A new Senate inquiry will examine the nature and extent of the influence of foreign-owned Big Tech companies Google, Meta, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon have on the Australian market and public debate.
Senator Andrew Bragg secured the “overdue” inquiry unopposed in the Senate on Monday, successfully having the matter referred to the Economics References Committee he chairs.
“The ‘big five’ international big tech platforms have more power than the railroads and oil tycoons of the Gilded Age,” Mr Bragg said.
“Australia’s Parliament must form a stronger view on what the enormous concentration of power through vertical integration and meshing of hardware and software means for our country.
The Senate inquiry will examine the US companies’ market shares, vertical integration, algorithms, and protection of children’s data, as well as recent regulatory efforts for digital platforms, the broader impacts of market power concentration on consumers, competition and the economy.
A final report will be handed down by the end of 2023.
Mr Bragg said Australians should embrace technology whilst managing the risks it brings to society and the economy, adding this had been done by the last Parliament with online safety and the News Media Bargaining Code.
“Technology has delivered great benefits to Australians. It has been a great enabler of new services for all Australians. However, we must have the policy settings to protect users and ensure that Australians are not being exploited by possibly the strongest corporations in history,” he said.
The previous Parliament’s big tech inquiry focused on online safety and was launched in conjunction with the Coalition’s attempt at “anti-trolling” laws.
That inquiry reported in March, recommending ongoing monitoring of online harms and social media companies’ efforts to combat it by the Parliament and the eSafety Commissioner. It also called for statutory requirements around social media algorithmic transparency and potential regulation of end-to-end encryption.
Australia’s competition and consumer regulator has been conducting it’s own inquiry into digital platforms and is expected to provide its recommendations to the Treasurer by the end of the month.
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