Facebook agrees to restore news after talks with government


Facebook has agreed to restore news for its Australian users in the coming days after holding discussions with the federal government.

The social media giant dramatically escalated its fight with the government last week, barring Australians from accessing news sites on the platform.

The move came as part of Facebook’s fight against the Federal government’s media bargaining code, which would force tech giants to pay news outlets for news content accessed on their platforms.

But Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has confirmed Facebook would walk back the measure after holding constructive talks.

“The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days,” he said in a statement.

The government confirmed on Tuesday it would introduce further amendments to the code, which has been met with fierce resistance by Google and Facebook.

They included a measure that would ensure whether a tech giant had “made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry” would be factored in before they were designated under the code.

“The amendments will strengthen the hand of regional and small publishers in obtaining appropriate remuneration for the use of their content by the digital platforms,” Mr Frydenberg.

The government has encouraged tech giants to strike deals with news outlets outside of the code, a call met by Google, which reached a flurry of arrangements with major Australian outlets last week.

But Facebook last week carried out its threat to remove news altogether from the platform, arguing it fundamentally undermined the way its platform operated.

“(The plan) has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia,” it said.

“With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”

Mr Frydenberg criticised the move as “unnecessary heavy-handed”, saying the government remained committed to legislating the code.

But said he remained optimistic Facebook would return to the table.



Source link

Facebook news ban’s shock casualties include Australian weather, emergency, business and government pages


Facebook’s news ban is already in effect on Thursday morning and it’s not just news sites that are being blocked from sharing content, the ban is also impacting a variety of non-news pages, including Facebook’s own.

News.com.au has confirmed this morning Facebook is “using technology” to enforce the ban but the company’s local representatives don’t yet know why these other sites are being caught in the ban.

A Facebook spokesperson told news.com.au “any pages that are inadvertently impacted we’ll look to reverse”.

“Government Pages should not be impacted by today’s announcement. The actions we’re taking are focused on restricting publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content. As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted. However, we will reverse any Pages that are inadvertently impacted.”

Until Facebook reverses the damage, Australians are being denied access to information from health and support services and their governments, with some branding the breadth of the ban as “cruel”.

Among the pages that are now showing a message reading “no posts yet” as of Thursday morning, is Facebook’s own.

Australians who want access to reliable weather information from the government department they pay to provide it won’t be able to find any on Facebook today.

The Bureau of Meteorology has also been blocked in the ban, with all its posts scrubbed from Facebook.

RELATED: What your Facebook feed will look like

RELATED: Fury erupts over Facebook’s Aussie ban

Facebook has been trying to keep COVID-19 misinformation off its site, but government health departments have been caught in the crossfire.

Queenslanders looking for reliable information from their local health authorities won’t find it on Facebook: The Queensland Health page has been scrubbed of all posts.

SA Health and the ACT government’s page are also empty, and the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services has been scrubbed too.

The national sexual assault, domestic family violence counselling service 1800 RESPECT has also been hit in the wide-ranging ban.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said a decision to ban the ACTU from posting is “disgraceful and needs to be reversed immediately”.

It’s unclear what exactly two random biking-related pages have done to raise Facebook’s ire, but they’ve been hit by the ban too.

Harvey Norman has also been caught in the ban, though its biggest rival JB Hi-Fi has not.

Looking for a laugh? Look somewhere else.

Popular satire sites offering a lighter look at the news such as The Betoota Advocate, The Chaser and The Shovel have all been scrubbed too.

The Betoota Advocate’s editor Clancy Overell told news.com.au today was a day they had feared, but prepared for.

“There was an element of expecting this, the tap was always going to get turned off at some point, today’s the day.

“We thought we’d get a bit of a warning, when it’s time to call a bluff it’s time to call a bluff and the government has been caught out.”

Mr Overell worried about the potential impacts the ban will have, particularly on rural and regional publications like his that have already been impacted by severe cuts in the past year.

“The first consumers of news to miss out are rural, it’s a weird time where rural Australia are forced to get their news from the same places as someone living in Surry Hills or West End. “There will be no local news and it’s a big fear for bushfire season and the like, rural media has really taken a hit, not just because of today’s changes,” Mr Overell said.

He said the site has prepared by spreading over different social media platforms and producing podcasts across a number of streaming services.

