Australia moving toward tough crackdown on Google and Facebook

Tyrone Stewart

Google FacebookAustralian regulators are seeking to make changes to tech law to address the dominance of likes of Google and Facebook. Reforms could include the two internet behemoths having to provide regulators with details of their algorithms.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) published the results of an 18-month investigation into leading digital platforms and the impact they have on the country’s economy, media, and society.

The report identifies that the market power of Google and Facebook has affected the abilities of other businesses to compete in spaces like advertising – also criticising automated and programmatic advertising for its lack of transparency. It goes on to point out that consumers are not well-enough informed about how their data is collected and used, that news content creators struggle to monetise off of the dominant platforms they rely on, and that Australia has been hit by the spread of fake news like many other countries.

To address the issues raised in the report, the ACCC made 23 recommendations right across competition law, consumer protection, media regulation, and privacy law.

“Action on consumer law and privacy issues, as well as on competition law and policy, will all be vital in dealing with the problems associated with digital platforms’ market power and the accumulation of consumers’ data,” said ACCC chair Rod Sims.

Recommendations include setting up a dedicated branch of the ACCC, Google and Facebook have to provide the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) with “codes to address the imbalance in the bargaining relationship between these platforms and news media businesses”, blocking Google from making its search engine and internet browser a default on Android devices, the introduction of a “general prohibition on unfair commercial practices”, strengthening protections in the Privacy Act, and more.

“Our recommendations are comprehensive and forward looking and deal with the many competition, consumer, privacy and news media issues we have identified throughout the course of this Inquiry,” Sims added.

“Importantly, our recommendations are dynamic in that they will provide the framework and the information that governments and communities will need to address further issues as they arise. Our goal is to assist the community in staying up to date with these issues and futureproofing our enforcement, regulatory and legal frameworks.”