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May, 2024

Albanese Government to establish Select Committee into social media

The Albanese Government has announced plans to establish a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee to investigate the influence and impacts of social media on Australian society.

It comes in response to recent decisions by social media companies, particularly Meta’s decision to cease paying for news in Australia. The government’s objective is to enforce greater transparency and accountability from social media companies towards the Australian public.

The Committee is expected to examine and report on several issues, including Meta’s decision to abandon deals under the News Media Bargaining Code, the role of Australian journalism in countering misinformation on digital platforms, the influence of algorithms and recommendation systems on what Australians see online, and the dissemination of harmful or illegal content over social media.

“Social media is how millions of Australians connect, access news and run small businesses. These social media companies have enormous reach and control over what Australians see with little to no scrutiny. In our democracy, it is imperative that Australians have access to quality public interest journalism, including on social media. Unilateral decisions to undermine news hurts us all,” said Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP. “Social media companies have social responsibilities. They need to be more accountable and transparent. Parliament needs to understand how social media companies dial up and down the content that supports healthy democracies, as well as the anti-social content that undermines public safety. Establishing this inquiry will provide opportunity and resources for parliamentarians to closely scrutinise these companies and make recommendations on how we can make these platforms more accountable for their decisions.”

Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, the Hon Stephen Jones MP said that while social media was a great way for people to connect, it also exposed users to harm. “The social media giants seem more determined to wipe trusted news sources from their platforms than scammers and other criminals. This will open the floodgates for misinformation and disinformation. We have a clear message for the platforms. Be better. Do better. The committee will put big tech under the microscope to help create a safer online environment.”

The government will consult on the final Terms of Reference before an expected Parliamentary referral next week.