Senate inquiry to probe Big Tech influence in Australia

A new Senate inquiry will examine the nature and extent of influence of large foreign companies Google, Meta, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon in the Australian market and public debate.

Sen. Andrew Bragg won the “overdue” inquiry unopposed in the Senate on Monday, having successfully referred the matter to the Economic Credentials Committee which he chairs.

“The ‘big five’ international technology platforms have more power than the railroads and oil tycoons of the golden age,” Mr Bragg said.

Photo: Various Photographs / Shutterstock

“Australia’s Parliament needs to form a firmer view of what the enormous concentration of power through vertical integration and meshing of hardware and software means for our country.

The Senate inquiry will look at US companies’ market shares, vertical integration, algorithms and child data protection, as well as recent regulatory efforts for digital platforms, the broader impacts of the concentration of power of market on consumers, competition and the economy.

A final report will be delivered by the end of 2023.

Mr Bragg said Australians should embrace technology while managing the risks it brings to society and the economy, adding that this was done by the last Parliament with online safety and the Trading Code news media.

“Technology has brought great benefits to Australians. He has been a great catalyst for new services for all Australians. However, we need to have the policy settings in place to protect users and ensure Australians are not taken advantage of by the most powerful corporations in history,” he said.

The previous Parliament’s major tech inquiry focused on online safety and was launched alongside the Coalition’s bid to pass ‘anti-trolling’ laws.

That inquiry reported in March, recommending continued monitoring of online harm and the efforts of social media companies to combat it by Parliament and the e-Safety Commissioner. He also called for legal requirements regarding algorithmic social media transparency and potential regulation of end-to-end encryption.

Australia’s competition and consumer regulator has conducted its own investigation into digital platforms and is expected to provide its recommendations to the Treasurer by the end of the month.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley by email.

Norman D. Briggs