Australia probes Facebook and Google impact


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Facebook and Google’s impact on the media industry is coming under scrutiny in Australia.

The country’s competition regulator said Monday it has been directed by the federal government to investigate whether internet companies are hurting consumers, content creators and advertisers.

As in many other countries, Australia’s media industry has been upended by the rise of digital platforms. Print newspapers have for years suffered declines in advertising revenues as companies shift their spending online, much of it to tech giants like Facebook and Google.

“As the media sector evolves, there are growing concerns that digital platforms are affecting traditional media’s ability to fund the development of content,” said Rod Sims, the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Related: Facebook, Google, Twitter to fight fake news with ‘trust indicators’

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

“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.

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Can newspapers stop the "I got my news on Facebook" trend?

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Australia’s inquiry is just the latest probe into the growing role of global internet companies.

Facebook and Google have come under fire in other countries for their outsize influence in the media landscape, with critics questioning the tech companies’ efforts to police the content shared on their platforms.

In the U.S., lawmakers grilled Facebook (FB, Tech30), Google (GOOG) and Twitter (TWTR, Tech30) last month over how foreign nationals used social media platforms to spread misinformation during the 2016 presidential election.

Related: Seen any of these before? You may have been targeted by Russian ads on Facebook

Facebook in particular is facing questions in the U.S. over ads a Russian troll farm purchased during the presidential election. In Britain, it’s been asked for information on any ads purchased by Russian-linked Facebook accounts around June’s general election and last year’s Brexit referendum.

Google also found itself in the crosshairs of the U.S. Congress over Russian-bought ads on its platform intended to spread misinformation and divisions in America before the 2016 presidential election.

In Australia, the probe appears to be focused on the tech giants’ effect on market competition. But it will also examine their impact on the country’s news industry.

“Through our inquiry, the ACCC will look closely at the impact of digital platforms on the level of choice and quality of news and content being produced by Australian journalists,” Sims said.

The commission says it will publish a preliminary report in a year’s time.


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