The ACCC will begin two new inquiries into digital competition in Australia just months after the government produced a lacklustre response to the regulator's last report.
Social media, search engines, private messaging, content aggregation platforms such as YouTube, and digital marketplaces all fall within the scope of the new digital platforms services inquiry.
The ACCC will concern itself with the level of competition in these services – that cover much of the public's internet use – as well as identifying market trends or potential areas that “may result in consumer harm”.
The ACCC has five years to complete this report.
Last year’s 600-page Digital Platforms Inquiry report identified that Australians spend nearly 40 per cent of their time online using either Google or Facebook products.
Five months after the findings were handed down, the government issued its response saying it would fully support just seven of the ACCC’s 23 recommendations.
Part of the government’s response was a commitment to fund the ACCC with an additional $27 million over four years to create a Digital Platforms Branch which will conduct the two newest inquiries.
The government also expressed a willingness to develop voluntary measures – like codes of conduct and protocols – to help mitigate problems of spreading disinformation online and the acquisition practices of tech giants, along with a future review and update of the Privacy Act.
At the time, vocal opponents of the government like Greens senator, Sarah Hanson-Young, criticised its approach.
“They’ve kicked the can down the road by announcing yet another review and yet more consultation,” Hanson-Young said.
How good’s an inquiry?
As if that wasn’t enough inquiring, a digital advertising services inquiry is also set to examine the competitiveness of digital advertising in a local market currently dominated by Silicon Valley giants.
Market competition, availability of information, revenue, acquisitions, and the concentration of power are within the scope of this latest advertising inquiry.
The ACCC will hand down its findings by August 31 next year.
The broader IT industry wants to see tech giants reined in.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently called for more government regulation in order to absolve large tech companies of the massive social responsibility – like the promotion of free, democratic discourse – that has fallen at their feet.
Strong regulation is more likely to come from Brussels than Canberra, however, with the EU Parliament drawing a crowd of big names in technology this week ahead of debating tech-focused initiatives on artificial intelligence, data, and “A Strategy for Europe Fit for the Digital Age”.