Australia examines foreign social media interference

Sydney, Australia, Jul 11 (EFE).- An Australian parliamentary commission was examining foreign interference in social media Tuesday through public hearings, in which the directors of Meta, Twitter, TikTok and Google were to appear, though Chinese platform Wechat refused to participate.

Commission chairman James Paterson said during a session, broadcast on the Canberra Legislature channel, that the group would deliver a report to parliament on Aug. 1 with “recommendations to ensure the integrity and transparency of all media platforms organizations operating in Australia and protect the freedoms of Australians online.”

The commission to investigate possible foreign interference in social media was created in November 2022 due to growing concerns about the use of new technological tactics, such as artificial intelligence, in the context of increasing geopolitical tensions.

About Wechat’s refusal to participate in the proceedings, Paterson said it could be interpreted as “contempt,” although adding that authorities in his country cannot force the managers to appear because they do not have representatives in Australia.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, the commission will hear from directors and representatives of the main social networks, as well as various officials and representatives of Australian official bodies.

The group planned to hear Tuesday the senior representatives of Twitter, TikTok and Google, and to continue Wednesday with public hearings of officials from the interior office, prosecutor’s office and the electronic security commission, among others.

Josh Machin, Public Policies director of Meta – which owns Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp – said the company has the “aspiration” to apply labels to state media and a fact-checking system in its new social network Threads.

He did not specify when these functions would be available on the new platform, seen as a rival to Twitter and which already has some 100 million users since it was created almost a week ago.

“Labels for state media and fact-checking are areas where we see a lot of value and our aspiration is to develop them rapidly,” Machin said.

“In the event that any state-affiliated media outlet violates our policies, we will remove it,” Machin added, addressing Paterson’s question about media labels such as China’s state news agency Xinhua or Russian public network RT.

The commission is also expected to hear Tuesday from three representatives in Australia of Chinese app TikTok, banned in April on government mobile phones and devices for cybersecurity reasons due to fear of possible “foreign interference.”

The move followed in the footsteps of other countries that have imposed restrictions on the use of TikTok, such as the United States, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the European Union, fearing Chinese authorities could violate the right to privacy through the data collected in this application. EFE


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