Some of the biggest social media sites, like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, WeChat and TikTok, could be forced to give information to the government about messages and how many people have seen them. This would help the government decide whether or not to strengthen the laws on spreading false information.
Social media companies use this type of information to target ads, which has helped them become one of the most valuable companies in the world. However, they are careful to keep this information safe.
Michelle Rowland’s remarks on media misinformation
Image credits: SMH.Com.AU | OSCAR COLMAN
Michelle Rowland, Australian Communications Minister, admits she has no idea what the data will show, but fears media regulators won’t be able to adequately address the problem of misinformation if they can’t see it.
Even though there is an industry code of conduct which is supposed to show how the industry is working to stop spreading false information, the Australian Communications and Media Authority does not have the power to demand the data. In a wide-ranging interview, Rowland explained how she plans to manage the tech platforms that take up nearly two hours of Australians’ time daily, according to industry estimates.
“However, I also think it’s such an important topic that regulators need to be able to get information to share with governments.”
Must Read: Lower Facebook Ad Rates Lead to Lower Revenue for META
Partial information and transparency reports from the social media giant
Misinformation spread through social media campaigns has been accused of influencing elections, for example when Donald Trump won in 2016. However, this label is often the subject of fierce disagreement when applied to specific positions.
Typically, platforms only reveal a subset of information in their transparency reports, such as the number of posts removed for spreading false COVID-19 claims, but not the claims themselves, the number of messages that remained online or the identity of those who disseminated them.
A new Labor government was elected just four weeks ago, and Rowland is making it clear that he is keeping an open mind about the data and how he will respond to it. They disagree with the previous government’s plans to make industry codes potentially enforceable. She also refuses to reveal whether or not the media authority plans to release the information it collects.
Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp’s parent company Meta came under fire late last year after a whistleblower leaked internal research suggesting the use of these platforms was negatively impacting the adolescent mental health. He refuted critical descriptions of the study and eventually made some of the findings public.
Rowland: “We just found out that Instagram is researching body image issues and how it affects teens.” It’s okay with me.
Rowland argues that some of the industry’s criticism could be mitigated if companies were more open to sharing data publicly. On the contrary, it cautiously approaches the prospect of accessing the algorithms that control online content. I don’t think any government has figured this out yet, Rowland said.
Some of the biggest social media sites could be forced to give the government information about the posts and the number of people who see them. This would help the government decide whether or not to toughen the laws on spread false information. The Australian Communications and Media Authority does not have the power to compel the data. A new Labor-led government is keeping an open mind on how it will respond to the industry’s COVID-19 code of conduct.