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Apple, Google, Amazon face Australian big tech influence probe

Sydney Opera House [Pixabay/pattyjansen]

Apple will join Google and Amazon in submitting evidence to a probe into the influence of Big Tech companies in Australia, starting with a hearing set to happen with a senate committee on Tuesday.

The Australian Senate opened a probe into the "Influence of international digital platforms" in September 2022. The probe was in response to fears that big tech companies exerted considerable influence over Australian markets and the country's democracy.

Over a year later, Business News reports the three companies will be facing a parliamentary inquiry into the topic.

On Tuesday, Google will be facing the committee, submitting that digital platform holders have a responsibility to fight misinformation online. This is a difficult challenge to overcome, Google previously argued in a submission to the committee, and that there was no "silver bullet" to the issue.

Google engaged in a "delicate balance" in needing to address the issue, while also maintaining rights to freedom of expression. It had an "important responsibility" to its users "to curb the efforts of those who aim to propagate false information," the submission stated.

Governments need to make sure platforms have plans to counter disinformation, and that it should be regularly reported and re-evaluated as needed, the search giant continued.

Apple and Amazon

Both Apple and Amazon have offered their own submissions to the senate, with each likely to make an in-person appearance to the committee in the future.

Apple's submission offered its usual refrain of privacy being considered a fundamental human right, and that it designed products and services in a way that protects it.

"We intentionally design and build our products to the highest privacy and security standards in the market," Apple wrote.

Apple also asserted that it went beyond compliance with legal requirements for privacy, and that privacy principles should be a floor and not a ceiling for data protection. It also insisted that it collected less user data than other tech companies, and didn't rely on the monetization of user data, nor tracking or analysis of the information.

Amazon went down the route of outlining its economic contributions, including investments into logistics and fulfillment centers around the world. Prime Video productions in the country were also called out.

The Senate Economics References Committee is expected to report back to the senate by December 7, 2023 with its findings.

This is far from the first governmental probe into big tech firms, as the group have regularly faced scrutiny around the world due to their size and purported influence. This has included multiple probes by the U.S. government, the United Kingdom, and others over the years.