Australia considers more regulation of Google and Facebook

For every $100 spent by advertisers online in Australia — excluding classified ads — $47 goes to Google, $24 to Facebook and $29 to other players. (shutterstock)
Updated 26 July 2019

Australia considers more regulation of Google and Facebook

  • The report found that more than 98% of online searches on mobile devices in Australia are with Google
  • Facebook now faces the prospect of not only billions of dollars in additional fines, but also new restrictions around the world

CANBERRA, Australia: The Australian government released report on Friday that recommends more regulation on the market power of multinational digital platforms including Google and Facebook that would ensure fair deals for other media businesses and more control for individuals over how their data is used.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the nation’s fair trade watchdog, has spent 18 months investigating the impact of digital search engines, social media platforms, and digital content aggregators on the state of competition in media and advertising services markets.

For every $100 spent by advertisers online in Australia — excluding classified ads — $47 goes to Google, $24 to Facebook and $29 to other players.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg agreed that regulations had to be strengthened.

The government will announce its response by the end of the year following three months of consultation on the 600-page report’s 23 recommendations.
“Make no mistake, these companies are among the most powerful and valuable in the world and they need to be held to account and their activities need to be more transparent,” Frydenberg told reporters.

The ACCC has found an “imbalance of bargaining power” between media businesses in their dealings with Google and Facebook.
“Whether it be print, radio or television, content generated by journalists and owned by media companies is being displayed on social media and search engines, often without a negotiated agreement covering how data and content is monetized and shared,” Frydenberg said.

The ACCC recommended codes of conduct be developed and ratified by regulators between the two global tech giants and other media businesses that would ensure the businesses access to the platforms on “a fair, consistent and transparent basis.”

“At the heart of this important ACCC report is a focus on delivering better consumer and commercial outcomes,” Frydenberg said. “And ensuring a viable media landscape, because news and journalism is a public good.”

The ACCC also recommends a code of conduct for digital platforms so that consumers can know and control what data is collected and how it is used. An ombudsman would be appointed to resolve complaints against the platforms.

The ACCC would also establish its own specialized digital markets branch to deal solely with the platforms. Australia is considering cracking down on the platforms after the US Federal Trade Commission this week fined Facebook a record $5 billion for privacy violations.

The report found that more than 98% of online searches on mobile devices in Australia are with Google. Of Australia’s population of 25 million, Facebook has 17 million users who connect to that platform on average 30 minutes a day.

Facebook for a decade had largely been trusted to regulate itself and keep its 2.4 billion users’ interests at heart. Then came Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, fake news and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a political data mining firm affiliated with the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump improperly accessed the personal data of as many as 87 million users.

Regulators in Australia, Europe and the US took notice. Facebook now faces the prospect of not only billions of dollars in additional fines, but also new restrictions around the world.

Australia passed laws in April that could imprison social media executives if their platforms stream real violence such as the New Zealand mosque shootings.

The government introduced the bills in response to the March 15 attacks in Christchurch in which an Australian white supremacist apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live on Facebook as he shot worshippers in the two mosques.


Muslim World League chief urges media outlets to stick to impartiality

MWL Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa meets Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Saturday. (SPA)
Updated 17 November 2019

Muslim World League chief urges media outlets to stick to impartiality

  • MWL chief meets government, religious leaders in Utah

UTAH: The secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, has arrived in Utah, US, where he was received by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. Al-Issa and Herbert met to discuss cooperation and issues of common interest to achieve shared objectives.
Al-Issa also visited the Mormon church in Utah, where he met the leader of the group and discussed ways to promote harmony among followers of different religions and cultures.
The Mormon leader and his assistants hosted a dinner for Al-Issa, in the presence of Utah government members and representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Muslim diaspora.  
Elder David Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles extended his thanks to Al-Issa. “On behalf of our church and the state of Utah, I would like to thank you for your inspiring words calling to promote rapprochement among followers of different religions and cultures and combat hate speech and violent extremism,” he said.
Al-Issa took part in a Deseret News editorial board meeting in Utah, during which he reiterated the need to support rapprochement between nations and peoples and break the barriers built by distance, lack of dialogue and understanding, and false information spread by unreliable sources.
He also spoke about the need to promote moral values such as justice, tolerance and humanitarian work and support the efforts to achieve peace and harmony, especially in multi-religious, cultural and ethnic countries as well as promoting awareness about tolerance and acceptance of diversity and differences.
Al-Issa reviewed the Makkah Document that has achieved, for the first time in Islamic history, consensus among 27 sects and confessions, represented by more than 1,200 Muftis and Muslim scholars. The board praised the document and its importance.
He said that Islam was a tolerant religion that promotes justice, love and respect of diversity, stressing the importance of the media’s role in creating content and influencing public opinion.
Al-Issa urged media outlets to stick to the truth and impartiality to avoid losing credibility and compromising their mission.  
On another note, Al-Issa shed light on the Mormons’ experience in humanitarian work, citing the factories and facilities that have been established to provide food, clothes and furniture for the needy in the US.
Al-Issa was invited to visit the University of Utah, where he met its President Kevin Worthen and gave a lecture in the presence of hundreds of students and professors.
Al-Issa said that MWL’s message focused on building bridges and breaking down barriers caused by a lack of dialogue and false information, noting that all followers of religion, cultures and civilizations shared the same moral values that promote justice and harmony.