Facebook Versus Democracy: Is Australia’s Election Under Threat?

  • Policy Memo
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This memo documents a timeline of major events over the course of Facebook’s history that demonstrate the unprecedented power the platform wields over politics and information systems globally. Australia remains vulnerable to mis- and disinformation, and does not have effective safeguards to shield the upcoming Federal election from Facebook’s influence.

  • Facebook has proven to be a highly influential force in politics with a disturbing, repeat history of harming democratic processes. Tracing back five years, this report shows how Facebook has undermined democracy in the Philippines, Ethiopia, Myanmar, the US and Australia.
  • Australia continues to use self- and co-regulatory models to govern Big Tech, however, these models are not strong enough to address the severity of the threats these industries now pose to Australian society. Facebook’s surveillance-based business model creates an inherent conflict between what is best for the company and what is best for the public, requiring direct government regulation.
  • Facebook has demonstrated a pattern of behaviour that allows harms to be perpetuated on its platform. These include:
    • Delaying actions and failing to effectively address harms when they come to light
    • Deflecting ‘blame’ in the aftermath of crises, claiming the harms are caused by other actors
    • The lack of transparency and inadequate oversight enabled by current regulation means only Facebook knows the true extent of the harms they cause. The risks are too high to rely on Facebook’s carefully curated data.
    • Facebook has proven it cannot be trusted to take the necessary steps to mitigate harms. Australia urgently needs stronger regulation of Facebook, and Big Tech in general, to protect our democracy.