National News

MPs examine social media election ads

Politicians are on the hunt for advertisements and fake news circulating on Facebook and other social media during elections.

The parliamentary committee that reviews the conduct of each election campaign is going to scrutinise political advertising and the blurred lines between what is and isn't advertising online.

"Facebook is not just for people sharing photos of their grandkids or silly cats, it has become the electronic town hall for how people can share their views," committee chair James McGrath told AAP.

"One of the concerns that has been raised by constituents is what happens in that space."

While there is an advertising blackout for radio and television stations in the 48 hours before polling day, no such restriction applies online.

Senator McGrath is also concerned about what he sees as a grey area surrounding material that is akin to advertising but is shared by individuals, and can spread quickly whether true or not.

"Is a story that is spread on Facebook any different to someone having a gossip down at the fish and chip shop?" he asks.

He thinks not, but there is a permanent record of the online speech, unlike the local shop gossip.

The Liberal senator wants people to submit examples of activity they saw on social media during the May election campaign that they thought led to the spread of disinformation or came from ambiguous sources.

He's also keen to hear ideas for how to govern or regulate the space.

Labor has been concerned about a campaign spread widely on Facebook during the election claiming falsely that it intended to introduce death taxes.

It asked Facebook within the first 10 days to the campaign to take action but little was done, despite Facebook itself finding the material was false.

Submissions to the committee are open until Friday, September 20.

© AAP 2019