The ACMA Wants Big Tech to do Better on AI-Generated Disinformation

The ACMA Wants Big Tech to do Better on AI-Generated Disinformation

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released its latest report on disinformation, its second report to the federal government under the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation.

Back in March 2022, the Australian government decided that big tech companies weren’t doing a good enough job at tackling disinformation, based on a report that the ACMA made public in June the year prior. Since then, big tech giants like Apple and Google have voluntarily signed up to the ACMA’s Digital Industry Group’s (DIGI) voluntary code of practice, committing to safeguards to protect against online disinformation and misinformation, including publishing and implementing policies on their approach, and providing a way for their users to report content that may violate those policies.

And now, the ACMA has released its second report to the federal government on the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation.

“The report builds on the ACMA’s continued oversight over the voluntary code, including our position paper guiding code development, the June 2021 report to government, and the submission to DIGI’s 2022 code review. The June 2021 report included a recommendation that the ACMA continue to oversee the operation of the code and provide a further report on its effectiveness at the end of 2022–23, as well as continuing relevant research. This 2023 report delivers on that recommendation,” the ACMA wrote.

Key findings of the report note that revised versions of the code have addressed some ‘pressing issues’: a better definition of harm that captures effects overtime, changed reporting requirements that could make it easier for smaller platforms to sign up, and a new outcome for platforms to provide transparency about recommender systems are among these issues.

However, the ACMA has also raised the alarm on generative AI.

“There is an increased risk of generative AI being used to produce and disseminate disinformation and misinformation at scale. Large language models, such as Chat GPT, can be used to mimic authoritative sources and have the potential to impact democratic and political processes due to their possible ability to spread large-scale false information or propaganda; Image generators, such as DALLE, can create fake pictures that also assist narratives of disinformation and misinformation,” the ACMA wrote.

“Given the rapid growth and adoption of generative AI technologies across a range of digital platform services, we strongly recommend DIGI and signatories consider whether the current code adequately addresses the scope of this technology and its impacts. More broadly, consideration should be given to the approach to emerging and fast-moving issues and whether additional processes need to be developed to address rapidly emerging issues outside the code’s formal review process.”

The way in which signatories report to the ACMA must also improve, so that the organisation can assess progress on the part of the platform, and how well the platform is complying with the code’s objectives and outcomes.

Finally, the ACMA wants platforms to improve their levels of transparency, to ensure that they are adequately upholding measures outlined in the voluntary code.

“It is clear from the research that Australian users of digital platforms are willing to complain about the harmful content they are exposed to on digital platforms but are then generally dissatisfied with the responses they receive from platforms,” the ACMA added.

“While consideration of the legislation takes place, the ACMA will continue to oversee the code and work with digital platforms to improve the current self-regulatory arrangements.”

A Bill that would give the ACMA the power to combat misinformation and disinformation online is still being drafted.

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