Facebook: The ACCC is protecting media companies, not journalism

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 6 March 2019

Facebook says the consumer watchdog the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) is protecting the interests of a few small media companies, not journalism.

The ACCC, at the request of the Federal Government, is inquiring into the impact of digital search engines, social media platforms and other digital content aggregator on competition in media and advertising services markets.

Key initial recommendations made by the ACC, which have been under intense scrutiny by both tech giants and the wider media industry, includes an algorithms watchdog and ad regulator.

In its submission to the inquiry, Facebook says the findings are “flawed, unsupported and inconsistent" with commercial realities.

“The preliminary report’s near-exclusive focus on protecting certain publishers from disruption and competition is at odds with the ACCC’s mandate to promote competition and protect consumers, and misapprehends the broader challenges facing journalism and news production,” says Facebook.

The US-based social media giant raised particular issue with the recommendation of a news ranking regulator to “monitor, investigate and report on” what news appears in people’s news feeds.

Facebook, despite long arguing it’s a platform rather than publisher, says neither the ACCC nor the government should  “appoint itself as a monitor, investigator, and reporter of the daily process by which The Sydney Morning Herald predicts reader interests and chooses the news articles that will appear on its front page".

Facebook rejects ad regulator
The tech giant also rejected the ACCC’s recommendation for an ad regulator, saying the watchdog misunderstands how advertising is supplied and delivered on Facebook.

ACCC chair Rod Sims last week called on industry executives for help, particularly on the issue of the opacity of the ad tech supply and concerns Facebook and Google could be providing themselves with an advantage.

However, Facebook says it's not vertically integrated in the ad tech stack and therefore has no such businesses to favour.
“Facebook and Google are not the same entity,” it says.

Last month Google also submitted to the inquiry, mostly echoing Facebook’s concerns and urging the ACCC to not see it as a social media platform.

More than 68 cents in every dollar in digital advertising in Australia is estimated to be going to Google and Facebook.

The ACCC is due to submit a final report to the government by June 3.

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