December 4, 2017

Australia launches investigation into the influence of US tech giants

Australia’s competition regulator has launched an inquiry into whether US tech giants Facebook and Google have harmed the country’s news media.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will investigate whether consumers and publishers have suffered at the hands of search engines as well as social media companies.

It is estimated that there have been more than 2,000 job losses in Australia’s media industry since 2011.

The Australian government ordered the ACCC to conduct the inquiry as part of its broader plans to reform the media, which was announced in September.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement that the investigation “will study how digital platforms such as Facebook and Google operate to fully understand their influence in Australia”.

It will also look at “whether digital platforms are “exercising market power in commercial dealings to the detriment of consumers, media content creators and advertisers”, he added.

Google, Facebook and other companies will have to hand over any information the commission requests and must agree to be present at hearings if required.

The inquiry comes as several traditional Australian media companies have seen their advertising revenue plummet.

After the free-to-air Australian channel Ten Network went into administration earlier this year, CBS bought it in September.

The ACCC acknowledged the problems faced by Australian media outlets in securing advertising revenue.

“Advertising expenditure in print newspapers has been in decline for a number of years. Recent ACCC merger reviews have shown that most advertisers are spending less on print newspapers and finding alternative ways of reaching target audiences, including through digital media,” it said in a statement today.

in April, the Ten Network posted a loss of $232.19m for the half year, blaming the tough advertising market.

Other countries around the world are also focusing on how to better regulate digital platforms, following revelations that Russian- backed groups purchased Facebook adverts as a means of spreading inflammatory messages in the lead up to the US presidential election last year.

Meanwhile, the UK parliament has started investigating whether Russia used “fake news” shared on Facebook and Twitter to influence the result of the EU referendum.

The ACCC’s preliminary report is due in December 2018, and a final report is expected in June 2019.

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