Submission to the Joint Select Committee on Social Media and Australian Society

July 10, 2024

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Responsible Technology

Digital platforms are not the right hosts of our civic lives. By design, they are built to amplify division and conflict, as the most sensational and provocative content maintains audience attention on the platforms. Digital platforms like YouTube, Facebook, X and TikTok are also underpinned by commercial models which, above all else, seek to monetise our attentions and interactions, trapping Australians in algorithmically-induced content ‘holes’ that foster addiction, neuroses and unhealthy habits.

The platforms’ build, design and operational models therefore, are the antithesis of what healthy civic participation requires – shared spaces to facilitate considered debate and deliberation, consensus and bridge building, respect and representation for all citizens, a healthy public square powered by facts, reason and truth. Digital platforms have usurped critical areas of our civic lives. Most significantly for this inquiry – the news media and public interest journalism, as well as the forums and spaces we use for public and political participation.

We recommend therefore, that:

1) We continue with the work of holding digital platforms to account, building on the News Media Bargaining Code, and continuing with the significant recommendations from the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry such as privacy reform, more funding for journalism and more

2) That we have a central body or digital ministry in Cabinet that coordinates these significant digital regulations, as opposed to the currently disjointed approach

3) That Australia invests in and funds alternatives to these digital platforms, strengthening Australia’s public digital infrastructure and providing Australians with alternative channels for their civic engagement.