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Bolster news funding to combat information warfare

The Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy & Defence Dialogue 2 mins read

Media release | Tuesday, 30 April 2024

The federal government must bolster support for Australian and Pacific news organisations to combat information warfare, according to the Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy & Defence Dialogue (AP4D).

It warns a failure to boost investment would undermine Australia’s national security and regional relationships amid a rising tide of misinformation and disinformation.

The research paper, What does it look like for Australia to use all the tools of statecraft in the information environment, is urging the government to find new ways of funding public interest journalism following Meta’s decision to stop paying news outlets. 

“Australia’s defence budget commits billions to buffer against military threats. But we’re unprepared to fend off malicious actors looking for any chance to wage information warfare,” AP4D Advisor Anastasia Kapetas said.

“They are taking advantage of information vacuums left by shuttered or curtailed news operations, both in Australia and the region, as well as lax social media regulation to undermine social cohesion.

“Recent efforts to curb the news media’s financial freefall, regulate social media giants and make them pay for news have faltered. Meta’s move to pull $70 million from the domestic market leaves local media staring down the barrel of yet another crisis.

“Bad actors stand ready to fill the gap to boost their political and economic objectives at the expense of security, sovereignty and prosperity across the Pacific.”

The paper canvassed more than 30 media and foreign affairs experts. Solutions identified to combat disinformation include bringing in a digital services tax to redirect revenue from multinationals into Australian news organisations, as well as using tax breaks for news organisations and philanthropic donations.

The report urges the government to boost support for civil society watchdogs and fact checking organisations being targeted by partisan attacks and disinformation.

It also recommends that Australia fund media training for Pacific journalists as well as triple its regional broadcasting budget to $55 million over four years.

“Australia’s overseas broadcasting budget amounts to less than $1 per person. We’re falling far behind our allies with Japan spending $4.50, and Germany $7, per capita,” Ms Kapetas said.

“It is vital we fix this funding shortfall to strengthen Australia’s relationships in the Pacific, promote democracy and help our neighbours shield against coercion.”

For interviews, contact Georgie Moore 0477 779 928

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