Australian media and communications agencies are gearing up for a turf war over who gets to police Facebook and Google as part of the competition regulator’s world-first inquiry into the digital platforms.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released almost 90 submissions from media companies, lobby groups, academics and digital platforms on Monday morning as part of its investigation into the impact of the US-based tech giants on news organisations and advertising revenues.
The ACCC was seeking feedback on its preliminary recommendations, which included the creation of new regulatory body with oversight of the platforms and a potential ombudsman to handle complaints about social media and search. The regulator would be charged with monitoring the likes of Facebook and Google’s activities around advertising, news and content.
The proposal for another new regulator has been criticised by Google and Facebook, which claim oversight of algorithms that determine search results and rank news articles in user feeds would be unworkable, and has set off a scramble between media authorities that are already jostling to be given stronger powers.
Several organisations with oversight have warned about “overlap” and have asked for their role to be bolstered rather than overtaken by a new authority.
The office of the eSafety Commissioner urged the ACCC to build upon its “remit and role” and said the “consumer-focused functions of the proposed ombudsman and regulatory authority would fit within the citizen-focused functions and remit” of its organisation.
Meanwhile, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) – which currently regulates telecommunications companies, radio and TV broadcasters – said it was “best placed to take on the cross-platform content regulatory role as it was already responsible for a wide range of content regulation of traditional media and increasingly of online platforms”.
“A single regulator to address the content layer of the communications stack would provide cross-industry oversight and avoid industry silos arising from the current regulatory model,” the ACMA submission says.
“However, creating a separate regulator for digital platforms would appear inefficient and defeat the purpose of the proposed regulatory reform – to have a consistent approach to the regulation of the production and distribution of content in Australia.”
The ACCC has also proposed potential changes to privacy and data regulations.
ACMA accepted there might be “good reason” for the Office of the eSafety Commissioner in “coordinating and leading online safety efforts”.
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s Judi Jones also weighed in, warning the suggestions in the ACCC report “appear to be proposals that could create regulatory overlap with the framework for the telecommunications service industry and the sector’s arrangement for complaints handling”.
While the regulators tussled over which organisation might be best placed to handle additional oversight, Google outright rejected the proposal for more scrutiny.
The search giant’s submission said the recommendation for new regulation “requires further, more careful consideration of the costs and benefits, and serious consultation with all stakeholders”.
The behemoth described its algorithms as “some of our most sensitive business secrets” and further criticised any attempt for imposed oversight on its news rankings.
Nine Entertainment Co, the parent company of this website, also rejected suggestions another regulatory body should be established, arguing the ACCC itself should get additional tools to regulate Google and Facebook, which it described as “digital or virtual monopolies”.
“[T]he creation of any new regulatory body would stall the implementation of meaningful solutions arising from this inquiry,” the Nine submission says. Nine’s publishing business also has an advertising partnership with Google.
Several organisations, including Facebook, were given extensions to lodge their submissions.
This article was originally published by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Business section. Read the original here.
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