Victorian lawyers say no to bill

August 7, 2023

The Victorian Bar has written to the Law Council of Australia expressing its objections to new legislation drafted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

As mentioned last week, the ‘Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023’ would require digital platform operators to stop disseminating information that the government does not approve, effectively curtailing Australians’ freedom of speech.

‘[T]he Bill’s interference with the self-fulfilment of free expression will occur primarily by the chilling self-censorship it will inevitably bring about in the individual users of the relevant services,’ the Bar submission says.

It also points out that ACMA is not necessarily qualified to judge what is ‘misinformation’ and what is not. ‘[I]t is not clear what justifies the statutory presupposition that ACMA will have the expertise and intellectual resources to identify and distinguish ‘misinformation’ from other forms of online content.’

The Bar submission further suggests that the bill will not necessarily stop misinformation – just relabel it. ‘[T]he Bar is concerned that the Bill creates an unlevel playing field between governments and other speakers. Any view authorised by the government is, by statutory definition, not ‘misinformation’, however false or misleading it might be.’

Additionally, the Bar submission says that ‘the statutory definition of ‘misinformation’ is over-broad and unworkable.’

ACMA is accepting public comment about the Bill and the deadline for submissions has been extended until 20 August 2023.

You can see:

  • last week’s blog about the bill here

  • the Victorian Bar’s submission on the bill here

  • a podcast interview on the bill with lawyer Chris Baxter here

Comments on the bill can be sent:

What else can you do?

  • forward this email to others to inform them, too

  • book a phone consultation to find answers to your questions here