No choice, no rules

Submission to the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry – March 2023 Report on social media services Issues Paper
by Jordan Guiao

The Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology made a submission to the ACCC’s Digital Platform Services Inquiry – March 2023 Report on social media services Issues Paper. The submission highlights the lack of competition in social media services and the need for regulation of social media influencers.

Social media services are a significant part of the daily economic and civic life of Australians. Australians use social media to communicate, get informed, stay connected to their networks, transact, do business, get entertained, and more.

The largest platforms like Facebook and YouTube are ‘must haves’ and critical for many Australians, with no viable alternatives in place should those platforms be disrupted or choose to restrict their services in some way.

Social media has also given way to new groups called ‘influencers’ who play a material role in consumer communications. These influencers have almost no regulation applied to them, despite many gaining revenues and profit from their activities, and their followers considering them important sources of information.

This landscape therefore, of dominant social platforms with no real alternatives, and new groups like social media influencers having little regulatory oversight, provide an environment that can be harmful to consumers, exposing them to potentially misleading and deceptive products and information.

To ensure a safe, healthy and competitive social media environment, we recommend the following:

  • Investigate giants like Facebook and Google for potential antitrust breaches, ensuring a competitive social media landscape in Australia
  • Invest in local alternatives, encouraging development of alternative social media platforms in Australia
  • Have regulation parity with social media advertising/influencer advertising and mainstream media advertising, with social media services being subject to the same rules, governing bodies, codes of conduct, limitations, enforcement mechanisms and penalties.
  • Ban influencers from promoting or creating content which requires specific qualifications and certifications – such as health advice, health products, medical treatments, health policy, COVID/pandemic related topics, financial advice, financial investments, and so on.

Full report