Australia launches parliamentary inquiry into social media’s negative impact

Amid growing concerns over the impact of social media on public discourse, Australia has launched a parliamentary inquiry into the influence and control wielded by online platforms, signalling a significant move towards increased oversight and accountability.

Australia flag is depicted on a sports cloth fabric with many folds. Sport team waving banner

Australia is taking stringent measures by announcing a parliamentary inquiry into the impact of social media platforms. The legal step is a response to the growing concerns over their influence on public discourse and the alarming spread of harmful content. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, in his address, underscored the need for greater scrutiny, acknowledging that while social media can be a force for good, it also wields an impactful negative influence, particularly on issues as grave as domestic violence and radicalisation.

The government’s move comes amid criticism of platforms like Meta’s Facebook, ByteDance’s TikTok, and Elon Musk’s X for handling violent posts and content moderation. X, in particular, is embroiled in a legal dispute with the Australian government over its refusal to globally remove videos of a recent stabbing attack on an Assyrian church bishop in Sydney. The government argues for broader content removal, while Musk has characterised the decision as censorship.

The inquiry will also examine Meta’s decision to stop paying for news content in Australia, reflecting broader concerns about the role of social media in shaping public discourse and its impact on traditional media. Communications Minister Michelle Rowland stressed the importance of understanding how social media companies regulate content and called for greater accountability in their decision-making processes.

As Parliament gears up for the inquiry, the terms and scope are still being determined. The aim is to scrutinise the practices of social media companies and make recommendations for accountability measures. The inquiry may involve summoning individuals to testify, a move that underscores the government’s commitment to addressing concerns surrounding social media regulation and content moderation. The outcomes of this inquiry will be crucial in shaping the future of social media regulation, making it a process of utmost relevance and impact.