a mobile phone with the words misinformation and fake news written on it

Fake news and misinformation: Sydney universities launch new database

22 April 2024
Sydney researchers lead charge against misinformation with new database
Terry Flew, Professor of Digital Communication and Culture, leads a team of researchers working to combat misinformation, fake news and disinformation online.

A team of researchers from three Sydney universities have developed an online database to track policies and regulations from 50 countries dealing with misinformation, AI regulation, online harms, cybersecurity and digital identity.

The International Digital Policy Observatory (IDPO) is the world’s first comprehensive, open-source and freely accessible database to track developments in digital/internet regulation internationally. It has been designed to provide access for all Australians to digital policies and industry insights from around the world to advance multistakeholder knowledge sharing and regulatory best practice. 

The database will assist academics, policymakers, regulators, the ICT industry and advocacy groups in staying ahead of global issues in the digital economy. 

The aim is to place Australia at the forefront of regulatory best practice in the digital economy, by trading policy initiatives in the global economy.

The IDPO is the result of collaboration between academics and digital specialists from the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales (UNSW) and University of Technology Sydney (UTS).  
The project is funded by the Australian Research Council through its Linkage Infrastructure Equipment and Facilities (ARC LIEF) program. 

a man in a blue suit

Professor Terry Flew

Project leader Professor Terry Flew, from the University of Sydney, said: “With the Internet increasingly monopolised by a small number of tech giants, governments and community organisations need information and resources that provide countervailing power. The IDPO is enabling infrastructure that policymakers and regulators can use to be aware of what is happening globally around key issues in the digital economy.”

The site will first provide comprehensive resources on misinformation, to coincide with the Draft Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation Bill before the Federal parliament. Resources will subsequently be made available on AI regulation, online harms, cybersecurity and digital identity. 

Associate Professor Heather Ford, a misinformation expert at UTS said: “Being able to show different understandings of these policies can give really interesting insights into policy making for different kinds of practitioners and could potentially enable people from very different fields to collaborate more effectively.”

What is misinformation and disinformation?

Misinformation and disinformation both involve the spread of false or misleading information, but they differ in their intention. The key distinction lies in the intent behind the dissemination of false information: misinformation is spread inadvertently, while disinformation is spread deliberately for nefarious purposes.

Declaration: The project is funded by the Australian Research Council through its Linkage Infrastructure Equipment and Facilities (ARC LIEF) program. Hero photo: AdobeStock

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