A new article published recently hints at a publicly funded replacement can form part of the Australian Government’s response to tech giants Facebook and Google limiting their access in Australia (Google limit services in Australia).

A publicly funded social network to be run by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has been proposed as one possible response if Facebook and Google decide to limit their services in Australia when the Australian Government’s mandatory news code becomes a law by the end of this year.

Facebook has recently warned that it will block Australians from sharing news if the landmark plan to make digital platforms pay for news content becomes law in Australia.

On a similar footing, Google has also been running a public campaign against the code and launched an international campaign targeting YouTube users when the Australian Government announced it would force the company to pay news publishers for content.

Google’s public campaign has included videos featuring comedian Greta Lee Jackson as a way of simplifying the issues present.

The proposal for an online social platform hosted by the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) is among a raft of risk moderation proposals in a report titled “TechXit: Can Australia survive without Google and Facebook?” commissioned by the Center for Responsible Technology.

The proposed platform would help connect the community without harvesting data in the way Facebook, Google and other tech firms have been doing. The medium can also rely on the wide reach of the ABC across local, regional and national communities. It can also rely on the trust the public has invested in the institution.

According to the report:

“An ABC platform which engages the community, allows for a genuine exchange and influence on decision making, and applying principles of independent journalism and storytelling would provide real value to local communities starved of civic engagement, develop viable alternatives to Google and Facebook, such as national online social platform hosted through the ABC. This could build on existing ABC digital capabilities and projects such as Australia Talks, the discontinued ABC Open and Triple J Unearthed.”

The Australian Government has been urged to develop a stronger consumer data privacy act urgently ahead of the likely removal of Facebook functions and during the lower likelihood of Google withdrawing Google Search from the country, as stated by the center’s associate fellow Jordan Guiao.

The report further stated that If Facebook app refused to allow Australians to share news, the social media site would be flooded with misinformation and fake news. To prepare consumers for the impact of the removal of services provided by powerful foreign-owned technology companies, the government should invest heavily in Australian technology and startup firms.

According to the report:

“Despite known harms and rampant disinformation, Facebook’s stickiness and network effect create an environment many users would find difficult to leave behind. A curtailing or removal of Facebook services would therefore likely affect Australians negatively as they lose connections and the vault of content they have invested in the platform. This reliance is a risk for Australians should Facebook follow through on removal of their services.”

The mandatory news code is being backed by all major media corporations in Australia and among them are News Corp, Nine Entertainment and Guardian Australia. Such is done as a way to offer the damage caused by the loss of advertising revenue to both Facebook and Google.

The report further believes that the arrival of the mandatory news code is a chance to push back against the profit or surveillance imperative of the tech giants and hence called for search for alternatives.

According to Peter Lewis, the Director of Australia Institute’s Center for Responsible Technology: “Google and Facebook’s response to the ACCC mandatory news code has placed in stark relief our national over-reliance on them. This analysis shows that two global corporations that play a dominant role in our civic and commercial institutions are prepared to threaten to withdraw those services to protect their own commercial self-interest.”

The Australian Government’s attempt in curbing Google and Facebook’s market dominance is one of the many similar moves across the world taken by leading nations. Among them are legal action against Google in France, an antitrust lawsuit against Google Stateside and the possibility of another similar lawsuit in People’s Republic of China.

The report also states that Google and Facebook have become a dominant part of people’s online experience that it has become unimaginable for the internet to exist without them. For a lot of Australians, these two names are synonymous with the internet. The report also urges a forensic investigation in the way tech companies have become dominant in core public sectors such as education, government administration and health.

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