Facebook, Google and other technology giants' role in spreading fake
news stories and diverting advertising away from traditional media will
be put under the microscope after the government directed the
competition regulator to undertake an inquiry into digital
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had been
asked to scrutinise major digital platforms and their impacts on
media, journalism and advertising, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said
The inquiry would largely centre on market power and misleading
information. While "fake news" would be part of this discussion, it
wouldn't be the main focus, he said.
"When you're getting news articles, do you know enough about how
they're fashioned for you?" he said.
It would also look at whether advertisers were aware of the full range
of information, potentially including how audience metrics and other
data were provided.
The impact of the tech giants on the choice and quality of news and
journalism available to the public, and long-term trends such
as innovation and technological change, would also be looked at, along
with information asymmetry, where one company or user has more
information than another.
A Facebook spokeswoman said the primary use of the platform was to
connect with friends and family, speak to communities of interest and
connect with organisations and public figures.
"Whilst the sharing of news and entertainment content is only a small
part of the content shared on our services, we take our role in the
media ecosystem very seriously and invest significantly in products that
support publishers," she said.
"We look forward to a thorough inquiry into the Australian media
Mr Xenophon has formerly said Facebook did not move fast enough to remove fake news, and
described Google and Facebook as causing a "haemorrhaging" of local
Earlier in the year, then-senator Xenophon, Sam Dastyari, Scott Ludlam,
and Jacqui Lambie backed a Senate inquiry into the future of journalism to
examine the structure of newsrooms and tax arrangements and the increase
of "fake news".
A key line of the new inquiry will be advertising expenditure
in print newspapers, which has been in decline for years as advertisers
look for alternative, and often digital, ways to reach audiences.
Concerns about the pressure tech giants put on traditional media and
marketing companies was also reflected in Zenith's Advertising
Expenditure Forecasts report, released on Monday.
By 2018, internet advertising in Australia was anticipated to account
for 50 to 60 per cent of the total advertising spend, Zenith
Australia chief executive Nickie Scriven said.
"Google and Facebook are the main benefactors of this growth and this
is likely to continue to 2020," she said.
The ACCC is expected to distribute an issues paper outlining
matters relevant to the inquiry and calling for public
Public and private hearings would then be held in 2018. It hopes
to hear from content creators, mainstream and small media operators,
platform providers, advertisers, journalists, consumers and small
business interest groups.
A preliminary report will be prepared by December 2018, with the
final report anticipated by June the following year.