Australian Authorities to Investigate Facebook, Google, Other Tech Giants

Australian regulators are to look at the impact of digital platforms like Google and Facebook on competition in media and advertising markets
AFP

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been asked to investigate Facebook, Google, and other tech giants for their role in spreading fake news and discouraging advertisers from placing ads with traditional media.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley tech giants will be investigated by the Austrian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for their role in the spread of fake news on their platforms and claims that they diverted advertisers away from traditional media outlets.

The commission has been asked to investigate the impact of major digital platforms on journalism and advertising, said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims. The investigation will include digital search engines, social media websites and content aggregators, with a focus on determining the impact of these digital platforms on traditional media.

The inquiry is formally directed by the government, meaning that the ACCC is allowed to use compulsory information-gathering powers and hold hearings to gain insight into the 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,” Chairman Sims said.

Sims stated that tech firms Facebook and Google would be a large part of the investigation but that Twitter would also come under scrutiny. Sims continued that because the companies headquarters are based outside of Australia, obtaining information from them may be an issue but that he didn’t anticipate much resistance from the companies.

“We believe our information-gathering powers capture them even if they’re located offshore because the test is that they do business in Australia,” said Sims.

The investigation will focus on the market power of the tech firms and misleading information published on their platform. “When you’re getting news articles, do you know enough about how they’re fashioned for you?” said Sims.

A Facebook spokesperson said that while news articles are shared on Facebook, the primary function of the social media platform was to connect users with friends and families and develop communities, “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,” said the spokesperson. “We look forward to a thorough inquiry into the Australian media market.”

It’s expected that by 2018 Internet advertising in Australia will account for nearly 60 percent of total advertising spend according to Zenith Australia Chief Executive Nickie Scriven. “Google and Facebook are the main benefactors of this growth and this is likely to continue to 2020,” she said.

The ACCC will be distributing an issues paper that will outline issues relevant to the inquiry and will request public submissions relating to the investigation. Both public and private hearings will then be held during 2018 from a number of content creators, media operators, advertisers, journalists and small business interest groups. The ACCC will be preparing a preliminary report by December 2018 with the final report being released by June of 2019.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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