Australia Moving to Have Facebook Register as “Foreign Agent”


Facebook may have to register as agent of ‘foreign influence’ in Australia

Social media companies including Facebook and Twitter, as well as their users, may have to register as agents of “foreign influence” on Australian politics, Labor has warned.

Acting shadow attorney general Brendan O’Connor has highlighted the potential unintended consequences of the foreign influence transparency scheme bill as bipartisanship breaks down on the foreign donation ban, another plank of the Coalition’s foreign interference package.

The bill would require people who undertake political, campaigning or lobbying activities “on behalf of foreign principals” to sign up to a public register.

Foreign principals include not only foreign governments but also businesses, political organisations and any individual who is not a resident or citizen of Australia.

Labor is concerned that because “communications activity” is defined as distributing information in any form – including social media – that tweets or Facebook posts about Australian policy issues may trigger a requirement to register.

The bill contains exemptions for carriage service providers, but at a January hearing of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security, witnesses from the Law Council said this did not appear to exempt Facebook, Twitter or Google.

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