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Thematic Issue: Big Technology and the Law / General

Disinformation, Deepfakes and Democracies: The Need for Legislative Reform


Andrew Ray

Rapid technological advancement is changing the way that political parties, voters, and media platforms engage with each other. This along with cultural change has led to an emerging era of disinformation and misinformation driven by both domestic and foreign actors. Political deepfakes, videos created through the use of artificial intelligence, allow individuals to rapidly create fake videos indistinguishable from true content. These videos have the capacity to undermine voter trust and could alter electoral outcomes. Regulating disinformation however raises significant free speech concerns, as well as questions about where liability should fall. In particular, holding large technology and media platforms accountable for content could lead to unintended chilling effects around freedom of expression, harming rather than protecting democratic institutions. Proposed regulations should therefore be carefully analysed through the framework of the implied freedom of political communication, ensuring that any new laws are proportionate and tailored to the threat they seek to prevent. This article analyses how current Australian law interacts with political deepfakes and proposes two targeted amendments to our federal electoral regulations to reduce the threat they pose to elections.

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(2021) 44(3) UNSWLJ 983: