Australia Takes on Big Tech


February 3, 2021 | AtoZ Markets – There’s no denying that technology has become a core aspect of daily life in most parts of the world, and concerns over whether companies have been using their power responsibly are rife. Indeed, public attacks directed at tech companies have become a more common occurrence over the past few years.

From Facebook’s involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the advertising boycott campaign targeting various social media platforms, it’s become clear that activists can take back control over the algorithms that have, for so long, been taken for granted.

But what about governments’ power against big tech?

The latest spat to make headlines involves an ongoing struggle between big tech behemoth Google and the nation of Australia. In January 2021, Google threatened to shut down its search engine in Australia should the government pass a new law that has been causing great unease among tech companies. This law – called the News Media Bargaining Code – would force big tech companies to pay news producers in Australia for using their content.

As the first law of its kind across the globe, this law would act as a test of governmental power against big tech companies. Staying true to its word, Google has begun running experiments in removing major news sites from Australian media companies, potentially hiding important news stories from approximately 1% of Australian citizens who use Google’s search engine.

Australia’s Competition Watchdog

This isn’t the first time that Australian authorities have challenged Google. In fact, Australia’s competition watchdog -Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)-has already taken Google to court twice, while a third case could be opened if evidence proves to be sufficient.

The watchdog has accused Google of misuse of its dominant power within the advertising sector. The ACCC found that Google has a majority market share throughout the supply chain in the complex $3.4 billion online display ad marketing industry, which could be used to favour the company’s own interests.

This would go against the nation’s competition laws. Google’s Response A spokesperson for Google described the ad tech market as highly competitive with low entry barriers, claiming the company is only one of many players in the digital advertising space. Google also highlighted its effort to facilitate the process for large and small companies to choose who they want to work with, by creating privacy-enhanced measurement solutions and other features.

At the end of the day, the ACCC needs to prove the company’s dominance in the ad tech industry before legal action can be taken.

Will this bring Google down?

A solution remains yet to be found and is by no means guaranteed. One way forward, suggested by an Australian regulator, is to consider letting internet users choose what personal data companies like Google share with advertisers, as part of the country’s attempts to eliminate the dominant power of tech giants. As a data company, limiting access to personal data can cause much harm to Google and other companies in the field.

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