Overwhelming majority of Australians support digital platforms regulation: Roy Morgan poll

Over 70% of Australians believe the Australian government should establish an independent regulator to ensure digital platforms act in the public interest, a Roy Morgan poll has suggested.

In addition, 75% agree that social media is increasing division and polarisation in the community, and 86% believe it has negative implications for the mental health of young Australians.

‘Do you agree or disagree that the Australian government should set up an independent regulator to help ensure digital platforms (such as Facebook and Google) act in the public interest?’ (Click to enlarge)

Other findings indicate 73% are also concerned that a foreign power could intervene in Australian elections or democracy by exploiting social media.

The study of 1,062 Australians between 14 and 17 December was commissioned by Responsible Technology Australia – a new advocacy organisation which wants to understand and represent the concerns of Australians around digital platforms.

Former NSW minister for child protection Pru Goward is a spokesperson for the body, and used the study as an opportunity to promote the government’s response to the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry.

“The federal government has put Australia on the map in terms of the global push to mitigate the social harms caused by digital platforms through the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry and the proposed new Online Safety Act,” she said.

“What this research shows is that Australians are right behind the government when it comes to meaningful reform of the sector. I don’t believe there is an appetite to demonise Facebook, Google, or any other platform – indeed the research indicates people recognise the benefits these new platforms have brought.

“But there is now a recognition that when a major new technology lands and changes society we have a democratic right to apply guardrails so it operates broadly in the public interest.

‘Overall, is social media having a positive or negative impact on the mental health of young Australians?’ (Click to enlarge)

“It’s time for social media to grow up. In 2020 we want to encourage an inclusive, open, public discussion about what guardrails should look like in Australia.”

She added that it was no longer acceptable for tech companies to just move and break things, and they needed to be subject to appropriate regulation.

Roy Morgan CEO Michelle Levine said a number of factors had eroded Australians’ trust in the platforms.

‘Do you agree or disagree that “overall, social media solves more problems than it causes”?’ (Click to enlarge)

“The Cambridge Analytica scandal, foreign interference in elections, the rise of extremism, and questionable data practices — all will be contributing to public concern.

“Recently, we’ve seen the identities of famous Australians, like Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, used in widespread social media scams, without any real responsibility taken for the amplification of this dishonest content.

“People may not believe they are personally susceptible to manipulation or exploitation via social media. But they are worried about the negative effects on society and they want the government to introduce an independent regulator to mitigate potential harms.”

She noted the level of concern directed towards the social platforms tends to rise with age.


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