While no longer allowed to post on Facebook, Mr Overell said Betoota had an “engrained audience” that came to direct to its website and followed its newsletter.

“It was always in the back of our minds, the fear the music would stop and we wouldn’t have a chair to sit on,” he said.



Source link

Media bargaining code protest backfires


As Australians adjust to a brave new world without news on Facebook, experts have started to analyse the long-term impact of the drastic move – and it doesn’t look good for the social media giant.

Facebook stunned Australians early on Thursday morning with the bombshell announcement that users would no longer be able to view or share news on the platform, with Australian content also hidden from international users.

The shock decision was made in retaliation to Australia’s proposed new Media Bargaining law, with the federal government pushing forward with a plan to force social media giants to pay for news content.

But according to Swinburne University of Technology media and communications lecturer Diana Bossio, while the news exodus would cause some “short-term negative impacts” for Australians, it might have shot itself in the foot in the process.

In a piece penned for The Conversationyesterday, Dr Bossio said local Facebook users would be inconvenienced by the lack of news, the fact that a slew of government and charity pages had also gone dark, and by a “short-term proliferation of misinformation as Facebook’s news feed will have a vacuum of professionally sourced and fact-checked news”, with smaller, independent news organisations most at risk by the exit.

RELATED: ‘Couldn’t be worse’: Danger of Facebook ban

But she said “the reputational damage from blocking important sites that serve Australia’s public interest overnight – and yet taking years to get on top of user privacy breaches and misinformation – undermines the legitimacy of the platform and its claimed civic intentions”.

“Facebook’s actions may send a message to the government, but they will also send one to their Australian users,” Dr Bossio wrote.

She added that Australians would simply look elsewhere for their news – but stressed that the change to people’s feeds “might be a deal-breaker” for some, and that “the reputational damage and publisher exodus will eventually damage its core business: digital advertising revenue”.

It’s a sentiment echoed by a string of other experts and politicians, with a defiant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg yesterday vowing the government would stick to its guns and make Facebook pay.

“Facebook was wrong. Facebook’s actions were unnecessary, they were heavy-handed, and they will damage its reputation here in Australia,” he said.

“Their decision to block Australians’ access to government sites – be they about support through the pandemic, mental health, emergency services, the Bureau of Meteorology – were completely unrelated to the media code which is yet to pass through the Senate.”

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher also lashed the “surprising decision” and said it was one that was “unlikely to be in the long term interest of their brand”.

BACKLASH GROWS

Meanwhile, scores of experts and industry insiders have also come forward to slam Facebook’s decision.

Science and Technology Australia CEO Misha Schubert said the blocking of content from science organisations along with news sites denied access to essential health information.

“For Facebook to block access to the feeds of trusted science and health organisations in Australia during a pandemic and bushfire season is irresponsible and dangerous,” she said.

“At a time when the company is taking steps to tackle misinformation on its platform, it’s concerning it has chosen to silence some of this nation’s leading scientific voices.”

That concern was echoed by Chris Cooper, the executive director of Reset Australia, an initiative working to counter digital threats to democracy.

RELATED: Why world turned on Facebook

“Facebook blocking news in the middle of a pandemic, when accurate information is a key plank of the public health response really tells you all you need know about how much Zuckerberg cares about Australian society and cohesion,” Mr Cooper said.

And Outbrain managing director APAC and growth markets Andrew Burke said it would ultimately hurt smaller organisations.

“Facebook’s decision to pull all Australian news is a massive blow to local publishers and for the free exchange of information and ideas in Australia,” he said.

“This will be especially hard for smaller publishers who rely on this platform for people to discover their content.”



Source link

What it means, why are users blocked from reading and sharing content


Facebook is blocking Australian users from reading and sharing news.

The shock move by Facebook comes with Australia poised to adopt legislation that would force digital platforms to pay for news content.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said Facebook’s decision to stop Australian publishers and users from sharing or viewing news content sends a strong message about its credibility.

“Facebook needs to think very carefully about what this means for its reputation and standing,” Mr Fletcher told the ABC.

“They’re effectively saying, on our platform, there will not be any information from organisations which employ paid journalists, which have fact checking processes, editorial policies. They’re effectively saying any information that is available on our site does not come from these reliable sources.”

