Australia investigates Facebook and Google over media impact

Image: shutterstock

Image: shutterstock

Facebook and Google have come under fire in other countries for their outsize influence in the media landscape, with critics questioning the tech companies' efforts to police the content shared on their platforms.

Spokespeople from Facebook and Google told AdNews they welcome the investigation: "We look forward to a thorough inquiry into the Australian media market", the Facebook spokesperson said.

The inquiry was a condition demanded by the Nick Xenophon Team in exchange for its support for the Turnbull government's media reforms.

Mr Sims "will have the power to obtain information during the inquiry which will make digital platforms more transparent and enable the ACCC to test whether a case can be made for further intervention or use of the ACCC's broader enforcement powers".

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"The ACCC will look closely at longer-term trends and the effect of technological change on competition in media and advertising", Rod Sims, the ACCC chairman, said.

Media-buying agency GroupM expects Facebook and Google to consolidate their domination of online advertising, and control almost 85 per cent of all online advertising - outside China - this financial year. It wants to know if the long-term shift to digital news is unfairly limiting conventional publishers' ability to produce content, and whether the "information asymmetry" between internet services, advertisers and the public is damaging.

He added that the inquiry undertaken would also study the workings of these worldwide competitors in order to "fully understand their influence in Australia".

Sims added that the body is seeking out the views of "content creators, mainstream media outlets, and smaller media operators, platform providers, advertisers, journalists, consumers and small business interest groups".

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The ACCC's preliminary report is due at the beginning of December next year, says Engadget, while the final report won't be released until June 2019 at the earliest. The regulating authority believes that the profits of the local media firms have been severely hit with firms such as Netflix, Google, and Facebook attracting online distributors via wider publicity.

Representatives for both companies said they will be cooperating with the ACCC on its inquiry.

A Facebook spokesperson looked to downplay its role in content creation and promotion.

Facebook has said it welcomes the investigation. Google, however, refused to divulge its market share in Australia.

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