The Australian government wants to impose a number of strict restrictions on U.S. tech giants to curb their influence as suggested by a government review report.
The report that was published by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) suggested that that the government should create a watchdog which would be exclusively tasked with regulation of Google and Facebook in with respect to the manner in which they both publish news and in not allowing Google’s Chrome to be installed as the automatic browser for Australian devices.
The report also raised concerns over the possibility of the damage to the traditional media outlets of Australia because of activities of the tech giants as well as over creation of “filter bubbles” and according credibility to news sources that are less credible.
“Filter bubble” is a technical term that is used to refer to the intellectual isolation that arises because of personalised news feeds which are generated by algorithms that guess which information a user wants to see based on their personal data.
“Without adequate information and with limited choice, consumers are unable to make informed decisions, which can both harm consumers and impede competition,” the report said.
A proposal that suggested preventing Google’s internet browser Chrome from being automatically installed as the default browser on mobile devices, computers and tablets was also included in the ACCC report. The report also proposed a ban on the direct installation of Google as the default search engine on other internet browsers such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
One of the practical measures that was also suggested in the report by the ACC was to empower an new or an existing regulatory agency “the task of investigating, monitoring and reporting on how large digital platforms rank and display advertisements and news content.”
A “badging” system for media content shared on digital platforms in addition to the strengthening of regulation of news distribution, the ACC report also suggested putting in incentives for tech companies such as tax deductions which would invest in infrastructure to generate credible news sources and engage in credible journalism.
The ACC also suggested that with respect to data collection, the government should also establish a specific code of practice for digital platforms which could be used potentially to better inform consumers and “improve their bargaining power.”
“We received the ACCC’s preliminary report Monday, and we are currently reviewing their analysis and recommendations in more detail. As we have done over the past twelve months, we remain committed to working with the Commission as they review the contribution of all digital platforms in Australia,” Facebook Australia spokesperson told the media in an emailed statement.
“As we put forward in our submission, we develop innovative products to the benefit of consumers, businesses and the economy, and we work closely with advertisers and publishers across Australia,” a Google spokesperson told the media through an email.
“Australian law does not prohibit a business from possessing significant market power or using its efficiencies or skills to ‘out compete’ its rivals,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a statement. “But when their dominant position is at risk of creating competitive or consumer harm, governments should stay ahead of the game and act to protect consumers and businesses through regulation.”
(Adapted from CNBC.com)