RELATED: Facebook bombshell leaves Aussies shocked

RELATED: Craig Kelly banned from Facebook

Facebook’s Australia and New Zealand managing director William Easton announced the ban in a statement dated Wednesday.

Facebook said it had been left with a choice between attempting to comply with a law it thinks “ignores the realities” of the relationship between it and news publishers, or to simply stop allowing the content altogether.

This is what it means for you:

WHAT IF I WANT TO READ OR SHARE AUSTRALIAN NEWS?

There’s nothing stopping you going directly to the website of an Australian news site to read their content, you just won’t see it on Facebook anymore, or be able to share articles on your timeline to discuss them with your friends. It’s likely you can still send them in direct or group messages on Facebook platforms such as Messenger and WhatsApp.

WHAT IF I WANT TO READ OR SHARE INTERNATIONAL NEWS?

If you’re outside of Australia you can still post links from international news sources but not from Australian ones. If you share this content it won’t be seen in Australia.

RELATED: Tiny thing Instagram wants hidden

RELATED: Winner declared in Google stoush

HOW IS FACEBOOK ENFORCING THIS?

Australian users won’t be able to post links featuring the URL of any news outlets, while international users are banned from sharing links with the URL of any Australian news outlets. Facebook uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to police its site, including to perform early level content moderation. This isn’t always a perfect system, as Thursday morning’s implementation of the ban has shown.

Non-news pages, including Harvey Norman, the Betoota Advocate, the ACTU and two random biking related pages have been caught up in the ban too.

Given this change targets specific URLs and doesn’t require the interpretation of content to see if it complies with the site’s guidelines, it’s unlikely Facebook will have much trouble keeping the links off its platform, but it remains to be seen how other pages that shouldn’t be included in the ban are dealt with.

Facebook’s local representatives didn’t know why the pages were being caught up in the ban when contacted by news.com.au on Thursday morning.

RELATED: Google’s search video backfires

WHY IS FACEBOOK BANNING NEWS NOW?

The House of Representatives is currently considering a bill that would amend Australia’s Competition and Consumer Act to establish a mandatory code of conduct that applies to news media and digital platforms when bargaining in relation to news content that appears on the platforms, with a specific focus on Facebook and Google.

That proposed code came after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Digital Platforms Inquiry showed that Facebook and Google dominated the digital advertising market in Australia.

The ACCC also found Google and Facebook were “unavoidable business partners for media companies to both access an audience for their content and secure advertising revenue”.

The Government “accepted the overriding conclusion that there was a need for reform” and committed to “address bargaining power concerns” between the platforms and publishers by tasking the ACCC to develop a voluntary code of conduct.

In April last year, due to a lack of progression in the creation of the voluntary proposed code, it was upgraded to a mandatory one.

The Bill before parliament claims the mandatory code of conduct will “help support the sustainability of the Australian news media sector by addressing bargaining power imbalances”.

In effect this means the platforms would have to pay the news publishers for their content.

Facebook disagrees and argues that “the value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favour of the publishers — which is the reverse of what the legislation would require the arbitrator to assume”.

The company claims news content makes up less than four per cent of the content people see on Facebook, and argues that it referred more than five billion pairs of eyeballs to local publishers, which it “estimated” was worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

GOOGLE IS PLAYING BALL, SO WHY NOT FACEBOOK?

The new code has a specific focus on Google and Facebook as they are the two companies that dominate the digital advertising market, with huge amounts of data they can use to target ads at you.

After threatening to shut down Australian services (to the delight of Microsoft which quickly showed enthusiasm to replace Google with Bing), Google has been shaking hands and signing papers all week with major news publishers in Australia, inking deals worth tens of million a year with Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment, and News Corp (publisher of this website) for content to appear in Google’s News Showcase product.

Google pledged last year to spend $US1bn ($A1.29 billion) over three years on news content.

Other deals with the ABC and the Guardian are reportedly “in eleventh-hour negotiations”.

But Facebook argues it is not the same as Google and the pair “have fundamentally different relationships with news”.

“Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content. On the other hand, publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook as it allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue.”

Google disputes that. Its “public search liaison” Danny Sullivan tweeted in response to “clarify” Facebook’s point and explain publishers do have a choice of whether or not to appear in Google Search and News.

The company argued it was prepared to launch its own competitor to Google’s News Showcase in Australia, which would come with significantly increased investment in local publishers, but would only do so “with the right rules in place”.

