ACCC chair Rod Sims has described technology giants Facebook and Google as publishers, who should be regulated in a similar way to traditional media.
Following the release of the ACCC’s final report into the market power of digital platforms, Mr Sims said Google and Facebook should be subject to the same laws as publishers and broadcasters.
And not before time. Moreover, it might even become a bi-partisan issue. At least you can hope. From the US.
Yesterday, presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign sued Google, alleging that the company wrongly suspended the campaign’s Google Ads account during the critical hours following the first Democratic debate. The Complaint is venued in federal court in central California.
Its allegations are explosive. Gabbard accuses Google of trying to sabotage her presidential campaign because she, like Elizabeth Warren, has argued in favor of reining in the tech monopolies, including Google. Here are some of the Complaint’s allegations:
4. In the June 26-27, 2019 Democratic Party presidential debates, tens of millions of Americans got to hear Tulsi Gabbard’s voice for the first time. And people liked what they heard: Gabbard quickly became the most searched-for Democratic presidential candidate on June 27-28. In the crucial post-debate period—a time when presidential candidates receive outsize interest, engagement, and donations—Americans around the country wanted to hear more from Tulsi Gabbard.
7. On June 28, 2019—at the height of Gabbard’s popularity among Internet searchers in the immediate hours after the debate ended, and in the thick of the critical post-debate period (when television viewers, radio listeners, newspaper readers, and millions of other Americans are discussing and searching for presidential candidates), Google suspended Tulsi’s Google Ads account without warning.
8. For hours, as millions of Americans searched Google for information about Tulsi, and as Tulsi was trying, through Google, to speak to them, her Google Ads account was arbitrarily and forcibly taken offline. Throughout this period, the Campaign worked frantically to gather more information about the suspension; to get through to someone at Google who could get the Account back online; and to understand and remedy the restraint that had been placed on Tulsi’s speech—at precisely the moment when everyone wanted to hear from her.
Utterly unacceptable. People go onto these platforms because they are suckered in with the promise that they will not be censored and once the network is build up find themselves sandbagged by a bunch of ignorant techies. Let them be sued, and as far as the eye can see.
The publisher here is “WordPress” and they don’t edit. They just provide the platform and we do the writing. And if we break the law in what we say, we are no more protected than if we said it anywhere else. If, however, WordPress were to refuse to allow us to write anything positive about Donald Trump, let us say, then they would be the publisher. Unless it is illegal to say something, it should be illegal for these various platforms not to publish what others have put up on their site. No different from what might be put in a personal letter.
“Social media” is a new phenomenon and the rules should apply to them. Community standards is an invention by each of these platforms and has nothing to do with any kind of legal determination of what can and cannot be said in public. I hope Christian Porter is able to change the rules and in just such a way that the entire world is compelled to follow along in the same kind of way.