‘Social media giants profit from evil’: Michael Miller addresses National Press Club of Australia

Tech monopolies — especially social media networks like Meta, TikTok, and X — choose to operate outside of our legal system.

In just one generation, we’ve gone from magic to madness.

Remember when we first discovered search—when we learned that we could find out anything we wanted to know with the click of a button? Remember when our phones became smart? When did we start sharing photos and memories? Do you remember our first video calls with family we hadn’t seen in years?

This was before online scams and extortion, before cyberbullying and revenge porn; from doxing and trolling, deep fakes and conspiracies; economics of control and political interference; before live terrorist massacres; and websites celebrated anorexia as a glamorous lifestyle; before the epidemic of loneliness and anxiety; before algorithms turned us into addicts.

A recent survey in Australia asked three thousand social media users about their digital lives and relationships. Seven in 10 said they or someone they know has had direct experience with negative questions on social media.

For teenagers, the number is even higher. Without a doubt, our children are paying the price. And so is our economy. The National Fraud Center reports that Australians lost $2.7 billion to scams last year.

Disinformation and misinformation designed to cause real harm also lead people down dangerous algorithmic rabbit holes. In March, West Australian newspapers reported a staggering explosion of online child sexual exploitation, with 32 million reports on major platforms each year.

And this is only the tip of a very large iceberg.

According to Cyber ​​Security Minister Clare O’Neil: “Almost every problem we have as a country is either exacerbated or caused by social media, and we don’t see these companies taking an iota of responsibility.”

So why is this happening?

Because bad behavior on social media is good for business. Social media giants profit from mean videos, bullying, scammers and the glamorization of eating disorders.

In the words of a British father who lost his child to suicide: “They are monetizing misery.”

In Meta’s case, according to a recent report in Britain’s Sunday Times magazine, that profit is a staggering $136 million every day.

With Meta’s decision to withdraw from its agreement to pay Australian journalism companies for their content, our industry is back in new territory.

After Meta shut down the news in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commented that Meta “put profit before safety” when the devastating fires forced tens of thousands to evacuate their homes without access to the news.

Faced with this scenario unfolding in Australia, we must not let them bully us.

The target must be appointed in accordance with the Code of Media Negotiations and invited to negotiate in good faith.

This current battle in my industry is part of a much bigger fight, a fight that will span and affect more industries and more people.

We must not waver now as a nation.

America has already given the tech industry the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card when it granted tech companies blanket legal immunity from liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. He created the “sovereignty of Silicon Valley” which now allows them to get away with anything.

It’s time to stop asking for change and start demanding change.

The words social license describe the permission that companies have to operate in society. Technology monopolies should also be forced to pay a license.

The license must insist that each platform has an effective consumer complaint handling system.

Other measures to be included in this permit should be:

A preliminary competition framework set out by the ACCC that would address the problem of monopolized digital advertising markets.

A contribution to the money we allocate to solving mental problems.

A requirement for technology platforms that have proven to be the media’s indispensable trading partners would be to honor the Media Bargaining Code agreements for major publishers and contribute to a fund for small publishers serving local communities.

And punishment?

Penalties that include criminal penalties for companies that agree to a license but then break the rules.

And finally the power to block access to our country and our people if they don’t want to play by our rules.

Australians overwhelmingly say social media should be governed by the same rules as everyone else, with 83 per cent agreeing tech monopolies should be subject to Australian regulations and laws.

It’s time for a digital environment that protects vulnerable people and doesn’t prey on them.

It is time to protect our children, our parents and our national identity.

It’s time for tech monopolies to play by Australian rules.

It’s time to reset.

* This is an edited transcript of Michael Miller’s speech at the National Press Club.

Originally published as “Social media giants profit from evil”: Michael Miller addresses the National Press Club of Australia

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