Australia to establish antitrust office to police Facebook, Google

Vastavam web: Australia said it would establish the world’s first dedicated office within an antitrust regulator to police Facebook Inc and Google, setting a precedent for global lawmakers grappling with the U.S. technology giants’ dominance. The move outlined in a groundbreaking report tightens the regulatory screws on the technology behemoths, which have governments from the United States to Europe scrambling to address concerns ranging from anti-trust issues to alleged political bias to the spread of “fake news” and hate speech.

Just this month, Facebook disclosed it was facing an antitrust probe from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. It also was fined $5 billion for failing to tell users how it was using their private information. “These companies are among the most powerful and valuable in the world,” Frydenberg told reporters in Sydney after the release of the much-anticipated report by the ACCC on future regulation of the dominant digital platforms.

“They need to be held to account and their activities need to be more transparent.” The new ACCC branch would be designed to take inquiries from companies with exposure to the advertising market “who believe that the algorithms have been misused”, he added.

Frydenberg said the government “accepts the ACCC’s overriding conclusion that there is a need for reform”. The proposals would be subject to a 12-week public consultation process before the government acts on the report, he added. Google and Facebook have opposed tighter regulation while traditional media owners, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, have backed reform.

A Facebook representative was not immediately available for comment. The company has said the ACCC underestimated the competition in the country’s advertising market. The report will be closely watched by regulatory agencies around the world as governments scramble to adjust laws to accommodate the rapid growth of companies that hold huge sway over the advertising, retail, financial services and media industries.