Australia to raise possibility of more legislation on tech giants with new inquiry


FILE PHOTO: Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta is displayed behind a smartphone with the Facebook logo in this illustration picture taken October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison will on Wednesday announce a parliamentary inquiry into the behaviour of the world's largest technology companies and the need for new legislation. Australia has led global efforts to reign in the powers of the likes of Alphabet and Facebook, installing legislation that has been heralded as a model for others to copy.

Raising the possibility of additional regulation, Morrison will say on Wednesday that the new inquiry will have a wide scope, but will include asking the committee lawmakers to investigate the algorithms used by social media platforms, how the companies verify identification and age and the extent to which restrictions on these are being enforced.

"Big tech has big questions to answer," Morrison will say, according to extracts of his planned announcement, seen by Reuters.

"Big tech created these platforms, they have a responsibility to ensure they’re safe."

The announcement of a new inquiry is likely to stoke tensions between Australia's government and Facebook, which recently changed its name to Meta, and Google.

Earlier this year Australia implemented tough new legislation that made both tech companies pay local media for content, while Canberra has proposed laws that would force them to share the identities of people with anonymous accounts if another person accuses them of defamation.

When Australia proposed legislation forcing both companies to pay local media for news content, Google threatened to close its Australian search engine, while Facebook cut all third-party content from Australian accounts for more than a week.

Both eventually struck deals with Australian media companies after a series of amendments to the legislation were offered.

The committee in charge of the new inquiry will report back its findings by Feb. 15, 2022.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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