An Australian industry body that represents technology behemoths such as Facebook, Google, TikTok, and Twitter has expanded its voluntary code of conduct for addressing online misinformation in response to the Australian and U.S. governments' renewed calls for tougher social media regulation last week.
The group, Digital Industry Group Inc, stated that the expansion will include the establishment of a new independent panel to oversee the voluntary code of conduct against misinformation and disinformation.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week described social media as a "coward's palace," while the government announced on Sunday that it was considering measures to make social media corporations more accountable, including requiring platforms to bear legal obligation for the content they publish.
The problem of defamatory online statements has surfaced as a second point of contention between so-called "Big Tech" and Australia, which approved a law last year requiring platforms to pay licensing fees for material, resulting in a Facebook outage last February.
These independent individuals will collaborate with signatories via an administration subcommittee to monitor the different measures done by signatories to comply with the code's requirements, DiGi explained.
Additionally, as part of the modified voluntary code, DiGi will establish a new complaints portal. The new webpage will take complaints from Australian citizens who believe a signatory has failed to adhere to the code's provisions.
In February, DiGi launched the code, which commits signatories to publishing an annual transparency report on their efforts to combat disinformation and misinformation, as well as offering a mechanism for users to report content that contains distortion.
Nerida O'Loughlin, chair of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, said in a statement that the new voluntary code procedures were "a critical step" in reducing online misinformation and deception.
"We will monitor how this works in practice and whether the committee's mandate needs to be expanded," she said.
DIGI, which also represents Apple Inc. and TikTok, said it might issue a public statement or revoke a company's signatory status if it is discovered to have breached the code of conduct.
Meanwhile, Reset Australia, an advocacy group focused on the impact of technology on democracy, branded the monitoring panel as "ridiculous" because there were no consequences and the code of conduct was voluntary.