The Senate Economics References Committee (Committee) has released an issues paper into their 'Inquiry into international digital platforms operated by Big Tech' calling for submissions. The Big Tech Inquiry was established by the Senate on 26 September 2022 to consider the impact "Big Tech" companies have in Australian society and its economy.
Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft are the 'Big Five' Big Tech companies the subject of the Inquiry as being the most prominent entities in Big Tech, with a joint market capitalisation of US$4.5 trillion and considerable interaction and involvement in Australian's lives.
The Committee is mapping the activities undertaken by these companies, including those relating to:
Cloud storage of data
Algorithms and transparency
Data and privacy
Big Tech disinformation
The Issues Paper references a Lowy Institute poll which found that 90 per cent of Australians surveyed consider that the influence of social media companies is an important or critical threat to the vital interests of Australia.
The Committee is calling on interested parties to provide their opinion by way of submission on the future of regulation in this space. Some issues the Committee is seeking to explore further include:
What impact the market power of big tech companies have on the economy, society and small business;
The establishment of a statutory tort of serious invasion of privacy;
Whether more can be done to enhance online safety for child protection in Australia;
What regulatory frameworks are required to address any risks associated with the Metaverse; and
How Australia can approach regulating the increasing number of foreign owned tech companies based in countries whose political systems are more authoritarian.
Many of the issues which are being considered are also relevant for other businesses operating in the technology space, including the emerging Web3 industry. Many expect the report to be scathing of the (in)action of large platforms to prevent scam and false advertising and the lack of prevention of the spread of disinformation.
A call for written submissions has been made by the Committee and can be made until 28 February 2023. Submissions can be lodged online here. Once released, the final report will be the first of its kind in Australia insofar as it analyses the impact Big Tech has on society and the economy.