Facebook, Google and other technology giants’ role in spreading fake news stories and diverting advertising away from traditional media will be put under the microscope after the Australian government directed the competition regulator to undertake an inquiry into digital platforms.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been asked by the government to look at the impact the aforementioned companies and other digital platforms are having on traditional media and to ascertain the damage it might be doing to quality journalism.
“We will examine whether platforms are exercising market power in commercial dealings to the detriment of consumers, media content creators and advertisers,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement. Mr. Sims was quoted on Reuters.
The investigation follows concerns around the globe that traditional media has been and still is in a predicament, often having to sacrifice the integrity of its content and its journalists to keep afloat. Last year the U.S. newspaper industry saw advertising revenues of $18 billion, way down from $49 billion a decade earlier, according to the Pew Research Center.
Facebook has said it welcomes the investigation. “Whilst the sharing of news and entertainment content 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,” the company said in a statement.
Google said in its own statement, “We look forward to engaging with this process as relevant.”
Mr. Sims said the commission would look closely at long-term trends and the effect of technology changes on competition in media and advertising.
The inquiry also would study how Facebook and Google operated to “fully understand their influence in Australia”, he added.
The probe will have power to compulsorily demand information from businesses and hold hearings. It is due to make its final report in 18 months.