The report includes a number of recommendations that aim to reduce Google and Facebook’s market power and to increase consumer choice. These include:
- Ensuring that mobiles and computers not have a default browser,
- Implementing a regulatory authority, such as an ombudsman, to be an industry watchdog,
- Creating an industry Code of Practice,
- Amending the law to make unfair contract terms illegal,
- That the Privacy Act be amended to help consumers make more informed choices about their data.
The ACCC has found that digital platforms such as Google and Facebook have a substantial amount of market power and it is concerned by the subsequent uncompetitive behaviour in online searches, online advertising, online news and social media. The report says that the dominance of these platforms means that more regulation and oversight is necessary.
The ACCC Inquiry is broad, examining the range and reliability of news available via Google and Facebook, as well as the impact of digital platforms on the traditional media market, including advertising and journalism.
The ACCC has found that there has been a drop in advertising revenue with spend increasingly moving to digital platforms. It is concerned that this decrease in revenue will threaten the viability of print media and traditional journalism. Despite the growth in online news platforms, the number of professional journalists has dropped significantly.
The ACCC is concerned by the potential impact of ‘echo chambers’ and ‘fake news’, as well as:
- The amount of data that digital platforms collect from consumers (often without their knowledge),
- Complicated and lengthy terms of service and privacy policies,
- The lack of transparency into Google and Facebook’s algorithms.
The Interim Report has identified that digital platforms are governed by self-interest. That is, the platform is tempted to put business interests ahead of transparency or fairness, and also to favour their own businesses and partners.
The ACCC is also considering:
- More support for quality journalism and an improvement in online news literacy,
- A digital platforms ombudsman,
- Deletion of user data once after the user opts out of a digital platform, and
- Opt-in target advertising.
This has industry wide effects. For example the use of Facebook and Instagram data to inform marketing strategies could be diminished. But the impacts are far more wide reaching – consumers are being empowered to take control of their data. This is in line with many international initiatives such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.
It is likely that Australia’s businesses will see increasing regulatory oversight, from banking to aged care, and now digital platforms.
The ACCC’s final report is due by the 3rd of June 2019. More information can be found here: https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/accc-releases-preliminary-report-into-google-facebook-and-australian-news-and-advertising