Published: Mon, December 04, 2017
IT | By Lester Massey

Watchdog to probe Google, Facebook impact

Watchdog to probe Google, Facebook impact

The market power of Facebook and Google and their impact on the Australian media will be the subject of a new investigation from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald on Monday, the government has asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to scrutinise major digital platforms.

Mr Sims "will have the power to obtain information during the inquiry which will make digital platforms more transparent and enable the ACCC to test whether a case can be made for further intervention or use of the ACCC's broader enforcement powers".

"While news is only a small part of the content shared on our services, we take our role in the media ecosystem very seriously and invest significantly in products that support publishers", she said.

Facebook and Google face a year-long investigation to be carried out by the competition watchdog, amid predictions the internet giants could soon account for almost 85 per cent of the world's digital advertising spending.

"The ACCC goes into this inquiry with an open mind to and will study how digital platforms such as Facebook and Google operate to fully understand their influence in Australia", ACCC chairman Rod Sims says.

Facebook and Google have often been at pains to avoid being labelled as media companies, and suggest that they are instead platforms.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the company is looking forward to "a thorough inquiry into the Australian media market".

Details on the terms of reference for the inquiry are available here.

The Australian probe will have power to demand information from businesses and hold hearings.

The ACCC plans to hear from content creators, mainstream and niche media outlets and operators, platform providers, advertisers, journalists, consumers and small business interest groups with a preliminary report expected in December 2018.

The idea for an ACCC investigation was hatched during media reform negotiations in parliament earlier this year, which resulted in a relaxation of ownership laws to allow the country's big players to boost their market share to better compete against online disruptors.

While the federal government's announcement of the inquiry didn't mention Google or Facebook by name, it's believed that they will be the main focus of discussions. The inquiry will issue its final report by June 2019.

How are tech giants affecting the news and ads we consume?

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