Australia vs Technology Continues as Four Aussie Regulators Join Forces to Tackle Algorithms

Australia vs Technology Continues as Four Aussie Regulators Join Forces to Tackle Algorithms
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Aussie regulators this week joined forces in the latest Australia versus technology battle. This time, the group of regulators are seeking to take on digital platforms’ algorithms and the overarching ideal of ‘transparency’.

There’s four members of this ‘Digital Platform Regulators Forum’: the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA), eSafety Commissioner (eSafety) and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

This week, the group of regulators detailed their 2022-23 priorities. The official line from the group of regulatory heavyweights is that their collective priorities include a “focus on the impact of algorithms, seeking to increase transparency of digital platforms’ activities and how they are protecting users from potential harm, and increased collaboration and capacity building between the four members”.

When it comes to algorithms, the group said they will be examining the development and use of algorithms. Specifically, the forum will look at the impact of algorithms on Australians in a range of areas, including algorithmic recommendations and profiling, moderation algorithms, promotion of disinformation, harmful content and product ranking and displays on digital platforms such as online marketplaces.

This has been on the ACCC’s hit-list for a while.

But the new group of regulators said they will conduct additional research, engage with industry, meet with experts and conduct workshops throughout the coming year.

When it comes to transparency, the group said they’ll be focusing on issues surrounding digital transparency, which it considers is “essential for the protection of Australians”.

“It will particularly focus on improving transparency of what digital platforms are doing to protect Australians from potential harm, including how consumer data is being handled, and the impact of their activities to address misinformation,” the group wrote.

“These transparency issues are particularly concerning to the forum, given the power and information asymmetries between digital platforms and users.”

In February 2021, Google, Microsoft, Tik-Tok, Twitter, Facebook (now Meta) and Redbubble signed onto the Digital Industry Group’s voluntary code of practice, which is aimed at combating the spread of misinformation and disinformation in Australia. Since launch, the code has seen two further signatories in Adobe and Apple.

In May, they all put out transparency reports, but the Digital Platform Regulators Forum doesn’t think this is good enough, picking up where the former government left off with a plan to make this voluntary code mandatory with its plan to “further address these transparency and accountability issues through the examination of existing terms and conditions, analysis of public reports and potential additional regulatory or enforcement action undertaken by forum members”.

We’ll keep you updated on the work the group of regulators do this upcoming year.