Public Supports Tighter Social Media Controls over Elections

The Australian public support tighter regulation of political advertising on social media platforms, from truth in advertising, limits to micro-targeting, to bans on political advertising on social media altogether.

The findings, based on public polling conducted by Essential Research in November found:

  • 73 per cent support requiring social media platforms to ensure political ads are factual
  • 70 per cent require social media platforms to confirm organisations advertising politically are registered locally
  • 66 per cent support preventing platforms from ‘micro-targeting’
  • While 60 per cent support a back on social media altogether.

The figures were released as part of a report "Distorting the Public Square" by The Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology associate fellow, Jordan Guiao.

The report, released today, reviews the impact of social media on the 2019 federal election and finds:

  • Disparate regulatory regimes for different advertising platforms create an imbalance between traditional and social media.
  • The absence of blackouts increased then influence of social media in the final days of the campaign
  • The use of micro-targeting amplified fringe views and discriminated against vulnerable groups
  • And misinformation on social media was rife.

The report finds the current regulation over social media during elections is grossly inadequate: The current regulatory and governance frameworks have little impact on the way social media platforms regulate their users’ content.

Centre for Responsible technology director Peter Lewis said the report, backed by public research, suggests the time has come to regulate social media during elections.

“This report shows that election regulations have not kept pace with technological change and the big social media platforms are currently operating as a law unto themselves,” said Mr Lewis.

“The experience across western democracy is that the way these online platforms are operating is driving division, amplifying discord and abrogating any responsibility to ensure political advertisements are true.

“While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asserts the freedom to spread political lies online, our research shows his Australian users expect better.

“If Facebook is not prepared to take greater responsibly for the way its platforms influence elections, then it should follow Twitter and get out of political advertising altogether.”

Read the full report.

Media Enquiries: Anna Chang 0422 775 161 or Peter Lewis 0413 873 285