Govt agencies form Digital Platforms Regulators Forum

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Govt agencies form Digital Platforms Regulators Forum

Four federal agencies have united to form the Digital Platforms Regulator Forum to improve information-sharing and regulatory coordination, as several new initiatives are rolled out and reviews are underway to counter the market power of digital platforms and protect consumer rights.

The Australian eSafety Commissioner, Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) released a joint statement and a terms of reference for the new body today. 

The Digital Platforms Regulator Forum will promote collaborative regulation of online platforms’ competition, consumer protection, privacy and online safety. 

The terms of reference said online platforms “includes, but is not limited to, internet search engines, digital content aggregators, social media services, private messaging services, media referral services and electronic marketplaces.” 

ACCC boss Rod Sims said, “the forum will help to streamline our approach to the regulation of digital platforms in Australia.”

“Since the ACCC began examining digital platform services in 2017, we have observed harms to competition, consumers, and business users in a range of areas dominated by large digital platforms.”

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said, “each digital platform regulator in this forum plays an important and unique role in protecting Australians online, whether it’s protecting their privacy, standing up for their consumer rights, or in the case of eSafety, protecting Australians from personal harms online.”

The terms of reference said senior staff from the four member bodies would meet every 2 months with a chair and secretariat that rotates every 6 months. 

“The DP-REG [The Digital Platforms Regulator Forum] is not a decision-making body and has no bearing on members’ existing regulatory powers, legislative functions or responsibilities,” the terms of reference said.

Since the conclusion of the ACCC’s 2019 Digital Platforms Inquiry, new laws have passed and reviews initiated to give the four member bodies stronger powers to counter online platforms' market power and improve competition, privacy and online safety. 

In March last year the ACCC’s recommended News Media Bargaining Code gained royal ascent, making Australia the first country in the world to force Google and Facebook to pay for the news content they displayed.

The government is also undertaking a review of the Privacy Act and drafting the Online Privacy Bill which could see significant limitations to how online platforms collect their users’ data.

The Online Safety Act commenced earlier this year, granting the eSafety Commissioner new powers to remove content it deems harmful and penalise online platforms for failing to remove it within 24 hours.  

The inquiry into social media and online safety will release its final report next Tuesday.

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