Facebook rejects Aussie regulator's scrutiny call

SYDNEY • Facebook has rejected an Australian regulator's recommendation for greater scrutiny over the social network's advertising market power and the ranking of news articles in customers' feeds.

The proposal by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) last December, along with a new regulator to police technology giants, is being watched closely in other countries as governments seek to check their power.

"People, not regulators, should decide what they see in their news feeds," Facebook said in a 76-page submission in a reply dated March 3 and e-mailed to Reuters yesterday.

"Creating a news ranking regulator for Facebook is not a proportionate regulatory solution that will be effective to address the longstanding monetisation challenges facing some Australian publishers," the social media giant said.

It also said the commission underestimated the level of competition in online advertising markets in Australia, and was mistaken in its belief that Facebook's aggregation and analysis of users' data made it powerful.

Facebook's response follows a similar rebuttal from Alphabet's Google as the companies seek to head off a crackdown that could form a template for curtailing their growing influence in public life around the world.

The ACCC had said the enormous market power of firms like Google, which has a 94 per cent share of Web searches in Australia, and their opaque methods for ranking advertisements, gave them the ability and incentive to favour their businesses over advertisers.

In its preliminary recommendations, that are subject to change, the ACCC said the new regulator should have powers to investigate how the companies rank advertisements and news articles.

That was welcomed by NewsMediaWorks, a group representing Australian news publishers, which said that online platforms unfairly profit from distributing their stories.

But Facebook said: "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."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2019, with the headline 'Facebook rejects Aussie regulator's scrutiny call'. Print Edition | Subscribe