• Nick Thomas

Google and Facebook vs ...

Google’s been in the media of late with regards to its stance on the News Media Bargaining Code.

There’s several factors to this, not all of which have been reported well, as far as I can find, and certainly not eloquently or understandably.

From ABC News (linked below): “The proposal would force tech giants to pay local media companies** for providing their content in search and sharing their content on social media” This gives the idea that Google is taking news articles and delivering it to users itself, effectively cutting out the publisher entirely. Note they’ve said “tech giants” and “local" media companies, like News Corp is a family business 5 minutes away on the corner of Fair Dinkum St and Battler Ave who provide free papers to the local Dome in exchange for free daily coffee for it’s handful of employees…

There are 3 sections here (last I read) that relate to the above: 1. Content is reproduced on the service 2. Content is linked to 3. An extract or preview is made available.

1 is exactly what the ABC article intimates – taking the content and redistributing it. Fair call, more on this later.***

3 is iffy. Google will provide a curated preview of certain information from either articles or Wikipedia (just some examples I know off the cuff), but they’re generally pretty short and give far from a complete picture and, I would assume* more often than not, would result in a click through to a content providers website. *I have neither the time nor the patience to try and find an article regarding how often a preview will result in a click-through to a content providers site – that would be an interesting statistic to see.

Section 2 is where this entirely breaks down. The internet is founded on the principle of (free) access to information – this comes with some caveats, sure, but the ability to access the information is there. It would mean that some information will not show up in a search unless Google has paid for the privilege of displaying it – think about that. That’s essentially the same as the White Pages paying companies to display their listings.

Another interesting point is that only companies that with revenue exceeding $150,000 would be eligible to charge for their content, so this seems less like "the rights of content producers and authentic journalism" and more about which media corporations have enough political clout to push a money making bill through (it would be the ultimate irony if they used the revenue to acquire controlling interests in any small media companies as they approached the $150,000 ceiling...)

Lastly, the new code would require Google to divulge (and give 30 days notice of changes to) its search algorithm. This would give large media outlets insight into exactly how to optimize their articles and pages to appear first and saturate the search results.

In short, this is a bill to help intractable news media giants hold onto their monopoly, sold to the public as a bill to protect local news from the predation of monopoly tech giants.

Currently on Google and Facebook are being targeted by this, but the definition of "digital platform" is... "Digital platforms must participate in the code if the Treasurer makes a determination specifying that the code would apply to them" **** ...anyone the Treasurer wants.

Some further and expanded reading…. ABC News referred above: Google May Pull Search Engine From Australia...

** “Local media companies” refers to ‘Core news’ services as per ZDNets Jan 22nd article, citing Rod Sims, Chair of the ACCC ACCC Says Google and Facebook Simply Don't Want a Media Bargaining Code *** Expansion of what sections 1 and 3 refer to in these 3 articles: Australia Governments Media Bargaining Code Won't Win Votes...

Webs Inventor Says News Media Bargaining Code Could Break The Internet... How other markets have dealt with the concepts of sections 1, 2 and 3: As Australia Takes on Google and Facebook Over News Content... **** Draft News Media Bargaining Code

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