Government claims its tech crackdown is 'groundbreaking' — but it falls short of the breakup Facebook's co-founder Chris Hughes wants

Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes. REUTERS/Adam Hunger
  • The final ACCC recommendations on how to curtail Google and Facebook’s immense power have been released to the public, with the Australian government hailing them as “a groundbreaking … world-first”.
  • While the proposals include some new rules for the tech giants, they stopped short some of the more forceful ideas that have been put forward, including the demand by News Corp Australia that Google Australia be broken up.
  • Similar recommendations have been made in the US, with Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes saying the company he helped start should be divided into three smaller entities by the US government. Meanwhile, presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has proposed that Facebook, Google and Amazon should all be split up.

An 18-month Australian government investigation into how to curb Facebook and Google’s online dominance is finally over, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg proudly revealing its findings on Friday — but not everyone will be satisfied.

In its final report, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) put down 23 recommendations to curb the dominance of the tech behemoths.

“The ACCC has released our groundbreaking report into digital platforms. It is truly a world first,” Frydenberg said as he released it publically for the first time.

Its recommendations were comprehensive — urging the government to scrap the default Google Chrome internet browser, force Facebook and Google to stem the flow of fake news, and to even help fund Aussie journalism.

But it stopped well short of the demands of some powerful stakeholders.

News Corp Australia, the owner of most of the country’s newspapers including The Australian and Herald Sun and digital platform news.com.au, called on Google Australia to be broken up into smaller companies during the consultation process that led to the report.

The media company wanted the federal government to force Google to sell or separate its search engine from its advertising business.

That may have been considered a little extreme by ACCC, which made no such recommendation in its final report.

News Corp isn’t alone though in fearing big tech companies are getting too big for their boots.

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes famously went public with calls to break up Facebook amid fears that the social media giant had grown too powerful, in an opinion piece he penned for the New York Times.

He’s since reportedly been in conversation with the US government on exactly how that could be achieved.

Those demands have been echoed by US Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, who wants to take a hatchet to the monopolies enjoyed by other big tech companies as well, including Amazon and Google.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has rejected those calls, claiming if Facebook was broken up it would “a lot harder” to solve problems of privacy and fake news.

Just this week the US government penalised Facebook to the tune of $US5 billion and implemented its own restrictions on what the social media platform can and can’t do.

However, the US government hasn’t outlined any plans to act on Hughes’ advice just yet.

With a 12-week consultation phase set to follow the release of the Australian report, the Facebook co-founder may fancy a little jaunt to Canberra.

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