Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (DITRDC). (2020). Consumer Safeguards Review—part C—choice?and fairness: Consultation paper. https://www.communications.gov.au/have-your-say/consumer-safeguards-review-consultation-part-c-choice-and-fairness
Digital Industry Group Inc. (DIGI). (2021). Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation 2021. Available at https://digi.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Australian-Code-of-Practice-on-Disinformation-and-Misinformation-FINAL-PDF-Feb-22-2021.pdf
Digital Industry Group Inc. (2020, May). Disinformation Code. https://digi.org.au/disinformation-code/
Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (e-Commerce Directive) (entered into force 8 June 2000)
European Commission. (2018). EU Code of Practice on Disinformation
European Commission. (2020). Commission staff working document: Assessment of the code of practice on disinformation - achievements and areas for further improvement. https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/assessment-code-practice-disinformation-achievements-and-areas-further-improvement
European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA). (2019). ERGA report on disinformation: Assessment of the implementation of the Code of Practice. https://erga-online.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/ERGA-2019-report-published-2020-LQ.pdf
Explanatory Materials to the Exposure Draft Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020. https://www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/digital-platforms/news-media-bargaining-code/draft-legislation
Exposure Draft Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020 (Cth). https://www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/digital-platforms/news-media-bargaining-code/draft-legislation
Facebook. (2020a). Facebook response to the Australian Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020. https://www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/digital-platforms/news-media-bargaining-code/submissions-to-exposure-draft
Facebook. (2020b). Response to the Australian Mandatory News Media Bargaining Code concepts paper. https://www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/digital-platforms/news-media-bargaining-code/submissions-to-concepts-paper
Feick, J., & Werle, R. (2010). Regulation of cyberspace. In R. Baldwin, M. Cave, & M. Lodge (Eds.). The Oxford handbook of regulation (pp. 523-547). Oxford University Press.
Flew, T. (2019). The platformized Internet: Issues for Internet law and policy. Journal of Internet Law, 22(11), 3-16.
Flew, T. & Wilding, D. (2021). The turn to regulation in digital communication: the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry and Australian media policy. Media, Culture & Society, 43(1), 48-65. https://doi.org/10.1177/F0163443720926044
Flew, T., Gillet, R., Martin, M., & Sunman, L. (2021). Return of the regulatory state: A stakeholder analysis of Australia’s Digital Platforms Inquiry and online news policy. The Information Society, 37(2), 128-145. https://doi.org/10.1080/01972243.2020.1870597
Free TV Australia. (2015). Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice. https://www.freetv.com.au/resources/code-of-practice/
Freiberg, A. (2017). Regulation in Australia. The Federation Press.
Frydenberg, J. (2020). Here’s news: We’ll hold digital giants to account. The Australian, 20 April 2020, p. 10.
Gillespie, T. (2018). Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, content moderation, and the hidden decisions that shape social media. Harvard University Press.
Google. (2020a). Draft News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code: Submissions in response. https://www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/digital-platforms/news-media-bargaining-code/submissions-to-exposure-draft
Google. (2020b). Mandatory News Media Bargaining Code: Response to the ACCC’s concepts paper. https://www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/digital-platforms/news-media-bargaining-code/submissions-to-concepts-paper
Gorwa, R. (2019). The platform governance triangle: Conceptualising the informal regulation of online content. Internet Policy Review, 8(2), 1-22.
Gunningham, N., & Reese, J. (1997). Industry self-regulation: An institutional perspective. Law and Policy, 19(4), 363-414.
Helberger, N., Pierson, J. & Poll, T. (2018). Governing online platforms: From contested to cooperative responsibility. The Information Society, 34(1), 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1080/01972243.2017.1391913
Law Society of New South Wales Young Lawyers, The. (2020). Submission on the Digital Industry Group Inc’s Draft Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation. https://digi.org.au/submissions/
Lee, K. (2018). The legitimacy and responsiveness of industry rule-making. Hart Publishing.
Lee, K., & Wilding, D. (2021). The case for reviewing broadcasting co-regulation. Media International Australia. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1329878X211005524
Leonard, P. (2021, March 12). The battles between Google, Facebook, and news media proprietors over fair value exchange for news content. Competition Policy International. https://www.competitionpolicyinternational.com/the-battles-between-google-facebook-and-news-media-proprietors-over-fair-value-exchange-for-news-content/
Lindsay, D. (in press). Australia and EU policy responses to algorithmic news distribution: A comparative analysis. In J. Meese and S. Bannerman (Eds). The algorithmic distribution of news. Palgrave Macmillan.
Online Safety Bill 2020 (Cth)
Oster, J. (2016). European and international media law. Cambridge University Press.
Pamment, J. (2020). EU Code of Practice on Disinformation: Briefing note for the new European Commission. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. https://carnegieendowment.org/2020/03/03/eu-code-of-practice-on-disinformation-briefing-note-for-new-european-commission-pub-81187
Pash, C. (2021, May 6). How much are Google and Facebook paying for news in Australia? AdNews. https://www.adnews.com.au/news/exclusive-how-much-are-google-and-facebook-paying-for-news-in-australia
Picard, R. (2020). Media and communications policy making: Processes, dynamics and international variations. Palgrave Macmillan.
Plasilova, I., Hill, J., Carlberg, M., Goubet, M., & Procee, R. (2020). Study for the “Assessment of the implementation of the Code of Practice on Disinformation”: Final report. European Commission. https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/study-assessment-implementation-code-practice-disinformation
Reset Australia. (2020). Submission on the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation. https://digi.org.au/submissions/
Riordan, J. (2016). The liability of Internet intermediaries. Oxford University Press.
Senate Economics Legislation Committee. (2021). Report on Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020 [Provisions]. https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/TLABNewsMedia
Shultz, W. & Held, T. (2001). Regulated self-regulation as a form of modern government. Verlag Hans Bredow Institut.
Suzor, N. (2019). Lawless: The secret rules that govern our digital lives. Cambridge University Press.
Tambini, D., Leonardi, D., & Marsden, C. (2008). Codifying cyberspace: Communications self-regulation in the age of Internet convergence. Routledge.
Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth)
Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020 (Cth)
Van Dijck, J., Poell, T., & De Wall, M. (2018). The platform society: Public values in a connective world. Oxford University Press.
Wallis, J. (2020). Submission to the UTS Centre for Media Transition’s consultation process on the DIGI Group’s Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation. https://digi.org.au/submissions/