A New Inquiry Will Put the Negative Impacts of Social Media Under the Microscope

A New Inquiry Will Put the Negative Impacts of Social Media Under the Microscope
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Big Tech is back in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s cross hairs, with a new government probe announced today. This time under the microscope as part of the inquiry is the proliferation of toxic material on social media platforms and the dangers such material poses to our well-being.

The Prime Minister officially announced the social media inquiry today. It builds on the legislation Morrison announced on Monday that focuses on forcing social media sites to ‘unmask’ anonymous trolls.

On the new inquiry, Morrison said mums and dads are rightly concerned about whether Big Tech is doing enough to keep their kids safe on social media sites.

“Big Tech created these platforms, they have a responsibility to ensure their users are safe,” the PM said.

“Big Tech has big questions to answer. But we also want to hear from Australians; parents, teachers, athletes, small businesses and more, about their experience, and what needs to change.”

Pointing to the recent revelations from a Facebook whistleblower, Communications Minister Fletcher said the inquiry will give organisations and individuals an opportunity to air their concerns, and for Big Tech to account for its own conduct.

Reset Australia, the local arm of the global initiative working to counter digital threats to democracy, said it actually welcomed efforts to tackle the problem of Big Tech systemically. Policy director Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran said Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter all profit from “amplifying extreme, sensationalist and highly-emotive content to keep us online and engaged” and believes that needs to change.

“From turbocharging misinformation, gendered and racialised hate speech, or triggering eating disorders – we can see the real world harms of algorithms,” she said.

But on the anti-troll legislation, Sooriyakumaran isn’t convinced it’s enough.

“The recent government plans for ‘anti-troll’ social media legislation don’t tackle the real, much more significant problem: the business model of Big Tech. Hopefully this inquiry will begin to address that problem,” she said.