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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) called for new regulations on Facebook, Google and other tech behemoths which could have far-reaching ramifications on their money-making procedures and their ability to choose which content consumers would consume.
The country’s competition watchdog devised some recommendations which, if confirmed, would be among the most restrictive towards tech giants. These recommendations were created in an effort to limit the power of these tech giants due to global concerns of their influence and various other issues such as anti-trust, privacy abuse and the role they play in spreading discriminatory content and misinforming the public.
The ACCC plans to issue its final report by the end of June, following its 18-month inquiry into the issue. This report is expected to comprise of various proposals pertaining to controls that will be imposed on tech giants which handle a large quantity of personal data to use for marketing purposes such as the use of algorithms to coordinate which advertisements to display to customers, which tailored search results will appear and other tailored content.
In the lengthy preliminary report which was issued in December last year, the ACCC raised concerns about the market power of tech companies like Facebook and Google and how their operations are characterized by a “lack of transparency”, especially with regards to the use of our data.
The report, which was initiated by the conservative government, read,: “We are at a critical point in considering the impact of digital platforms on society.” It also shed some light on the impact the tech giants had on Australia’s new industry.
In fact, it was found that since 2014, two tech titans were receiving a huge fraction of the revenues generated from digital advertising which resulted in the number of newspapers and online journalists falling by over 20 per cent.
“While the ACCC recognizes their significant benefits to consumers and business, there are important questions to be asked about the role the global digital platforms play in the supply of news and journalism in Australia,” read the report.
The competition watchdog stated that it wanted to make sure the big firms did not “favor their own business interests, through their marketing power and presence across multiple markets”.
“There are also issues with the role of digital platforms in determining what news and information is accessed by Australians, how this information is provided, and its range and reliability.”
Rod Sims, ACCC chairman, stated that regulatory authorities In the UK, Europe and the U.S. were monitoring the outcome of their inquiry very closely as they are all still in the process of determining their policies regarding the issue.
Many are of the belief that the ACCC’s recommendations are impractical and a little radical.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has already begun to take action against the growing influence of Big Tech. This includes enabling criminal penalties for social media execs which allow the spread of violent or hateful content on their platforms.
Head of DIGI, the lobbying group formed by various tech behemoths to deal with the regulator, Sunit Bose, said, “We obviously need really clear rules for the internet that protect privacy, safety, the economic and social benefits of technology while also protecting competition and innovations.”
She also argued that the Australian regulator’s recommendations would hurt Big Tech, as well as start-ups and smaller companies that lack the resources to deal with the new regulations.
“the prospect of having to disclose such sensitive information will serve as a deterrent to global digital companies and start-ups initiating or expanding their operation in Australia,” she said.
High profile US Democrat Nancy Pelosi has launched a blistering attack on Facebook for refusing to block the sharing of a video of her that was doctored to make it look like she was drunk.
Social networking behemoth Facebook has formally announced that it would like to launch its own cryptocurrency next year according to reports by the BBC.
The Trump administration has left itself wide open to more criticism after it declined to join an international bid designed to stamp out and eradicate violent extremism online.
Mark Zuckerberg and French President Macron held a meeting at the Elysee Palace in an effort to crack down on the latest issues surrounding social media and the internet.
Facebook has hired a new lawyer, Jennifer Newstead, a high-ranking US State Department Lawyer, who will oversee Facebook’s global legal functions amid pressure from regulators regarding its privacy policies.
On Saturday, the Australian government pledged to introduce new laws on social media executives in light of the latest terrorist attack in New Zealand.
The new law would be imposed on social media executives of big tech companies which could lead up to a three-year prison sentence if they fail to remove extremist material from their platforms.
This new legislation is to be discussed in parliament next week.
Facebook has said that it removed around 1.5 million videos which comprised of the livestreamed massacre which took play on March 15 in Christchurch mosque in New Zealand. It was a 17-minute video which was filmed by the terrorist himself going on a rampage and killing 50 innocent people. This video was almost immediately available online and Facebook quickly took the video down several hours after the attack.
“Big social media companies have a responsibility to take evry possible action to ensure their technology products are not exploited by murderous terrorists,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Morrison met with several tech companies on Tuesday some of which included Facebook, Twitter and Google. At the meeting, Australia stated that it would advise other G20 countries to do the same and hold social media firms accountable.
At the meeting, Facebook said that it was “committed to working with leaders and communities” in order to “help counter hate speech and the threat of terrorism.” However, the tech company refused to give any further comments.
