Australia

Call for better digital literacy after report on tech giants

The Australian Competition and Commission released a landmark report into the growing power of digital platforms on Friday. Source: AAP

A landmark inquiry into digital platforms will shake up the way Google and Facebook operate in Australia and could improve the news media landscape.

A federal Labor frontbencher is wary some of the competition watchdog's digital platform recommendations could be viewed as the government getting into the area of what can and can't be broadcast.

But the opposition's spokesman for defence industry and Western Australian resources Matt Keogh also recognises the need to understand how entities like Facebook and Google put their own manipulation on news.

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The Australian Competition and Commission released a landmark report into the growing power of digital platforms on Friday.

The government is seeking feedback on the commission's 23 recommendations aimed at making tech giants more accountable and transparent.

Among these recommendations, the watchdog wants a code of conduct established to address the commercial imbalances between the tech giants and media companies.

News Corp's Campbell Reid said the commercial viability of media companies had been "fundamentally eroded" by the behaviour of digital platforms and it was encouraging that the problem has now been called out.

But Mr Keogh said this is a "fraught area".

"You're effectively saying we want government to get into regulating what can be broadcast and how is that prioritised,' he told ABC television on Saturday.

"But it is also important to recognise the way in which entities like Facebook and Google put their own manipulation over the top of that."

He said it is about transparency in how these companies operate while improving digital literacy so that people understand what they are seeing at the top of their feed may not be the accurate information.

However, he is also concerned about the length of time it has taken the government to tackle the problem.

"We were asking the government to do this three years ago,' he said.

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"Not only has this review taken 18 months ... but it's probably another 12 months again before we actually see any action on this."

However, the Nationals chief whip Damian Drum disagrees, saying the government saw what trends where happening and gave the ACCC 18 months to undertake a thorough investigation.

"We need to make sure that the news and our media outlets are protected. We need to make sure that the consumers are protected," he told ABC television.

"This is an ever-changing landscape and we have been ahead of the game and we will continue to stay ahead of the game to protect Australia's people."

Google and Facebook face five investigations and more could follow in the wake of an inquiry into digital platforms.

"They need to be held to account and their activities need to be more transparent," Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said releasing the report.

The ACCC found a very serious issue in the sheer volume of personal data being collected without informed consent.

It recommends setting up an enforceable privacy code specifically for digital platforms.

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