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Home / Business / Australia watchdog tips tough rules to curb the power of Google, Facebook

Australia watchdog tips tough rules to curb the power of Google, Facebook



The Google name appears outside the company's office.

Toby Melville, Reuters / File

SYDNEY – Head of Australia's competitive watchdog warned Monday that tough new regulation of tech giants like Google and Facebook was needed to protect the future of independent journalism.

Rod Sims, head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), said that Google and Facebook's market power has had a devastating impact on Australian news media.

While the number of journalists employed in Australian newspapers fell 20 percent from 201

4 to 2017 as print advertising revenue declined, Sims said Google and Facebook between them caught nearly 70 percent of all online advertising costs.

"This shift in online advertising revenues and digital platforms has reduced the media business's ability to fund news and journalism," said Sims in the comments prepared for delivery to Sydney's International Communications Institute.

"We can't just let news production be one nd journalism to market forces, "la Sims, who has implemented a long-term probe for the impact of digital platforms in the news industry in Australia.

While the platforms capture the vast majority of advertising revenue, they do not create any original news," Sims said. Instead, they choose, curate, evaluate, rank, and arrange news stories produced by third parties, "he said, noting that this market power increased the risk of filter bubbles and unreliable digital platform news".

"Keeping such critical positions in both the media and advertising markets results in special responsibilities," he said.

ACCC launched its Digital Platform Power Request a year ago, and accepts final submissions from industry players until the end of this week before publishing its final report in June.

On Monday, however, Sims signaled that the final recommendations would include broad new requirements on digital behemo ths and the opaque algorithms they use to convey news and advertising.

"There is virtually no media regulation that applies to digital platforms, and this contributes to regulatory inequality between media sectors that seem to give the digital platforms an unfair advantage," he said.

A media regulator said he should have the ability to force platforms to uncover how news is ranked in search results, including whether advertiser-funded content is ranked higher than paid content, or whose original news content is upset by copycat stories and so-called clickbait.

ACCC can also recommend that platforms provide a "quality" mark along with content produced by reputable news media as a counter to disinformation.

Finally, Sims proposed a number of suggestions to support local and independent journalism, including tax deductions for people subscribing to news media that meet a set of quality standards.

© Agence France-Presse [19659017]
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