Attorney General Christian Porter said that the new legislation would make it a criminal offence if social media platforms fail to discard “abhorrent violent material” such as murder, rape and terror attacks.
The fines for such an offence are expected to be worth billions of dollars.
Porter stated, “Mainstream media hat broadcast such material would be putting their licence at risk and there is no reason why social media platforms should be treated any differently.”
Nigel Phair, a cybersecurity expert, hinted that this new law could not possibly imprison social media executives. He stated that jail was reserved for “serious criminal matters” and that executives based in Australia were not company “decision makers”.
“Jails is for violent offenders, not marketing representatives in Australia of an American social media company.”
He said that the social media firms could have done more than what they pledged to do on Tuesday. He added, “They didn’t read the tea leaves back then, it’ll be different how they read the tea leaves now.”
Facebook revealed that it has kept a record of hundreds of millions of user passwords in plain text.
The social media giant’s Vice President of Engineering, Security and Privacy, Pedro Canahuati, wrote in a blog post that hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite users will be notified about this and so will the millions of Facebook and Instagram users.
Facebook Lite is a version of Facebook which is used in areas with weak connectivity.
According to Canahuati the mistake they made was noticed in January but did failed to comment on why an announcement wasn’t made about the issue at the time. Instead, the announcement came over two months later.
“As part of a routine security review in January, we found that some user passwords were being stored in a readable format within our internal data storage systems,” said Canahuati.
He also stated that the passwords which were stored were never visible to anyone outside Facebook and that they were not abused or improperly used by any of the staff.
“This caught our attention because our login systems are designed to mask passwords using techniques that make them unreadable.
We have fixed these issues and as a precaution we will be notifying everyone whose passwords we have found were stored in this way.”
Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are facing scrutiny following the horrific terrorist attack in New Zealand.
French President Emmanuel Macron has planned to implement an increase in taxes on internet giants such as Google and Facebook.
After failing to convince his European counterparts to introduce it as an EU-wide tax, he decided to implement it in his own country. Many EU officials were against the idea such as Ireland which is well-known for its low-tax jurisdictions.
The matter will be discussed by cabinet ministers and then submitted to Parliament. The proposal put forward regarding the new tax mechanism suggests that lare companies operating within France are subject to a tax of three per cent on their digital sales made within the territory.
This weekend, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told Le Parisien, “The amount obtained from this three per cent tax on digital gross sales in France from January1, 2019 should soon reach 500 million Euros.”
This new tax is called “GAFA tax” which stands for Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.
Indeed, the European Commission found that Apple paid just 0.005 per cent of corporate tax on its European profits in 2014 which equates to approximately 50 Euros per million. As a result, in 2016 Apple was ordered by the European Commission to make a payment of 13 billion Euros in taxes to Ireland.
Under EU law, internet giants are expected to report their income which has prompted them to opt for low-tax nations for business such as Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Under the legislation which will be presented by French politician Bruno Le Maire on Wednesday, digital companies with sales of more than 750 million euros per year globally and more than 25 million n France will be taxed.
Le Maire stated, “If these two critera are not met, the taxes will not be imposed.”
He also said that around 30 companies in China, Germany, the US, Spain and the UK will be affected by this tax.
According to Le Maire, taxing such companies “is a question of fiscal justice” because “digital giants pay 14 per cent less tax than small- and medium-sized European companies.”
Ireland, Sweden and Denmark have refused the EU’s efforts to implement a new tax due to fear of decreased investment. Germany had a somewhat neutral stance on the matter as it feared an adverse response from the S against its car industry.
While the prospect of enforcing this tax within Europe has failed, France is hoping for a global agreement by 2020.
France is trying to pursue “common ground” on the issue with members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which is comprised of representatives from the most advanced economies in the world.
Britain, Italy and Spain have also been working on a new digital tax while Singapore, Japan and India are in the process of planning their own schemes.
Recently, aggressive legal action by tax authorities has been taken against these companies.
Just last month, Apple reached an agreement to pay 10 years’ worth of backtracked taxes which amounted to nearly 500 million Euros.
However in 2017, France tax collection drive experienced a setback when their court action against Google resulted in the internet giant not being liable to pay 101 billion Euros in taxes from revenues which were reportedly transferred from France to Ireland.
French tax is “symbolic and does not solve the problem of massive fiscal evastion,” said Raphael Pradeau from the anti-globalisation lobby group Attac. “It’s as if we accept that such firms can practice tax evasion in return for a few crumbs.”