Technology giants such as Facebook and Google will have to agree to new rules in Australia to ensure they do not abuse their market power and damage competition, or the federal government will impose controls on them.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will create a code of conduct to address complaints that the technology companies have a stronghold on advertising, the main income generator of local media operators.
The guidelines will ensure substantial market power is not used to lessen competition in media and advertising services markets.
"I want us to be the model jurisdiction in the world for how we are dealing with digital platforms, social media platforms," Morrison told reporters in Melbourne.
The move tightens the regulatory screws on the online platforms, which have governments from the United States to Europe scrambling to address concerns ranging from anti-trust issues to the spread of "fake news" and hate speech.
Australia's government said technology companies would need to agree to the new rules by November 2020 or it will impose them.
"The companies are on notice. The government is not messing around. We will not hesitate to act," Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters.
Google and Facebook both said they support greater competition and will work closely with the ACCC.
"We support a sustainable news ecosystem which is why we work with publishers to help them reach new audiences," Mia Garlick, director of policy, Australia and New Zealand at Facebook, said in an emailed statement.
However, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) said that, although government has the right to carefully consider the influence of large digital platforms, it cautioned that any decision must "be balanced against the risks that further regulatory measures may impact innovation and the operation of the digital economy".
(By Colin Packham; Editing by Jacqueline Wong; with ARN staff)