Speech - House of Representatives - Establishment of the Joint Select Committee into social media

Social media has a civic responsibility to its Australian users and our society more broadly. Social media is part of everyday life in Australia, and social media companies play a role in determining what content Australian adults and children are exposed to online. Meta's recent decision to withdraw from paying for news in Australia demonstrates the negative impact these companies can have on Australian news businesses and our democracy. The Albanese government is committed to making social media companies more transparent and accountable to the Australian public, and the joint committee we seek to establish today will enable the entire parliament to undertake this task.

These companies have enormous control over what Australian citizens and consumers see and hear online. Their corporate decision-making impacts the sustainability of Australian public interest journalism and news media. Their business models incentivise maximising attention and screen time to drive profits, often at the expense of public interest objectives such as quality and accurate information and the best interests of children. We know algorithms and recommendation systems dial certain content up and down, often putting on repeat dangerous material, like misogynistic material that reinforces stereotypes counter to the interests of society. The spread of harmful or illegal content, like scams, age-restricted content, and child sexual abuse and violent extremist material, causes harm. The lack of action on misinformation and disinformation sows division, undermines trust and tears at the fabric of society.

The committee will also examine age assurance on social media, something the government has confirmed will be part of the trial funded in this week's budget. This is an important opportunity to scrutinise developments given its widespread interest to Australians. We want Australians to participate openly and safely in society with the same standards and expectations reflected online as well as offline. Social media platforms have immense power and influence, and parliament has a stake in ensuring this is deployed in accordance with our public interest objectives as a nation. Elevating issues in this way is when the parliament is at its best, working together with a common purpose. With the right incentives, social media can contribute more to the welfare of society, enhancing access to trusted sources of news and information and expanding participation in civic life. I call on the House to support this referral.