Twitter, Pinterest voice considerations over content material regulation

Credit: Souvik Banerjee via Unsplash

The cost of content regulation may serve as a barrier to entry for new players or create a corporate incentive to over-remove material.

Those are the latest concerns raised by social media platforms as part of the ACCC’s Digital Media Inquiry.

The ACCC’s sixth interim report is due to be submitted to the Treasurer by March 2023 and will look into competition issues involving social media services.

In the latest filing by Twitter, APAC director of public policy Kara Hinesley and JAPAC senior director of public policy Kathleen Reen pushed for a regulatory framework that addressed system-wide processes over individual pieces of content.

“The combination of significant administrative penalties for individual pieces of content and expected removal of content in short time periods — whether one hour or 24 hours — creates a significant corporate incentive to over-remove content, particularly in edge cases,” the pair submitted.

“This would more acutely impact small companies and new services that have more limited resources to litigate or pay fines. These frameworks must be underpinned with strong, independent processes that are free from political interference and allow for civil society participation.”

The Online Safety Act, which came into effect in January 2022, currently grants regulators the power to crack down on abusive posts through time-bound removal requests and fines. Online services are required to remove prohibited material within 24 hours or face penalties of up to $550,000.

Twitter urged for a broader approach to enforcement.

“Regulatory frameworks that address system-wide processes, as opposed to individual pieces of content, will be able to better reflect the challenges of scale for all modern communications services,” Henesley and Reen wrote to the ACCC.

“To avoid incentivising over-removal, regulation that assesses the system-wide performance of how services enforce their terms of service will provide essential flexibility and reduce incentives to over-moderate content, while incentivising robust appeal mechanisms, and investment in technological solutions.”

It wasn’t the only social media platform to weigh in on Australian content measures. In a far-ranging submission against the advantages of larger social media platforms, Pinterest argued compliance could prevent new entrants from entering the market.

“The costs of regulation may also serve as a barrier to entry. For example, compliance obligations related to data processing or content moderation can make it significantly more expensive for a new or smaller market entrant to operate in the space, further entrenching dominant players’ positions.”

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