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Australia to Start Policing Facebook’s and Google’s Algorithms

SNLS | July 29, 2019

By Sean Walton

Australia’s antitrust watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has announced that it plans to set up an office that is dedicated to nothing else other than policing the algorithms tech giants like Facebook and Google use to generate their income, reports Reuters.

This is part of reforms designed to rein in the U.S. technology giants, potentially setting a precedent for global lawmakers.

The move tightens the regulatory screws on the online platforms, which have governments from the United States to Europe scrambling to address concerns ranging from antitrust issues to the spread of “fake news” and hate speech.

The new algorithm policing office is just one of 23 recommendations from the ACCC proposing how the Australian government can better regulate American tech giants. The idea behind policing the technology companies’ algorithms is so that regulators have a better idea of how companies match advertisements to users.

The news comes just weeks after the FTC hit Facebook with a $5 billion fine for privacy breaches stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Responding to the ACCC reports announcing the proposal, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said, “These companies are among the most powerful and valuable in the world. They need to be held to account and their activities need to be more transparent.”

“At the heart of this important ACCC report is a focus on delivering better consumer and commercial outcomes,” Frydenberg said. “And ensuring a viable media landscape, because news and journalism is a public good.”

The report found that more than 98% of online searches on mobile devices in Australia are with Google. Among Australia’s population of 25 million, Facebook has 17 million users who use it on average 30 minutes a day.

Facebook had largely been trusted to regulate itself and keep its 2.4 billion users’ interests at heart. That was before Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, fake news and the scandal over improper use of personal data of as many as 87 million users by data mining firm Cambridge Analytica, which was affiliated with President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Regulators in Australia, Europe and the U.S. took notice. Facebook now faces the prospect of not only billions of dollars in additional fines, but also new restrictions around the world.

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Sean Walton is a researcher and journalist for The Daily Sheeple. Send tips to sean.walton@thedailysheeple.com.

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Written by SNLS


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