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‘They don’t want to lose control’: Australia’s competition chief on his country’s efforts to regulate big tech

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It may not look good to outsiders, but Sims, whose background includes a stint as Economic Adviser to Australia’s Prime Minister, and as a corporate strategy adviser to the CEOs and boards of some of Australia’s top 50 companies, said the pushback and posturing isn’t unexpected.

“In a sense that’s not surprising. They’re being forced to do something they don’t want to do,” he said.

“Whether they will leave the country or not, I don’t know,” he added, “but we were never going to come up with a code that they were happy with — because the only code they were happy with was one where they stayed in control.”

Australia’s code leaves the tech platforms with only a couple of extreme options if they don’t want to comply, he said: leave the country or continue to operate there with no traditional news content.

“I mean, they don’t like arbitration, they don’t want to lose control of this bargaining,” Sims said. “So it was always going to be something they would be uncomfortable with.”

Asked if the tech platforms might soften their response, but try to get around the rules by relying on non-traditional news sources such as blogs, Sims said that could happen but the competition authority would then have the option to challenge it in court.

“There is going to be room for interpretation, but it would be up to the ACCC to determine whether to take them to court, and then it’s a court that would make the ruling,” he said. “So, yes, I accept that it’s not going to be straightforward in the definition, but… we’ll cross that bridge when (we) get to it.”

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