ABSURD SITES CAUGHT IN FACBOOK BAN – INCLUDING FACEBOOK

Facebook’s news ban is already in effect on Thursday morning and it’s not just news sites that are being blocked from sharing content – the ban is also impacting a variety of non-news pages, including Facebook’s own.

Among the pages that are now showing a message reading “no posts yet” as of Thursday morning, is Facebook’s own.

The Bureau of Meteorology has also been blocked in the ban, as has the ACTU and the Queensland Health page.

SA Health and the ACT government’s page are also empty, and the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services has been scrubbed too.

SIGN FACEBOOK COULD BACKFLIP ON BAN

While many Australians have reacted with fury, there’s a clear sign Facebook could soon backtrack on the Australian news ban.

That hidden clue is buried in the last line of the tech giants lengthy public statement announcing the move.

“We hope that in the future the Australian government will recognise the value we already provide and work with us to strengthen, rather than limit, our partnerships with publishers,” it wrote.



Source link

News Media Bargaining Code that angered Facebook into blocking Australian news


Australians woke up unable to access and share news content on Facebook, as the big tech giant laid bare its power by carrying out a threat it first made months ago.

The decision, which came as a shock to many, came after three years of anger from big tech over the federal government’s proposed Mandatory Media Bargaining Code.

The code, which would force Google and Facebook to pay news outlets for content, would be the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

But with the plan set to become law this week, Facebook has blocked Australian users from accessing news sites, and pages containing vital public safety information.

Overseas Facebook users are no longer able to access Australian news sites.

RELATED: Google strikes $30m deal with Nine with bargaining code in parliament

In a statement on Thursday, Facebook claimed it was left with no option but to take extreme action.

“(The plan) has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia,” it read.

“With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg held crisis talks with Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg this morning, but the government is refusing to back down.

POWER IMBALANCE: WHAT BROUGHT ABOUT THE LAWS

The government believes digital platforms have fundamentally shifted the way media content is produced and accessed.

It says tech giants Google and Facebook wield too much power over the market, benefiting from journalism that appears on their platforms without fairly compensating the outlets that make it.

Media outlets have been squeezed with newsrooms shrinking as the digital age dries up their advertising revenues.

And Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, who chaired a public inquiry into the laws, says big tech giants are essentially thieving by muscling in on advertising for content they don’t produce.

“You don’t just go into a supermarket and steal a can of fruit, which effectively is what the platforms do when they take journalism and give it away for free,” he told Sky News on Thursday.

The government has spent three years consulting with media outlets and tech giants in a bid to reach a compromise.

It says its plan, unveiled in December, ensures news outlets remain viable by providing them fair payment for content.

FORCED TO PAY: WHAT THE GOVERNMENT IS PROPOSING

The plan would set up a mandatory media bargaining code forcing the tech giants to pay for original news content.

The laws will apply to Facebook’s News Feed and Google Search to begin with, but the government could add other platform services if they begin to wield unfair power.

After pressure from the Greens, the government agreed to include public broadcasters the ABC and SBS in the code.

The parties are encouraged to reach deals outside of the code, and the laws would establish a framework for to negotiate.

But when talks break down, the two parties will go to an independent umpire, which will decide what fee will be paid.

Google has taken up the government’s call to proactively negotiate with news outlets.

Google struck a deal with News Corp, the publisher of this article, to pay “significant amounts” for original content.

It came hot on the heels of two $30m annual agreements with Nine Entertainment and Seven West Media earlier in the week.

‘BREAKING THE INTERNET’: WHY THE TECH GIANTS ARE IN REVOLT

Google and Facebook argue the laws will break the way the internet functions, but both insist they want to thrash out a workable code.

Their core argument is that forcing payment for hyperlinking, a key feature of internet browsing, will make it unviable.

They’re concerned the code would create a precedent allowing people to charge for linking online.

Google says the plan would be like being charging a bus driver for delivering patrons to a restaurant.

“The ability to link freely between sites is a fundamental part of the internet,” it says on its website.

“It creates a damaging precedent and privileges one group of content, that of news publishers, over everyone else, which breaks Google Search.”

In a fiery two-day public hearing on the bill, it threatened to remove Google Search from Australian users altogether.

Facebook says the law “fundamentally misunderstands” how its platform interacts with publishers who share news content.

