Australia must reform social media to protect democracy and stop disinformation

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Foreign Minister Marise Payne is right to warn against the power disinformation campaigns have to disrupt democracy, but part of the solution lies in disabling the tools bad actor use to erode trust, says Responsible Technology Australia.

"Australia is certainly not immune or unattractive to foreign interference," said Chris Cooper, executive director of RTA.

"From targeted propaganda from social media accounts affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party criticising Australia's involvement in the Five Eyes alliance, to special interest groups hiijacking people's fears about coronavirus to further ferment division - bad actors use social media's powerful tools to agitate Australians.

"But when it comes to opposing these disinformation campaigns, we have our hands tied behind our back. Because we have no idea about the size and shape of this problem.

"What we do know, we only know on an ad hoc basis - there is no systemic understanding of the real quantum of malicious disinformation out there."

RTA is calling on the social media platforms to produce a live list of the most viral content, to finally give the public visibility on what information is circulating in the community.

"Social media algorithms push us all into filter bubbles, which means we have no idea of what disinformation is being targeted at others.

"It is the platforms alone who have the bird's eye view of the targeted disinformation campaigns.

"So we need these platforms to lift the veil and allow Australians to get an idea of who is being targeted with what and why.

"Because regardless of how we use social media, or whether we use it at all – we are all nevertheless affected by the current  lack of accountability.

"Social media regulation should be treated as a necessary global public health measure, and Australia has the proven track record of tackling the world's problems.

"Australia has a track record on introducing significant regulation - from gun control to plain tobacco packaging. We shouldn't underestimate our ability to show the world the way on social media reform."

RTA is an independent advocacy group, pushing for the ethical progression of technology.  

 
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