The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has been advocating on our behalf for more regulation of tech giants such as Facebook. The main concept ACCAN is focusing on is one of trust. It says social media companies are the least trusted of all industries, falling well behind telecommunications, and even financial services. But we still use these platforms even though we demand more from them.
Earlier this month, ACCAN acting CEO Andrew Williams gave a speech that declared consumers (us) are concerned about a wide range of issues on these platforms, mostly from misinformation spreading online that impacts communities, as well as cyber abuse and being unaware of our rights when we use use digital platforms.
Currently, Australia has no organisation that represents community interests on digital platform issues. ACCAN has positioned itself to be a voice for communications consumers.
In October, the Digital Industry Group (DIGI) launched a misinformation complaints portal that allows you to officially complain about tech giants such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Tik-Tok, Twitter and Facebook, but it really only focuses on the spread of misinformation on these platforms.
Williams said that while the introduction of the voluntary code, as well as the new Online Safety Act legislation have been introduced to combat many issues, including the idea of trust, the fact remains that there has been no consumer voice in the rule making process.
He says building trust amongst the users of the platforms is important for building better rules regarding digital platforms.
ACCAN today published research that focused on complaints handling for issues from the online realm. It said almost three in four Australians want a dedicated space, or at least an easier way, to make a complaint and to get their issues resolved when dealing with digital platforms.
ACCAN conducted a survey of 1,000 Aussies in prepping this research and found that 740 of those it polled think that it needs to be easier to make a complaint, while 780 people reckon it needs to be easier for people to get their issues resolved from platforms like Facebook.
Around 600 of the respondents to ACCAN’s polling also said they feel there’s not much they can do when something goes wrong online – it isn’t just Facebook, but ACCAN did single the Zuckerberg site out, alongside the Meta-owned WhatsApp and online marketplace eBay.
790 people ACCAN surveyed said digital platforms like Facebook should be responsible for the content on their sites, another 790 people want more done to protect their safety and privacy online and around 470 people surveyed said they don’t trust digital platforms to act in their best interests.
“Digital platforms are now a part of our everyday lives, from online marketplaces and job search sites to social media sites and dating apps. But the fact is that when things go wrong, making a complaint or having an issue resolved with the tech giants can feel like shouting into a void,” said Williams.
“If you experience an issue on a digital platform, you shouldn’t have to navigate through the maze of ‘providing feedback’, only to hear nothing back from the platform. Making a complaint should be a straightforward process and the digital platforms should follow up with users who have made a report to explain what actions were taken.”
He’s not wrong.
Of those surveyed, 270 people actually believe the government is doing enough to make sure digital platforms do the right thing. Williams reckons they need to do more.
“While it’s positive to see the government is eager to introduce new rules to protect Australians online, it’s vital that people have their voices heard by decision-makers during the process,” he added.
“In the case of the industry codes being developed as part of the Online Safety Act, there is doubt about whether the consumer voice is truly being heard, or if it is an echo chamber of industry talking to government and vice versa.
A single, dedicated place to complain about tech giants won’t solve all of the issues, but it seems we as consumers would like this as a start.