Craig Kelly uses loophole to spread misinformation on Facebook, YouTube


MP Craig Kelly is using a loophole in industry rules to spread misinformation about COVID-19 on Facebook and YouTube, a parliamentary hearing has heard.

In separate appearances at a social media and online safety inquiry in Canberra on Thursday, Facebook and Google (YouTube) were asked about their dealings with Mr Kelly and the United Australia Party.

Mr Kelly used the UAP’s social media profiles after his personal Facebook page was taken down last year for promoting alternative treatments for COVID-19 and other misinformation.

The UAP’s Facebook page hosted one such video last week, while YouTube continues to host a video showcasing what regulators called “seriously misleading” disinformation, which has 1.3 million views.

A voluntary industry code designed to govern how tech giants handle disinformation allows for this because it creates an exception for registered political parties like UAP, the media regulator has confirmed.

UAP even paid YouTube for distribute its content through ads, although most of these videos have since been removed by YouTube.

In a day of tense hearings, Labor MP Tim Watts asked Google whether a ‘serious failure in their systems’ allowed UAP to spend up to $100,000 on YouTube ads showcasing the data misleading about Mr. Kelly’s vaccines last year.

“Their YouTube page is littered with videos spreading misinformation about COVID-19, undermining public health efforts during a pandemic,” Watts said.

Google’s Lucinda Longcroft said that YouTube is “doing everything in its power to prevent it [Mr Kelly] and anyone else” from spreading misinformation about the pandemic on its platform.

Ms Longcroft said YouTube was investing in artificial intelligence to detect misinformation on its platform and alert moderators to take action.

But Mr. Watts noted that Mr. Kelly had repeatedly spread misinformation.

“You don’t have to invest in artificial intelligence to figure out that Craig Kelly and the United Australia Party are sharing misinformation about COVID-19,” Watts said.

Craig Kelly uses a flaw in the code

In subsequent hearings, the Australian Communications and Media Authority confirmed that a voluntary industry code governing how technology platforms deal with disinformation in Australia does not cover UAP or, by extension , Mr. Kelly, because it is a registered political party.

The misinformation code, created by a tech lobbyist, was released last year but has not been registered with the regulator.

“YouTube and Facebook have enabled [Mr Kelly] in Phoenix from a personal account in the member’s name to a political party account,” Watts said.

“But there is nothing in the code that could address these issues… any political content is excluded, is it?”

“You’re right,” ACMA chief executive Cathy Rainsford said.

“Content authorized by a registered political party falls outside the scope of what is defined in the voluntary code.”

Defenders from digital rights group Reset Australia criticized the code when appearing ahead of hearings on Thursday, saying it did not hold tech giants responsible for hosting false information.

“The voluntary code is opt-in with transparency reports that don’t have clear metrics,” Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran, director of technical policy at Reset Australia, said during the hearing.

“There are no clear compliance mechanisms or penalties in place.”

The Social Media and Online Safety Survey examines whether stronger regulations are needed to govern how social media platforms moderate content, including misinformation and disinformation.

The hearings will resume on Friday, with the appearance of the technology platform Twitter.

Comments are closed.