It reiterated its threat to prevent Australians from accessing news content, which it carried out overnight.



Source link

Australians, journalists react to Facebook blocking users, publishers from sharing news


Australians are waking to the news that Facebook has dramatically banned local news from the popular social media platform.

The tech juggernaut’s shock decision was made in response to a proposed new Media Bargaining law, with the federal government pushing forward with a plan to force social media giants to pay for news content.

But in a lengthy statement shared by the company early this morning Australian time, Facebook revealed that instead, it would bar Australian news sites from sharing content on the platform.

Facebook’s move has prompted many to push for a boycott of the platform, with many slamming the decision as little more than a bullying tactic designed to punish its Australian audience.

It means Australian users can no longer view or share local articles, while international Facebook users are also restricted from seeing Australian news.

RELATED: News Corp, Google hit global content deal

Within moments of the announcement being made public, Australian news sites, high-profile reporters, interest groups and everyday readers alike began voicing their fury.

International media organisations have also reacted to the stunning development, with the BBC, CNBC, the New York Post and the Financial Times just some of the global sites to have reported on the news.

Reset Australia, a global initiative working to counter digital threats to democracy, also condemned the call.

“Facebook blocking news in the middle of a pandemic, when accurate information is a key plank of the public health response really tells you all you need know about how much Zuckerberg cares about Australian society and cohesion,” executive director Chris Cooper said in a statement.

“Facebook is telling Australians that rather than participate meaningfully in regulatory efforts, it would prefer to operate a platform in which real news has been abandoned or de-prioritised, leaving misinformation to fill the void.

“The difference between information and misinformation and the value of the news to the functioning of democracy doesn’t matter to Facebook. Regulation is an inconvenient impost on their immediate profits – and the hostility of their response overwhelmingly confirms regulation is needed.”

He added that Facebook was already rife with misinformation, and that it would likely increase now.

“Social media has supercharged conspiracy theories and misinformation, pushing some people into echo chambers where false information is all they see,” he said.

“The absence of news on the platform will only compound the echo chamber effect.”

News.com.au readers have also shared their outrage over the move, with one labelling the tech behemoth “FaceBully” while another described it as “bullying at its finest”.

Others vowed to boycott the platform, and instead to visit news sites directly.

RELATED: Bombshell Facebook decision leaves Aussies shocked

“If you needed another reason to shutdown your Facebook account, there it is,” one reader said, while another wrote that “Facebook needs to be held to account for their actions” and another claimed that “we are in the era of censorship and restricted information”.

Some of Australia’s best-known media identities have also weighed in to the scandal.

Meanwhile, attention has started to turn to what Facebook will actually look like without news, with some Australians expressing their horror at boring Facebook feeds filled with fake news, unhinged conpiracy theoriies and endless pictures of their friends’ brunches and children’s birthday parties.

And the ban has also impacted non-news platforms, with Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus claiming that Facebook had blocked access to the ACTU website. “We are not a news organisation. Australian workers can not now find out about their rights at work via @Facebook,” Ms McManus said in a tweet.

“This is disgraceful & needs to be reversed immediately.”



Source link

Google strikes $30m deal with Nine


Google has reportedly struck a $30m deal to pay Nine Entertainment Co for its news content, with the federal government’s bargaining code set to be debated in parliament.

Google has signed a letter of intent that would see the tech giant pay $30m a year over five years, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, which is owned by Nine.

The deal could be rubber-stamped within a fortnight.

Nine would become the second Australian media outlet to sign a letter of intent with Google, after Seven West Media announced a $30m deal on Monday.

Seven chairman Kerry Stokes said the “groundbreaking” deal provided “fair payment” and ensured the company’s digital platforms remained viable.

The revelation comes as the government prepares to pass its media bargaining code, which was endorsed by a senate committee after an acrimonious two-day public hearing.

RELATED: Senate committee recommends charging tech giants for news

Google threatened to withdraw its search engine from Australia if the bargaining code passed.

It said it was willing to pay news outlets via its Google Showcase function, but did not want to pay for content appearing in searches.

The Nine deal struck would sit outside the search function but cover its newspapers, television, radio, and digital assets, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Google and Facebook both vehemently opposed the bill, arguing it would break the way the internet functioned.

Facebook said it could bar Australians users from accessing and sharing news on its platforms, while chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg unsuccessfully lobbied Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to walk back his plan.

