ACCC commences inquiry into digital platforms

ACCC targets tech platforms

U.S lawmakers questioned Facebook, Google, and Twitter executives in November over the way foreign nationals were able to use the social media platforms to disseminate misinformation during the presidential election of 2016. In turn this has resulted in many companies sort of forced to play by their rules, because getting deranked from Google could mean losing a significant chunk of your visitors.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley tech giants will be investigated by the Austrian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for their role in the spread of fake news on their platforms and claims that they diverted advertisers away from traditional media outlets.

Treasurer Scott Morrison and the Communications Minister directed the competition watchdog to look at the impact digital companies are having on the media and advertising sectors.

"As the media sector evolves, there are growing concerns that digital platforms are affecting traditional media's ability to fund the development of content", Sims continued.

The probe in Australia appears as if it is focused on the effect the two tech giants have on market competition, but will examine as well the impact they have on the news industry in the country.

It will investigate whether the disruption of the news media by the United States tech giants has been detrimental to consumers and publishers.

He added that the inquiry undertaken would also study the workings of these global competitors in order to "fully understand their influence in Australia". "The ACCC goes into this inquiry with an open mind and will study how digital platforms such as Facebook and Google operate to fully understand their influence in Australia", Chairman Sims said.

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The two will also capture the majority of growth in forecast digital growth in the next few years, further consolidating their market power across the globe, which the agency said represented "exceedingly bad news" for their competitors.

The Commission will have the authority to demand info and hold hearings if the existing information isn't enough to gauge the level of competition.

A preliminary report into the issues is expected within 12 months, with a final report due early June 2019.

The investigation could be "a stepping stone towards another type of reform, such as tax", Cox said.

"We look forward to engaging with this process as relevant", a Google spokesman told Reuters.

"Whilst the sharing of news and entertainment content is only a small part of the content shared on our services, we take our role in the media ecosystem very seriously and invest significantly in products that support publishers". Google, however, refused to divulge its market share in Australia.

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