Facebook and Google algorithms are secret – but Australia plans to change that

Among the 23 recommendations is a call for the government to set up an office in the commission to scrutinize the algorithms used by Google and Facebook to rank news and advertising. The report said the office would have the power to order Facebook, Google and other tech giants to hand information over to regulators.

“This particular branch of the [commission] will be able to be approached by various companies who believe that the algorithms have been misused,” Mr. Frydenberg said. He promised the government would “lift the veil” on how tech firms made money out of user data they collect.

No proper person who believes in freedom, democracy, and an open society would ever advocate for the government to tell newspapers and TV stations what they can and cannot print and broadcast. Yet, plans like this Australian one seem to advocate for complete control over Google, Facebook, and others to do pretty much the same thing.

Somewhere, a line has to be drawn between what constitutes the free press on one side, and non-press websites on the other. Current laws and lawmakers seem quite inept at drawing this line in a consistent, safe way, but you can’t really blame them for that – we’ve entered a new era, and the lines are ever fuzzier and more difficult to discern.

Even if lines can be properly drawn, we have to worry about the potential for government abuse. Especially in countries with winner-takes-all two-party systems – such as the United States and the United Kingdom – where one party tends to have pretty much total control over the branches of government, the potential for abuse towards the opposing party is incredibly tempting.

Many countries will be facing this issue head-on over the coming years, and don’t be fooled – it will have a tremendous impact on how societies in those countries function.


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