Australian agencies form digital regulators forum to streamline big tech scrutiny

The forum comes hot off the heels of the federal government pondering various new laws that regulate big tech.

Various Australian agencies have come together to create a new digital platform regulators forum to streamline the federal government's approach for scrutinising big tech.

The digital regulators forum will see members meet every two months with the purpose of updating members on relevant developments, sharing information, and discussing digital regulation activity.

Forum members include the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), and the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

As part of sharing information and collaborating on cross-cutting issues and activities regarding the regulation of digital platforms, forum members will consider how competition, consumer protection, privacy, online safety and data issues intersect, the agencies said in a joint statement.

The creation of the forum comes hot on the heels of the federal government considering various new laws regulating digital platforms, such as the anti-trolling and online privacy Bills. The federal government is also conducting a probe into the conduct of social media platforms, which has seen testimonies alleging that companies such as Meta provide less protection for Australians against harmful content to save costs.

All four member agencies have also been implementing their own respective sets of measures to regulate big tech as of late. Yesterday, the ACCC reportedly said it has commenced an advanced investigation into Meta's response to scammers appearing on its platforms, and was considering taking legal action.

The competition watchdog also recently proposed major antitrust reforms covering anti-competitive conduct, bargaining imbalances as well as insufficient consumer and business user protections, among other topics.

The eSafety commissioner, which is supported by ACMA, received new powers through the Online Safety Act in January allowing it to order digital platforms to take down cyberbullying content within 24 hours. Since receiving those powers, the office has received 500 complaints from Australian adults experiencing abuse and harassment online.

The OAIC, meanwhile, warned the Senate committee tasked with reviewing the proposed anti-trolling Bill yesterday that it could result in the privacy of social media users being adversely impacted.

"Millions of Australians engage in online social media platforms and [the Bill] will incentivise this additional collection of personal information. I think the question ought to be asked as to whether that impact on privacy will be commensurate to achieving the objective of allowing some people to take defamation proceedings," OAIC chief Angelene Falk said.

The forum will review its goals annually, or as necessary, such as in circumstances when changes are made to membership or new legislative or regulatory priorities relating to digital platforms are created.

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