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Government Warn Facebook & Google, ‘We Will Not Hesitate To Act’

Facebook and Google have been put ‘on notice’ by the Australian Government following their long-awaited response to the National Watchdogs Digital Platforms Inquiry report.

With pressure mounting on the Government to deliver its response, Treasurer Josh Frydnberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher have thrown down the gauntlet to big tech companies.

‘The companies are on notice; the government is not messing around; we will not hesitate to act,’ said Frydenberg.

Initially slated for early 2020, the Government has now issued its response to the Digital Platforms Inquiry handed down from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC).

When announcing the reform package, Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the changes ‘world-leading’.

‘I want us to be the model jurisdiction in the world for how we are dealing with digital platforms, social media platforms’.

Morrison has stated he wants a ‘level playing field’ for all companies, including those in the digital field outside of the ‘analog economy’.

The Government is committing to a code of conduct that will regulate ‘the commercial relationships between these businesses’ to ensure ‘there is a two-way value exchange at play’.

Distribution of news content should benefit both news media providers and digital platforms, with the Government acknowledging that more needs to be done to improve transparency.

As a result, a new unit will now be established within the ACCC to focus on digital platform competition and consumer protection, with $26.9 million of funding.

This unit will then issue an update regarding the code of conduct negotiations, with the rules to be finalised by November 2020.

The code will cover revenue sharing, content assessment and presentation, in addition to information around algorithmic processes.

ACCC Chair Rod Sims was delighted with the announcement, saying, ‘we’re proud that Australia will now be one of the first countries in the world to develop such a comprehensive roadmap for broad reforms relating to digital platforms’.

‘Google and Facebook have grown to have almost unfettered market power with significant impacts on consumers that must be addressed’.

It comes after the government announced plans to introduce public sector reform, which included the amalgamation of the Department of Communications and the Arts with the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development.

The government considers infrastructure and communication to be ‘ the same thing these days’, citing the NBN as one of the most crucial infrastructure projects in Australia today.

How the new Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications will handle the negotiation process is yet to be seen.

Although Opposition Labor Leader Anthony Albanese is sceptical claiming ‘the Prime Minister is wrong if he thinks slashing departments is going to improve services to the community’.

Whereas Michelle Rowland, Shadow Minister for Communications was a little more direct comparing the delayed response to the Banking Royal Commission that ‘has forced this Government to finally do something’.

‘While the pace of digital change in our economy gathers speed, this Government has a track record of going slow and industry, consumers and citizens can hardly be filled with confidence that the regulatory asymmetry, uncertainty and delay will end any time soon’.

 

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