Australia threatens Facebook, Google with more competition rules

Australia has issued guidelines to ensure that technology companies do not lessen competition in media and advertising.

    Large tech firms including Facebook Inc have come under greater scrutiny for issues ranging from anti-trust violations to 'fake news' and user privacy [Dado Ruvic/Reuters]-
    Large tech firms including Facebook Inc have come under greater scrutiny for issues ranging from anti-trust violations to 'fake news' and user privacy [Dado Ruvic/Reuters]-

    Australia has said technology giants such as Facebook Inc and Google will have to agree to new rules to ensure they do not abuse their market power and damage competition, or the government will impose new controls on them.

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will create a code of conduct to address complaints that the technology companies have a stronghold on advertising, the main income generator of local media operators.

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    The guidelines will ensure substantial market power is not used to lessen competition in media and advertising services markets.

    "I want us to be the model jurisdiction in the world for how we are dealing with digital platforms, social media platforms," Morrison told reporters in Melbourne.

    A special unit will be set up within the ACCC to monitor digital platforms, with an immediate focus on online advertising. The government will also review privacy laws to better protect consumers.

    Morrison pledged to tackle the "power imbalance" between tech companies and traditional media and will force them to negotiate over revenue sharing and the use of news content.

    The move tightens the regulatory screws on the online platforms, which have governments from the United States to Europe scrambling to address concerns ranging from anti-trust issues to the spread of "fake news" and hate speech.

    Australia's government said technology companies would need to agree to the new rules by November 2020 or it will impose them.

    "The companies are on notice. The government is not messing around. We will not hesitate to act," Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters.

    Google and Facebook said they support greater competition and will work closely with the ACCC.

    "We support a sustainable news ecosystem which is why we work with publishers to help them reach new audiences," Mia Garlick, director of policy, Australia and New Zealand at Facebook, said in an emailed statement.

    SOURCE: News agencies