Australia Launches Inquiry Into Google, Facebook 'Net Impact

Concerned edge might be exercising detrimental market power

U.S. government officials are not the only ones starting to look seriously at the potential gatekeeper impact of edge players, particularly social media sites, on competition and content.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said Monday that the federal government has launched a formal investigation into Facebook and Google and other "digital platform providers."

The inquiry will be looking into the effect that search engines, social media and other aggregation platforms have on competition in the media and for ad services.

The ACCC says it will go into the inquiry with an "open mind," but it also made clear it is going into it with eyes open to potential problems. "“We will examine whether platforms are exercising market power in commercial dealings to the detriment of consumers, media content creators and advertisers.”

It will also be looking at what it calls "digital asymmetry" between digital platforms and advertisers and consumers and “at the impact of digital platforms on the level of choice and quality of news and content being produced by Australian journalists.”

The inquiry will take awhile. The ACCC is not planning to produce a final report until June 2019, but in the interim will be conducting public and private hearings, it said, and will circulate a paper outlining relevant issues and will seek public comment.

The ACCC regulates communications and other infrastructure and promotes competition and trade.

As the FCC prepares to put edge providers and ISPs on a more level deregulatory footing, U.S. government officials--FCC chairman Ajit Pai and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) are also taking a harder look at the impact of the edge on competition and speech, particularly in the wake of Russian election meddling involving online advertising.