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Australia: Protect Data from Foreign Interference

Australia: Protect Data from Foreign Interference

(Sydney, February 28, 2023) – The Australian government should take concrete steps to address disinformation, surveillance, and interference through social media platforms by China and other foreign governments, Human Rights Watch said today in a submission to Australia’s Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party controls all Chinese social media companies, creating the means and opportunity for Chinese government interference that affect not only their users based in China, but around the world, including in Australia. “Social media companies have global reach and their products enable governments to exert influence beyond their borders,” said Sophie McNeill, senior Australia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Australian government should urge companies to assess the human rights implications of their operating models and enhance transparency over their algorithms and content moderation practices.” The Australian government should enact and enforce comprehensive new data protection laws that require tech companies to practice data minimization for all users; conduct human rights impact assessments, and require human rights due diligence for their operations globally, Human Rights Watch said.

The government should also adopt regulations that require transparency from all social media platforms, including disclosure of their content moderation policies and enforcement, such as what content they have censored or suppressed because of their own policies or at the request of governments.

The government should promote independent and professional Chinese-language journalism by investing in journalism training and similar programs, and investing in open-source technologies that provide other channels of communication and enable people in China to more easily circumvent censorship, Human Rights Watch said. .

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