Australia investigates Facebook and Google over media impact

It wants to know if internet companies are unfairly hurting publishers.

Internet giants may be trying to make nice with publishers, but that's not completely reassuring to Australian regulators. The country's Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is investigating Facebook, Google and other "digital platform providers" to see if their search engines and social sites are harming competition in the news space. It wants to know if the long-term shift to digital news is unfairly limiting conventional publishers' ability to produce content, and whether the "information asymmetry" between internet services, advertisers and the public is damaging.

This isn't just a surface-level report, either. The Commission will have the authority to demand info and hold hearings if the existing information isn't enough to gauge the level of competition.

It'll be a while before there are answers. The ACCC's preliminary report isn't due until early December in 2018, and a finished report will have to wait until June 2019. A lot could change in that space of time -- Facebook alone has made rapid changes to its relationship with publishers. Still, the investigation could increase pressure on search companies to please traditional outlets and avoid government action.