The bizarre idea that Ebay, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Verizon will accept real business constraints that do more than a passing scratch on their business is hilarious. They have become law in themselves, effectively telling the state it should leave them alone and let them run their own patch. The EU has just realized this absurdity and has abandoned self-regulation, instead introducing a regulatory model. As always, we are years behind global best practices.
Recently forced, our government agreed to curb 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 force the introduction of a news media bargaining code. It tries to compensate for the digital advantage of new entrants and force them to reimburse news companies for the reproduction of their content. The Murdoch Empire foreshadowed a total assault if it wasn’t subsidized, so they got (most) what they wanted. Likewise, the threat to banks and financial institutions from application-integrated markets is forcing change in this industry, as powerful players insist that disruptors be constrained.
But well-heeled lobbyists and ex-politicians are not working for anyone to urge the government to tackle online racism, trolling or the mental health crisis among young people. Non-financial trauma does not raise eyebrows 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 henhouses and everything. Witness the catastrophic deregulation of elderly care, financial services, construction standards, the energy market, banking, job insecurity and deregulation and the booming economy predatory of odd jobs that resulted, all under the pretext of cutting red tape and making businesses more efficient.
We must end online anonymity. Proof of identity can easily be introduced. It would stop the biggest sleight of hand in the digital age.
My faith in our humanity and kindness was also tested this week by our government expressing concern for the victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan while hypocritically withholding any compassion for the victims of the Taliban already here in Australia seeking asylum. Crocodile tears. That they stay
Jon Faine is a regular columnist.