Battling to reduce the spread of dis-and misinformation online

In February 2021, the Digital Industry Group Inc. (DIGI) released the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation (Code), in response to concerns among Australians about being able to identify what is dis-and misinformation online.

In December 2019, following the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry, the Australian Government asked the digital industry to develop a code that would address disinformation online.

DIGI is a not-for-profit industry association that advocates for the digital industry in Australia. The Code is voluntary and self-regulatory and has been adopted by Twitter, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Redbubble, and TikTok.

The Digital News Report: Australia 2020, which conducted research and surveys during both Australia’s recent bushfire crisis and lockdown due to the coronavirus, found that 64% of Australians were concerned about misinformation online.1 ‘Misinformation’ is defined in the Code as verifiably false, misleading or deceptive content that is spread by users of digital platforms and is reasonably likely to cause harm.2 ‘Disinformation’ is the same, except it includes an intention to mislead.3

The signatories to the Code have committed to safeguards to protect Australians against harm from online misinformation and disinformation. The Code is outcome based, with signatories being able to implement measures that are suitable for their respective platforms.4 Examples of such measures can include:

  • policies and processes that require review of content and are conducted in partnership with fact-checking organisations;
  • labelling false content or providing “trust indicators”;
  • demoting the ranking of content that includes disinformation or misinformation;
  • suspending or disabling accounts of users who engage in misleading behaviours; and
  • providing users the option to exclude access to certain types of content.

Other objectives of the Code include implementing “policies and processes that aim to disrupt advertising and/or monetisation incentives for Disinformation”, empowering users to be better informed about the source of digital content and improving awareness about the source of political advertising that appears on digital platforms.5

Signatories will release annual transparency reports regarding their efforts to implement commitments under the Code. The first set of reports will be released in May 2021.

The ACMA has the power to recommend to the government the introduction of a mandatory code if the voluntary code is considered to be ineffective.

1 University of Canberra News & Media Research Centre Faculty of Arts & Design, Digital News Report: Australia 2020 (University of Canberra, 2020) 9, 77 <>.
2 Digital Industry Group Inc., Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation (22 February 2021).
3 Above n 2; James Purtill, “Facebook, Google, Twitter Release Industry Code to Fight Spread of Disinformation” ABC News (2021) <>.
4 James Purtill, “Facebook, Google, Twitter Release Industry Code to Fight Spread of Disinformation” ABC News (2021) <>.
5]Above n 2, 12-14.

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