The Australian arm of a self-described “global initiative working to counter digital threats to democracy” has demanded the Federal Government call social media platforms to heel ahead of the federal election. Reset Australia, the Australian affiliate of Reset, says “explosive revelations about Facebook’s decision to relax its election-proofing measures prior to the US Capitol riots demonstrates the consequences of the social media giant’s unchecked power”.
Ahead of the upcoming federal election, Reset Australia says Facebook and other social media platforms need to be compelled to act more transparently, particularly during elections. “No matter how much or how little we use social media, we are all affected by Facebook’s lack of accountability,” said Reset Australia’s tech policy director, Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran. Ms Sooriyakumaran said the group was calling for the government to force platforms to publish an election ‘live list’ of “the most viral misinformation that has the potential to have a serious societal impact”.
“Australian authorities and the Australian public should be able to answer questions like: What kind of content is being amplified by these platforms? Who made it? What kind of demographics are consuming it? To do that we need a live list of the most contentious issues our society is facing, so we can begin to tackle misinformation collectively and transparently.”
Ms Sooriyakumaran said Facebook should also reveal which Australian politicians were currently on Facebook’s “whitelist” – known as XCheck – which exempts millions of high-profile users from moderation and which poses “a significant disadvantage to incumbents”. “Research shows the most divisive content receives the most views and is the most profitable. Facebook, a company with a trillion-dollar market capitalisation, is not concerned with the integrity of our democratic processes because it isn’t required to be by any law or regulation. Timid efforts to self-regulate haven’t worked; Facebook’s contribution to the Capitol riots are evidence of that. Voluntary and opt-in codes, such as the Australian code of conduct on disinformation and misinformation, are insufficient.
“Australia is not immune to the harmful by-products of Big Tech. We know Kosovo troll farms stoked outrage in Australia with xenophobic content, bots swarmed Twitter, and Facebook spotted 2.2 billion fake accounts between January and March 2019. We saw how easily Facebook ‘switched off the news’ during a global pandemic and its failure to remove the bogus death tax claims. Facebook groups promoting COVID-19 misinformation continue to grow.
“Tech giants have created platforms that produce both mega-profits and serious societal problems. If they accept the profits, they must also accept the oversight.”