The quaint notion that Ebay, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Verizon will agree to genuine commercial constraints that make more than a passing scratch in their business is hilarious. They have become a law unto themselves, effectively telling the state it ought to leave them alone and let them run their own patch. The EU have just woken up to this nonsense and abandoned self-regulation, introducing a regulatory model instead. As always, we are years behind global best practice.
When recently forced, our government did agree to rein in the excesses of the digital giants. The combined muscle power of the “old” media companies (newspapers, television and radio) was flexed and applied with enough force to compel the introduction of a News Media Bargaining Code. It attempts to offset the digital advantage of the new entrants and compel them to re-imburse news companies for the reproduction of their content. The Murdoch empire foreshadowed an all-out assault if they were not subsidised, so they got (most of) what they wanted. Similarly, the threat to banks and financial institutions from in-App marketplaces is forcing change in that sector as powerful players insist the disruptors be constrained.
But well-heeled lobbyists and ex-politicians are not on anyone’s payroll to urge government to deal with online racism, trolling or the mental health crisis in young people. Non-financial trauma doesn’t cause eyebrows to rise in the corridors of power.
Self-regulation of social media and the digital market is not working. Self-regulation after deregulation never works – foxes and hen-houses and all. Witness the catastrophic deregulation of aged care, financial services, building standards, the energy market, banking, the casualisation and deregulation of work and the resultant boom in the predatory gig economy – all in the guise of cutting red tape, making business more efficient.
We need to end online anonymity. Proof of identity can easily be introduced. It would stop the greatest con trick of the digital era.
My faith in our humanity and goodness was also tested this week by our government expressing concern for victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan whilst hypocritically withholding the slightest compassion for victims of the Taliban already here in Australia seeking asylum. Crocodile tears. Let them stay
Jon Faine is a regular columnist.