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  • Rikki Lambert

SA senator exploring anti-censorship laws targeting tech giants as Google Cloud sets up in Adelaide

Updated: Apr 18, 2021

SA governments may have failed to encourage Google to headquarter in Adelaide, but a Friday report suggests the Marshall Liberal government will welcome Google setting up a local office. On the same day, a SA Liberal senator told FlowNews24 on Friday that he is investigating ways to restrict Google's censorship of content.

Online news service InDaily claimed on Friday morning that Google would open its third Australian office in Adelaide, drawing an immediate response from SA Labor Opposition leader Peter Malinauskas:

"I welcome the news that Google will be opening up a presence in South Australia. This was my op-ed from April 2018 when I urged the State Govt to fight for Google to come to SA."

On Sunday, Premier Steven Marshall confirmed that Google Cloud would be based at Lot Fourteen, on the former Royal Adelaide Hospital site in the Adelaide CBD:

“Google Cloud joins a line-up of international hi-tech companies investing in South Australia in recent years including; Accenture, Amazon Web Services, and MIT.
“By working closely with industry to enhance our hi-tech capability across key sectors, we are attracting the best of the best from around the world.”

The South Australian Government has been working closely with Google Cloud to showcase South Australia’s health ecosystem which includes the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), SA Health, SA NT DataLink and how the Australian Institute for Machine Learning and MIT bigdata Living Lab are collaborating within the health and medical industries.

Google Cloud’s Public Sector presence in South Australia is led by Mike Duhne, who reports to Michael Grantham, Director for Public Sector for Google Cloud in Australia and New Zealand.

“South Australia’s health capabilities are closely aligned with Google Cloud’s strategic priorities, and the State’s commitment to the technology sector from Premier Marshall and the Department for Trade and Investment provides a unique environment for innovation and collaboration in the Technology Hub established at Lot Fourteen.
“We look forward to working with the government, other technology partners at Lot Fourteen, and businesses to support South Australia’s economy.”

SA Liberal senator Alex Antic told FlowNews24 that he is so concerned about the influence of the 'tech giants' Google, Facebook and Twitter in Australia that he has been pushing for an inquiry:

"Liberal democracies are best served when people are ... able to share ideas, and talk to each other and communicate and report on matters of interest. For the greater part we have that, news media has been heavily regulated with media ownership laws we have been able to do that because they are Australian based so jurisdictionally weve been able to have a lot of control over those.
"(The landscape) has changed ... dramatically, these companies ... like Google, Twitter, Facebook ... Google is now the most visited website in the world ... Google now is the holding company of Youtube ... these are massive companies now ... these are big, big companies with big, big ideas and they shift policy in a blink of an eye now. We saw that of course in the US election last year, about how much influence that these companies can have over the political narratives and over our lives. They are almost the biggest influencers."
"My proposal was for a senate select committee to investigate the issues surrounding big tech companies. Unfortunately that didn't get the support of the crossbench in the Senate, and it went down so we need to look at another way of doing that."

Senator Antic highlighted the possibility of one country making it a crime for a tech giant to refuse to block content that a user could prove to be true:

"In Poland for example they've recently apparently legislated to criminalise these tech companies removing content that is correct ... anything that's real or that is proven - that, you know, that the sun rises, they get a penalty.

The Senator was referring to a push by the Polish government through Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro to compel social media giants to restore deleted accounts, posts or content, or face fines costing millions of dollars.

Google also lost a court case on Friday for misleading Android device users about its data collection policies, AFP reports.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) brought the court case against Google, with ACCC chair Rod Sims telling AFP that Friday's ruling was "a world-first enforcement action" on the issue:

"This is an important victory for consumers, especially anyone concerned about their privacy online, as the court's decision sends a strong message to Google and others that big businesses must not mislead their customers.
"Today's decision is an important step to make sure digital platforms are upfront with consumers about what is happening with their data and what they can do to protect it," he said.

In his ruling, Federal Court Judge Thomas Thawley "partially" accepted the ACCC case against Google, noting that the company's "conduct would not have misled all reasonable users" of its service.

But he added that Google's action "misled or was likely to mislead some reasonable users" and that "the number or proportion of reasonable users who were misled, or were likely to have been misled, does not matter" in establishing contraventions of the law.

The full interview with Senator Alex Antic appears in the FlowNews24 podcast player below:

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