Government set to crackdown on social media giants

— Nathaniel Bradford 

The ACCC’s report on its inquiry into digital platforms has been handed to the Government, but we’re still none the wiser as to what recommendations will be actioned. Thankfully we won’t have much longer to wait as it appears the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, is set to make an announcement later today.

Observers agree that some limitations will be placed upon the major content aggregators, Facebook and Google, but the impact this legislation may have remains to be seen. 

At the recent G20 Summit in Japan, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was positive about the commitment he'd received from the social media giants to limit or stop “extreme activity” making its way onto their platforms. However, no mention was made of his own Government’s plan to legislate in this area. Despite “torrents of illegal content” being blocked, massive amounts still appear with no sanction on the platforms that host it. 

The ACCC recommendations - 11 in total, with eight areas singled out for further analysis - include addressing Google and Facebook’s market power and promoting increased consumer choice. One of  the proposals would prevent Google’s internet browser (Chrome) being installed as a default browser on mobile devices, computers and tablets. 

The ACCC also proposes that a new or existing regulatory authority be tasked with investigating, monitoring and reporting on how large digital platforms rank and display advertisements and news content.

Other preliminary recommendations suggest ways to strengthen merger laws and address issues of  copyright, take-down orders and disparate media regulations.  All of these would  significantly affect existing marketing strategies. The question will be “Are Australian businesses ready to adapt?”. 

For the PR and broader communications industry, a strengthening of the earned media content landscape will renew the focus and importance of creating trusted, credible media information and an increased reliance on the two-way relationship between journalists and PR professionals. 

In the coming weeks, the Government’s intentions in the wake of the inquiry will become clearer. If introduced in full, the recommendations would form the strongest legislative responses anywhere in world, placing limits on the major platforms’ reach and influence. It remains to be seen if the Government maintains the will to enforce them.