Google conceded it had temporarily prevented some Australian users from accessing news sites as part on an “experiment” it claimed was necessitated by the proposal.

The government has encouraged tech giants to strike deals with news outlets outside of the code.

But the laws would force tech giants to pay a rate determined by an independent body if an agreement was not reached.



Source link

Google, Facebook told to pay for news under Media Bargaining Code


Laws forcing Google and Facebook to pay for news content are one step closer, after a fiery hearing culminated in cross-party support for the plan.

A senate committee recommended on Friday the government’s media bargaining code be adopted in full, after securing bipartisan backing.

Under the laws, Google and Facebook would be forced to pay Australian media outlets for news content accessed on their platforms.

The report followed an acrimonious two-day hearing in January, where the plan was met by fierce resistance from the tech giants.

RELATED: ‘Blackmail’: Google to ‘punish all of Australia’ over big tech proposal

Google and Facebook claimed it would drastically alter the way the internet functioned.

But the laws received support from the Coalition, Labor and the Greens.

“Public interest journalism is more than just an ordinary consumer product that has been undermined or ‘disrupted’ by new technology,” the committee found.

“(It) is a cornerstone of democracy and its survival is imperative in a society increasingly vulnerable to misleading information that can so easily be spread on the internet.”

Google and Facebook both fronted the first day of the inquiry, where Google threatened to withdraw its search engine from Australian users if the plan went it ahead.

It conceded it had temporarily blocked some Australian users from accessing certain news sites, but claimed the “test” was preparation necessitated by the proposal.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison held “constructive talks” with Google chief executive officer Sundar Pichai in February, saying he had gained confidence the tech giant would remain in Australia.

But he insisted Google “understands that Australia sets the rules” and the federal government would not kowtow to the tech giant’s demands.

NCA NewsWire has contact Google for comment.

The Greens supported the bill in principle, but demanded outlets spend revenue from the code directly on resourcing public interest journalism.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has called for the government to establish a permanent trust to ensure Australian Associated Press was supported through public funding.

She also wanted an annual review of the code’s impact on small and independent news organisations.

Facebook reiterated a threat to prevent Australians from sharing and accessing news on the platform.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg also lobbied Treasurer Josh Frydenberg directly in an unsuccessful bid to have the laws reversed.

But US software giant Microsoft backed the bargaining code in February, saying it represented a “a fundamental step towards a more level playing field”.

It claimed its own search engine, Bing, would soon be ready to fill a void if Google abandoned the $4b Australian market.

Tech giants and news outlets would be encouraged to strike arrangements over news content under the proposal.

But an independent arbitrator would be established to determine how much would be paid for content if the two parties were unable to strike an agreement.

Labor backed the bill, but attacked the government in Friday’s report for failing to implement the code by December as planned.



Source link

Scott Morrison talks with Sundar Pichai over media code


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has held showdown talks with the global head of Google this morning, after the tech giant threatened to pull its search engine from the Australian market.

Mr Morrison and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher spoke to Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Thursday morning to discuss the government’s media bargaining code.

The proposal has been met with fierce resistance from Google, which threatened to prevent Australian users from accessing its search engine last month.

Despite the threat, the federal government has pushed ahead with its plan to make big tech giants, including Google and Facebook, pay for Australian outlets for news content.

RELATED: ‘Blackmail’: Google to ‘punish all of Australia’ over big tech proposal

The government was buoyed on Wednesday by Microsoft publicly backing the code.

The US software giant claimed it would step into the void left if Google carried out its threat, saying its own search engine, Bing, could replace it.

The prime minister said on Monday Microsoft was “pretty confident” it could supplant Google in the $4bn Australian market.

Google and Facebook have declared the code unworkable, and launched a PR campaign in a bid to scupper it.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg lobbied Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher directly, but was unsuccessful.

Facebook has also reiterated a threat to prevent Australians from accessing or posting news content on its platform.

Along with its threat to leave the Australian market, Google directed Australian users of its search engine to a video of Australia and NZ managing director Mel Silva declaring the laws would “break” Google’s model.

The link has since been removed.

The tech giant also temporarily hid certain news sites from some Australian users in what Ms Silva described as an “experiment” that had been “forced upon us” by the government.

