After the US and Britain, Australia will now probe the impact of key digital platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter on media, journalism and advertising, including the spread of fake news, in the country.
According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald, the government has asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to scrutinise major digital platforms. “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,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
Social media platforms and digital content aggregators will be part of the probe. “We believe our information-gathering powers capture them even if they’re located offshore because the test is that they do business in Australia,” Sims added. The inquiry would largely focus on market power and misleading information. A preliminary report will be prepared by December 2018.
While “fake news” would be part of this discussion, it wouldn’t be the main focus, the report said, quoting Sim. A Facebook spokeswoman said the company looks forward to a thorough inquiry into the Australian media market.
“Whilst the sharing of news and entertainment content is only a small part of the content shared on our services, we take our role in the media ecosystem very seriously and invest significantly in products that support publishers,” the spokeswoman said. In Britain, Facebook and Twitter have agreed to share details with authorities on Russia’s interference in the Brexit referendum by using their platforms.
Facebook and Twitter will share those posts with the House of Commons media watchdog. British Prime Minister Theresa May has also accused Russia of meddling in the elections and planting fake stories.
In the US, Facebook, Twitter and Google are already facing intense fake news scrutiny after disclosing the details about the presence of Russian political ads, tweets and posts on their platforms during the presidential election in 2016.