Facebook’s and Google’s emergence as key news discovery platforms as well as advertising mediums has troubled traditional media organizations for a while. While advertisers are now willing to park a chunk of their dollars online, rising instances of fake news, hate speech, violence and abuse continue to plague digital and social media. Australia, one of the most developed economies in the world, is now cracking down on Facebook, Google, Twitter and other networks that disseminate news and influence public opinion.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been instructed by the local government to scrutinize major digital platforms and their impacts on media, journalism and advertising, according to reports. The inquiry would also include other digital content aggregators, distribution platforms and search engines. The regulator could also hold hearings during the inquiry process. “Fake news” incidentally is believed to be one of the discussion points.
“The ACCC goes into this inquiry with an open mind and will study how digital platforms such as Facebook and Google operate to fully understand their influence in Australia. We will examine whether platforms are exercising market power in commercial dealings to the detriment of consumers, media content creators and advertisers,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.
The launch of this inquiry is part of the Australian government’s Broadcast and Content Reform package that aims to help support jobs and media diversity in the country. Australia has in the past stated that Facebook wasn’t moving “fast enough” to curb fake news on its platform. The government further reckoned that Google and Facebook were causing a “haemorrhaging” of local media companies and damaging the “integrity of news”. Facebook has 15 million users in Australia, and is its most popular social media network along with YouTube.
Google Australia had, of course, issued a clarification on the government’s allegations of “abuse” of power. “Publishers have choice in the operating model they choose,” Google Australia MD Jason Pellegrino told SMH. Google, however, refused to divulge its market share in Australia. The ACCC’s first report though is due only in December 2018, and the final report could take longer.