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Albo announces probe into Meta, TikTok

Written by on May 9, 2024

Social media giants such as Meta and TikTok have been put on notice by the federal government, which is setting up a large-scale and wide ranging probe into its harm to Australians.

The federal government will establish a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee into the impact and influence of social media, including its ability to spread misinformation and how algorithms and recommender systems impact what content is served to Australians, and how it in turn can affect people’s mental health.

The spread of harmful or illegal content, such as scams, age-restricted content, child sexual abuse and violent extremist material will also be examined by the inquiry.

Meta’s decision to no longer pay for local news content will also be scrutinised.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said social media companies needed to be more transparent and held to higher degrees of accountability.

“These social media companies have enormous reach and control over what Australians see with little to no scrutiny,” she said.

“Parliament needs to understand how social media companies dial up and down the content that supports healthy democracies, as well as the anti-social content that undermines public safety.”

She said the inquiry will allow parliamentarians the ability to “closely scrutinise these companies and make recommendations on how we can make these platforms accountable for their decisions”.

Ms Rowland specifically pointed towards the access of news on social media platforms, which is under jeopardy following Meta’s withdrawal from the deals made under the News Media Bargaining Code.

“In our democracy, it is imperative that Australians have access to quality public interest journalism, including on social media,” she said.

“Unilateral decisions to undermine news hurts us all.”

Financial Services Minister Stephen Jones also criticised Meta’s decision and said it risked exposing users to fake news.

He said the probe will put “big tech under the microscope,” and create a “safer online environment” for Australians.

“The social media giants seem more determined to wipe trusted news sources from their platforms than scammers and other criminals,” he said.

“This will open the floodgates for misinformation and disinformation.

“We have a clear message for the platforms. Be better. Do better.”

Speaking after the Perth stabbing in which a 16-year-old allegedly stabbed a stranger in a Bunnings carpark, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressed concern at how social media algorithms could push young people into “more extreme positions”.

In the aftermath of the attack it was reported the teenager had been radicalised into extremist Islamic ideologies, and had been involved in a deradicalisation program since the age of 14.

“It is a dynamic that isn’t just an issue for government. It is an issue for our entire society, whether it be violent extremism, misogyny and violence against women,” he said.