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Australia reaches preliminary views on digital platforms

Australia reaches preliminary views on digital platforms

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has published preliminary recommendations in its digital platforms inquiry, which is covering Google, Facebook and the Australian news and advertising industries. The report contains 11 preliminary recommendations and eight areas for further analysis as the inquiry continues. The ACCC has reached the view that Google has substantial market power in online search, search advertising and news referral, and Facebook has substantial market power in markets for social media, display advertising and online news referral. The report outlines the ACCC’s concerns regarding the market power held by these key platforms, including their impact on Australian businesses and, in particular, on the ability of media businesses to monetise their content. The report also outlines concerns regarding the extent to which consumers’ data is collected and used to enable targeted advertising.

Google and Facebook are now the dominant gateways between news media businesses and audiences and this can reduce the brand value and recognition of media businesses. In addition, traditional media businesses and in particular, traditional print media businesses, have lost advertising revenue to digital platforms. This has threatened the viability of business models of print media and their ability to monetise journalism. The inquiry has also considered questions about the range and reliability of news available via Google and Facebook. The ACCC’s preliminary view is that consumers face a potential risk of filter bubbles, or echo chambers, and less reliable news on digital platforms. While the evidence of filter bubbles arising on digital platforms in Australia is not yet strong, the importance of this issue means it requires close scrutiny.
The ACCC is further concerned with the large amount and variety of data which digital platforms such as Google and Facebook collect on Australian consumers, which go beyond the data which users actively provide when using the digital platform.
The report also finds that Google and Facebook have the ability and incentive to favour related businesses or those businesses with which they may have an existing commercial relationship. The platforms’ algorithms rank and display advertising and news content in a way that lacks transparency to advertisers and news organisations.

Among the proposals are preventing Google’s internet browser (Chrome) being installed as a default browser and Google’s search engine being installed as a default search engine. The ACCC also proposes that a new or existing regulatory authority be given the task of investigating, monitoring and reporting on how large digital platforms rank and display advertisements and news content. Other preliminary recommendations suggest ways to strengthen merger laws. Additional preliminary recommendations deal with copyright, and take-down orders, and the review of existing, disparate media regulations. The ACCC also notes that consumers will be better off if they can make informed and genuine choices as to how digital platforms collect and use their data, and proposes changes to the Privacy Act to enable consumers to make informed decisions. The ACCC is further considering a recommendation for a code of practice for data collection by digital platforms to better inform consumers and improve their bargaining power. Read more

  • Tuesday, 18 December 2018

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