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Australia looking into Facebook, Google's impact on media

Rebecca Staudenmaier with dpa
February 26, 2018

Concerned over Facebook and Google's impact on news media, Australia has joined the ranks of countries that are upping the pressure on the tech giants. The inquiry hopes to uncover how they operate behind the scenes.

Facebook logo shown through a pair of eyeglasses
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Büttner

In a move likely to send shockwaves through regulator-shy Silicon Valley, Australia announced on Monday the launch of a public inquiry into the impact of digital platforms on media organizations.

The Power of Monopolies

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in a statement that it wants to determine whether platforms like Google and Facebook and news aggregator services like Apple News have impacted the funding and production of "quality news and journalistic content."

Read moreGeorge Soros in stark Davos warning against US tech giants

"While these technological changes have brought many benefits for consumers, this inquiry will have a particular focus on examining whether the changes affect the quality and range of news supplied to Australian consumers," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

The wide-ranging inquiry will also look into how the tech giants use algorithms to present news and whether users truly "understand what data is being collected about them" as well as how it's used.

Read more:  Belgian court orders Facebook to delete illegally gathered data, or risk huge fines

Unmasking Google, Facebook

According to the ACCC head, one of the inquiry's main goals is to make the tech giants more transparent.

"Our aim is also to understand better the digital platforms' business models and how they operate behind the scenes, and the evolving nature of the way consumers search for and receive news in Australia," Sims said.

Social media and the state

Facebook and Google have been criticized for profiting from content produced by traditional media companies, which have been hit by falling revenue and a drop in advertising in recent years as consumers switched to digital media. The tech giants have also faced increasing scrutiny and from European regulators.

Read moreEU: Twitter, Facebook still in violation of the bloc's consumer law

Australia-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who owns The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and Sky, recently called on Facebook to pay traditional media outlets for the stories that they post on the social networking platform in order to protect quality journalism.

"Facebook and Google have popularized scurrilous news sources through algorithms that are profitable for these platforms but inherently unreliable," Murdoch said in a statement posted on News Corp's website in January.

The ACCC plans on releasing an initial report on its findings in early December this year with a final report due out in June 2019.

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