Peter Lewis, Director of The Australian Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology, told a senate committee on Monday that “Chairman Mao would have approved” of the tactics used by Google, which was prepared to “kill one to warn a hundred”.

The threats prompted Greens leader Adam Bandt to call on Wednesday for a publicly owned search engine.

“Google has enormous market power and they’re using it to threaten the Australian parliament and the Australian public,” he said.

“It’s time to seriously consider what a replacement would be.”

About 95 per cent of online searches in Australia are conducted via Google.



Source link

Google threatens to cancel search function for Australian users


Google is “prepared to punish the whole of Australia” to quash a plan to make it pay for Australian news content, a top media executive says.

Google and Facebook on Friday fronted a senate inquiry into the federal government’s proposed media reforms, which would see the tech giants pay news outlets for content appearing on their platforms.

Google threatened to remove its search function from Australian users if the legislation was passed, but described the plan as a “worst case scenario”.

The tech giant claimed the legislation would make its Google Search unviable, despite paying just $59m in corporate tax last year while reporting revenues over $4b.

Campbell Reid, an executive at News Corp, the publisher of this article, said Google was corroding news outlets’ ability to produce content but remained of “immense value” to people accessing information.

RELATED: Treasurer warns Google over blocking Aussies from news sites

“That’s the good part. The bad part about it is the situation we’ve been in: the commercialised monopoly. Now in a genuine monopoly statement, they’re prepared to punish the whole of the country,” he said.

Liberal senator and committee member Andrew Bragg said Google’s “threats and blackmail could not be taken seriously” while it had not put forward its own proposal.

“The big tech companies are the railroad and oil companies of the 21st century. They have more power and influence than any other organisation at the moment,” he told NCA NewsWire.

“The fact that they can’t come up with a decent model that they can live with is a real indictment on them, and shows how arrogant they’ve become.

“The elected government of Australia isn’t going to give into the big tech titans.”

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found Google accounted for 95 per cent of search traffic in Australia, but Mr Bragg was confident other search engines would “fill the void” if Google carried out its threat.

“Google doesn’t own the internet, there’ll be innovation. If organisations want to leave Australia, that’s a matter for them. The sun will rise the next day,” he said.

But Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the search engine had become an everyday utility, and might be considered an essential service.

“If you ever needed an example of what big corporate powers looks like, this is it,” she told reporters on Friday.

“This is a company that hardly pays any tax in Australia. It comes into the parliament, sits in a senate inquiry, and demands the Senate does what they want, or game over.

“This is a failure of the market. It’s time we regulate big tech.”

Chris Cooper, executive director at Reset Australia — an initiative designed to “counter digital threats to democracy” — said Google’s appearance showed it had “the body of a behemoth but the brain of a brat” and urged the government to stand firm.

“When a private corporation tries to use its monopoly power to threaten and bully a sovereign nation, it’s a sure-fire sign that regulation is long overdue,” he said.

“Internet search is necessary for society and the economy. Google enjoys the enormous advantage of being a giant in the space, but thinks it can eschew the responsibility. That’s just not how things should work.”

Mr Reid said although Australian news outlets had never had bigger audiences, revenues were “perversely” decreasing as big tech muscled in on the industry.

“Google hasn’t replaced a horse in a cart with a car. It doesn’t replace news services with journalists, and has no newsrooms,” he said.

“It doesn’t provide the services that it feeds off, we provide (that).”

Facebook also told the inquiry a plan to bar its 17 million Australian users from accessing news content was not a threat, but “designed to inform the policy process”.

It comes after Google claimed hiding some news sites and stories from Australian internet users was the company “scenario planning” for the laws.

But independent senator Rex Patrick said Google was mimicking China’s strongarming of Australia over its call for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

“The Australian government is leading on a proposal in relation to the Wild West web. Our government steps out first, and the very large organisation that is Google threatens to leave our market,” he said.

But Paul Maric, who runs car review website carexpert.com.au, said while Google was a “fat cat in terms of income” forcing it to pay publishers would deny smaller outlets the chance to compete.

“We wouldn’t be able to be in front of anyone, we would be pushed down the list, and people wouldn’t see our content as much as they would competitors. That would put small publishers like us at a disadvantage,” he told NCA NewsWire.

“Google is paying to deliver traffic … So it’s kind of like double dipping (by) getting free traffic plus more money for your display ads.”



Source link