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Australian regulator calls for regulating Google's and Facebook's dominance

Staff Writer |
Australia's corporate watchdog on Monday unveiled 11 recommendations in a ground-breaking report aimed at clamping down on the market dominance of tech giants Google and Facebook.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) preliminary report, released on Monday, recommended closer scrutiny of Google's and Facebook's activities by a government agency, new data collection rules and a review of "disparate" media laws.

The report included a proposal that would prevent Google's internet browser Chrome from being installed as a default on mobile devices, computers and tables and Google's search engine from being installed as a default search engine on internet browsers.

The ACCC has also proposed that a new or existing regulatory authority investigates, monitors and reports on how large digital platforms rank and display advertisements and news content.

The ACCC report is said to be the first of its kind globally to look at the impact of big technology on media and advertising markets.

The report revealed the significant extent of the market power Facebook and Google hold over Australians.

It said for every 100 Australia dollars spent by advertisers in Australia, 47 Australia dollars goes to Google, while 21 Australia dollars goes to Facebook.

Serious concerns have also been raised about the social media giants' willingness to crack down on ad fraud and their use of algorithms to determine what content and advertising users see, the Australian newspaper said on Monday.

"There is a lack of transparency on the part of the digital platforms about these algorithms," the ACCC's preliminary report said.

Under a key ACCC recommendation, Google and Facebook would be forced to regularly hand over information and documents to a regulatory authority.

"The regulatory authority could have the power to investigate complaints, initiate its own investigations, make referrals to other government agencies and publish reports and make recommendations," a section of the report said.

The ACCC is considering whether an ombudsman should be established to deal with complaints about digital platforms from consumers, advertisers, media companies and other business users of digital platforms, the report revealed.

It is also looking at whether an ombudsman could have a role in addressing concerns about advertisements containing false representations, such as fake claims involving celebrities.

"Google and Facebook could do more to address this issue," the ACCC said in its report.

The government, in a joint release on Monday from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Attorney-General Christian Porter and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, said the preliminary report highlighted several important issues related to news media and advertisers, including market power and potential regulatory adjustments.

A final report will be issued by the ACCC next June.

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