The Australian Competition And Consumer Commission (ACCC) has called for submissions from Australian media outlets and publishers to determine if the likes of Facebook’s and Google’s algorithms have breached consumer protection laws.
The ACCC is conducting a public inquiry into the impact of digital platforms on competition in media and advertising services, namely in relation to the supply of news and journalistic content.
It will also look at the impact the likes of Google and Facebook are having on traditional Australian publishers and try and determine whether they can remain viable into the future.
In its report, the ACCC said it was concerned by “advanced algorithms to process user data” that deliver content that matches preferences is described as a possible “consumer protection concern”.
The inquiry will cover search engines (such as Google or Bing), social media sites (such as Facebook and Twitter) and content aggregators (that could include Google News, News apps and Reddit).
There has been ongoing concern that social media platforms create “echo chambers”, where a user’s views are picked up by an algorithm and the news they are shown caters only to that viewpoint.
In its report, the ACCC found: “This may create a ‘filter bubble’ effect where users may find themselves receiving less exposure to new information or conflicting viewpoints.”
Consumers, media organisations, digital publishers, advertising agencies and their clients have until April 3 to provide their views to the ACCC for a preliminary report due to be released in December 2018.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims has said that tech platforms use of “big data” to target ads to users would also make up part of the investigation.
“Digital platforms like Google and Facebook are part of the sweeping technological and cultural changes overhauling the media landscape in Australia and globally,” Sims said.
“While these technological changes have brought many benefits for consumers, this inquiry will have a particular focus on examining whether the changes affect the quality and range of news supplied to Australian consumers.
“Considering the longer term impacts of digital platforms and the ability of traditional media to remain financially viable will also be key to understanding the media and advertising markets.
“Our aim is also to understand better the digital platforms’ business models and how they operate behind the scenes, and the evolving nature of the way consumers search for and receive news in Australia. We are particularly interested in the extent to which digital platforms curate news and journalistic content,” Sims said.