Google and Facebook react to Australian government crackdown — and their lobby group is worried about ‘unintended consequences’

A woman was charged to pay damages after a negative Google review DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images
  • The Australian government has released the final report of a 12-month investigation into the digital media landscape and the market dominance of Google and Facebook, making 23 recommendations for reform.
  • The Digital Industry Group Inc (DIGI) — a lobby group representing Facebook, Google, Twitter and other digital platforms — is calling for the government to apply an “innovation test” to make sure the report doesn’t take away from Australia’s attractiveness as a place to do business for tech companies.
  • Google and Facebook both said they will continue to engage with the government and general public following the release of the report.

DIGI — the lobby group representing the political interests of Google, Facebook, Twitter and other big digital platforms in Australia — has officially responded to the federal government’s release of 23 recommendations for reform which could have major implications for its members’ business models.

The industry body is worried about “unintended consequences” if the recommendations of the competition and consumer watchdog, the ACCC, are implemented.

“We urge the Australian Government to assess the ACCC’s recommendations against an innovation test, closely examining how they will impact Australia’s digital industry at large and Australia’s global standing as a place to invest in technology,” said DIGI managing director Sunita Bose.

“We’re closely reviewing these recommendations to ensure they don’t bring unintended consequences to all digital businesses and the choice of digital products available to Australian consumers.”

Bose seemed to suggest the report has strayed from its original purpose, pointing out that “the terms of reference of the inquiry were to look at the impact of digital platforms on competition in the media and advertising services market, with the incredibly important goal of protecting the future of journalism”.

A Google spokesperson gave a short written statement to Business Insider Australia acknowledging the release of the report.

“The final report examines important topics in relation to Australia’s changing media and advertising industry and we have engaged closely with the ACCC throughout the process,” the spokesperson said.

“We will continue to engage with the government on the recommendations put forward in this report.”

Facebook Australia managing director Will Easton told Business Insider Australia a similar tale.

“We are fully committed to engaging in the consultation process around this report, while continuing to deliver the benefits of technology to the millions of Australians who use our services,” he said.

“Over the past 18 months, we’ve worked with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission as they’ve reviewed the future of sustainable journalism and digital advertising in Australia. It is important to get the rules for digital news distribution right, as they could impact the 16 million Australians who use our services to connect, share, and build community, as well as the hundreds of thousands of small businesses that use our free tools to grow, thrive, and create jobs.”

UPDATED 26/7/2019 3.20 p.m.: This article was amended to include comments from Facebook Australia.