Australian regulators prepare for Facebook, Google turf war

Several organisations with oversight have warned about “overlap” and have asked for their role to be bolstered rather than overtaken by a new authority.


The office of the eSafety Commissioner urged the ACCC to build upon its “remit and role” and said the “consumer-focused functions of the proposed ombudsman and regulatory authority would fit within the citizen-focused functions and remit” of its organisation.

Meanwhile, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) – which currently regulates telecommunications companies, radio and TV broadcasters – said it was “best placed to take on the cross-platform content regulatory role as it was already responsible for a wide range of content regulation of traditional media and increasingly of online platforms”.

“A single regulator to address the content layer of the communications stack would provide cross-industry oversight and avoid industry silos arising from the current regulatory model,” the ACMA submission says.

“However, creating a separate regulator for digital platforms would appear inefficient and defeat the purpose of the proposed regulatory reform – to have a consistent approach to the regulation of the production and distribution of content in Australia.”


The ACCC has also proposed potential changes to privacy and data regulations.

ACMA accepted there might be “good reason” for the Office of the eSafety Commissioner in “coordinating and leading online safety efforts”.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s Judi Jones also weighed in, warning the suggestions in the ACCC report “appear to be proposals that could create regulatory overlap with the framework for the telecommunications service industry and the sector’s arrangement for complaints handling”.

While the regulators tussled over which organisation might be best placed to handle additional oversight, Google outright rejected the proposal for more scrutiny.

The search giant’s submission said the recommendation for new regulation “requires further, more careful consideration of the costs and benefits, and serious consultation with all stakeholders”.

The behemoth described its algorithms as “some of our most sensitive business secrets” and further criticised any attempt for imposed oversight on its news rankings.

Nine Entertainment Co, the publisher of this newspaper, also rejected suggestions another regulatory body should be established, arguing the ACCC itself should get additional tools to regulate Google and Facebook, which it described as “digital or virtual monopolies”.

“[T]he creation of any new regulatory body would stall the implementation of meaningful solutions arising from this inquiry,” the Nine submission says. Nine’s publishing business also has an advertising partnership with Google.

Several organisations, including Facebook, were given extensions to lodge their submissions.

Jennifer Duke is a media and telecommunications journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

John McDuling is a business, media and technology writer for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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