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Holistic reforms needed to address dominance of digital platforms: ACCC

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By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 29 July: Australia needs dynamic reforms to take care of the dominance of digital platforms, says the recently released report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The ACCC’s ‘Digital platforms inquiry – final report’ (June 2019) considered the impact of online search engines, social media and digital content aggregators (digital platforms) on competition in the media and advertising services markets. In accordance with the Terms of Reference, the ACCC has examined the implications of these impacts for media content creators, advertisers, and consumers, focussing, in particular, on the impact on news and journalism.

The report contains 23 recommendations, spanning competition law, consumer protection, media regulation, and privacy law, reflecting the intersection of issues arising from the growth of digital platforms.

A media release from the ACCC says: “During the course of its Inquiry, the ACCC identified many adverse effects associated with digital platforms, many of which flow from the dominance of Google and Facebook.

These include:

The market power of Google and Facebook has distorted the ability of businesses to compete on their merits in advertising, media and a range of other markets
The digital advertising markets are opaque with highly uncertain money flows, particularly for automated and programmatic advertising

Consumers are not adequately informed about how their data is collected and used and have little control over the huge range of data collected News content creators are reliant on the dominant digital platforms, yet face difficulties in monetizing their content Australian society, like others around the world, has been impacted by disinformation and a rising mistrust of news.

“The dominant digital platforms’ response to the issues we have raised might best be described as ‘trust us’,” Mr Sims said.

“There is nothing wrong with being highly focused on revenue growth and providing increasing value to shareholders; indeed, it can be admired. But we believe the issues we have uncovered during this Inquiry are too important to be left to the companies themselves.”

“Action on consumer law and privacy issues, as well as on consumers’ data,” Mr. Sims said.”

The ACCC recommendations include:

- Requiring designated digital platforms to each provides the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) with codes to address the imbalance in the bargaining relationship between these platforms and news media businesses and recognize the need for value sharing and monetization of content

- Addressing the regulatory imbalance that exists between news media businesses and digital platforms, by harmonizing the media regulatory framework

- Targeted grants to support local journalism of about AU$50 million a year
Introducing measures to encourage philanthropic funding of public interest journalism in Australia

- ACMA monitoring the digital platforms’ efforts to identify reliable and trustworthy news

- Requiring the digital platforms to draft and implement an industry code for handling complaints about deliberately misleading and harmful news stories

- Introducing a mandatory take-down ACMA code to assist copyright enforcement on digital platforms.

The report also recommends about digital platforms’ impact on Australian media businesses and how Australians access news, empowering consumers, protecting privacy, continued scrutiny of digital platforms and expert regulators and agencies to play complementary roles.

A BBC report says: “A 12-week consultation process on the proposals is now under way, after which the Australian government can act on it.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the regulator was currently running five separate investigations into Facebook and Google.

He called for “a lot more transparency and oversight” of the two companies and added that breaking them up remained a possibility.

Both firms said they would engage with regulators.”

“The Morrison government labeled the world-first findings “groundbreaking” and said Facebook and Google needed to be held to account for their activities,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).

The SMH further says: “The DIGI, the industry body representing Google, Facebook, and other tech companies operating in Australia, called on the government to assess the ACCC’s recommendations against an “innovation test”, warning about impacts on Australia’s “global standing as a place to invest in technology”.

DIGI managing director Sunita Bose said the sector was closely examining the recommendations to “ensure they don’t bring unintended consequences to all digital businesses and the choice of digital products available to Australian consumers”.

The full ACCC report can be accessed at – https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/holistic-dynamic-reforms-needed-to-address-dominance-of-digital-platforms

- The report has been prepared using the ACCC media release, BBC report and Sydney Morning Herald report as sources.

Wikileaks: Pak hoaxed by fake & dubious anti-India cables, papers retract stories

Pakistani newspapers have admitted they were hoaxed after publishing reports based on fake Wikileaks cables containing anti-Indian propaganda.

US diplomatic cables were reported on Thursday as confirming many right-wing Pakistani views and conspiracy theories about their regional arch-foe.

They claimed US envoys thought one Indian general was “rather a geek”, and accused India of genocide in Kashmir.

The fake cables are believed to have been planted by Pakistani intelligence.

The Guardian, a British newspaper which has all of the 250,000 leaked Wikileaks cables, said that an extensive search of the database had found nothing to match any of the claims in the Pakistani media.

‘Deep regret’
A spokesman for the Indian High Commission in Islamabad said they were “appalled” such a baseless story had attracted such wide exposure.

According to the fake cables, Indian spies were said to be supporting Islamist militants in Pakistan’s north-western tribal region of Waziristan and the south-western province of Balochistan.

US diplomats were also said to believe the Indian Army was faction-ridden; a “Bosnia-like genocide” was happening in Indian-administered Kashmir; and the Indian military was supporting “Hindu fanatic groups”.

On further inquiries, we learnt the story was dubious ”

The bogus messages also referred to the confession of Ajmal Qasab, the only surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, calling it funny and “shockingly immature”.

US diplomats were said to have referred to former Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor as “an incompetent combat leader and rather a geek”.

“His war doctrine, suggesting eliminating China and Pakistan in a simultaneous war front, was termed as ‘much far from reality’,” reported the News, a daily newspaper.

Another army chief had apparently been described as “an egotist, self-obsessed, petulant and idiosyncratic general, a braggadocio and a show-off, who has been disliked (and barely tolerated) by all his subordinates”.

‘Without verification’
The report also said that US diplomats had compared yet another Indian general in Indian-administered Kashmir to “General Milosevic of Bosnia with regard to butchering Muslims through war crimes”.

The News said on Friday: “On further inquiries, we learnt from our sources that the story was dubious and may have been planted.”

The English-language Express Tribune newspaper, a Pakistani affiliate of the International Herald Tribune, published a front-page retraction.

The daily said it “deeply regrets publishing this story without due verification and apologises profusely for any inconvenience”.

But Jang, which had reported the fake Wikileaks story on its front page, did not mention it on Friday.

And the Nation newspaper still appeared to believe the story, claiming in an editorial that the report had exposed “India’s true face”.

The hoax is said to have originated from the Islamabad-based Online wire agency.

The BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi says Online is known for its close links to the Pakistani intelligence services.

The agency gained notoriety in 2002 when one of its correspondents tried to sell a video of US journalist Daniel Pearl’s murder to US diplomats.
- BBC