Albanese Government’s Joint Select Committee into social media

The Albanese Government will move to establish a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee into the influence and impacts of social media on Australian society.

Social media is part of everyday life in Australia, and social media companies play a role in determining what content Australians are exposed to online.

Their decisions in recent months – particularly Meta’s decision to withdraw from paying for news in Australia – demonstrates the negative impacts these companies can have on our society.

Social media has a civic responsibility to its Australian users – and our society more broadly.

The Government is committed to making social media companies more transparent and accountable to the Australian public, and the Joint Committee will enable Parliament to undertake this task.

Among other matters, the Government expects the Committee will examine and report on:

  1. The decision of Meta to abandon deals under the News Media Bargaining Code;
  2. The important role of Australian journalism, news and public interest media in countering mis and disinformation on digital platforms;
  3. The algorithms, recommender systems and corporate decision making of digital platforms in influencing what Australians see, and the impacts of this on mental health; and
  4. Other issues in relation to harmful or illegal content disseminated over social media, including scams, age-restricted content, child sexual abuse and violent extremist material.

The Government will consult across the Parliament on the final Terms of Reference ahead of an expected Parliamentary referral next week.

Comments attributable to the Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP:

“Social media is how millions of Australians connect, access news and run small businesses. 

“These social media companies have enormous reach and control over what Australians see with little to no scrutiny.

“In our democracy, it is imperative that Australians have access to quality public interest journalism, including on social media. Unliteral decisions to undermine news hurts us all. 

“Social media companies have social responsibilities. They need to be more accountable and transparent.

“Parliament needs to understand how social media companies dial up and down the content that supports healthy democracies, as well as the anti-social content that undermines public safety. 

 “Establishing this inquiry will provide opportunity and resources for parliamentarians to closely scrutinise these companies and make recommendations on how we can make these platforms for accountable for their decisions”.

Comments attributable to the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, the Hon Stephen Jones MP:

“Social media is a great way for people to connect, it’s become a part of everyday life for many people.

“But users are also exposed to harm in an environment where it can be difficult to distinguish fact from fiction.

“The social media giants seem more determined to wipe trusted news sources from their platforms than scammers and other criminals. This will open the floodgates for misinformation and disinformation.

“We have a clear message for the platforms. Be better. Do better.

“The committee will put big tech under the microscope to help create a safer online environment”.