SYDNEY (Press Release) – Australia’s competition watchdog on Monday urged tougher scrutiny and a new regulatory body to inspect the dominance of technology giants Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google from the nation’s online advertising and information markets.
The recommendation, in a preliminary study on the U.S. companies’ market power, is being closely watched around the world as lawmakers wrestle with the effective tech companies’ large and growing influence in public life, from solitude to publishing.
It comes days after Australia passed legislation forcing technology companies to assist police access confidential user information, and amid growing concern from governments worldwide regarding the giants’ commercial behaviour and distribution of so-called”fake news”.
He said that the companies have enormous market share, Google has a 94 percent share of internet searches in Australia – and opaque procedures for ranking ads gave the companies the ability and incentive to prefer their companies over advertisers.
He said, including both firms also had oversized influence over information distribution.
“The notion of the regulator role is to keep an eye on that and bring some transparency,”
Drafting the report had spurred five investigations into potential consumer or privacy legislation breaches in Australia, Sims said, without revealing which firms they worried.
Both companies have already promised to do more to tackle the spread of fake news and, in submissions to the ACCC, said they provided users access to international news posts while providing advertisers a cheap way of reaching large audiences.
The ACCC has stated its recommendations are subject to change, but indicates handing the new regulator investigative powers to test the way the businesses rank ads and news articles.
“It’s possibly a game changer,” Margaret Simons, an associate professor of media at Monash University in Melbourne, said by telephone, because it would bring the technology firms under a regulatory framework more commonly applied to media companies.
“Together with the ‘if’ being whether or not authorities behave,”
She said, adding that the ACCC’s job has been closely watched internationally.
Australia’s government, which ordered the probe to the firms’ influence annually ago as part of broader media reforms stated it would consider the ACCC’s final recommendations in June.