back to article Australia to make Google and Facebook disclose ranking algorithms and pay for local content

Australia will force social media companies to pay for content shared on their networks and disclose details of the algorithms that determine what their users see. The decision comes after Australia conducted a Digital Platforms Inquiry that in 2019 delivered a final report concluding that Google and Facebook have distorted …

  1. Bitsminer

    Fishing

    Here in lower Canuckistan the local paper is now pleading for cash contributions from readers. Several regional papers have closed permanently.

    My Android phone shows "news" with a mis-swipe. Sometimes, the local rag's pages are shown. If I click, there are ads (and the local paper's original content), but of course those are ads by the Google not the ads seen on the origin website. Those poor folks get nothing from those page "views".

    In France the Google claimed they were expanding the visibility of the various media outlets. I get this and I would agree it happens. But the Google also used their content as bait for their own ads, paid nothing for the bait, and kept the resulting fish.

    Time to regulate the fishermen.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Fishing

      Yes. Oh yes, definitely. You use other people's work to make money? Unless they willingly gave it to you for free you should pay them for their troubles. (See also Youtube...)

      No, I don't like some of the so-called newspapers (some real papers I do respect but still don't like), and yes, there are problems with people owning papers being really close to politicians (or the politicians themselves, look at Berlusconi...). No, I don't think the Aussie government is... that great, and focusing on a media outlet that is closest to them does make sense, sort of. However, focusing on this single paper ("News" or what it was) is not helpful for analysing the overall problem and serves mainly to push the interpretation in a certain direction. How about local papers? How are they doing? How much of their content is (sc)raped by the likes of g**le and f'borg? I have talked some local reporters here and there (continue to meet them shrough clubs' activities), and they genuinely want to do a good job (sometimes mixed results, I admit), even with the quite limited ressources their paper has to offer. Shouldn't these be mentioned as prominently as well - or do they not suffer the same fate?

      And the author's sentiment that it serves them right for not using a robots.txt file is... misplaced. "Serves you right getting mugged, you left your home" is along the same lines..

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Fishing

        Google & C. issues exist even in countries which don't have a single media mogul like Australia. Spain and France moved before, and the situation there is different. I believe US has the same problem too, and there are far more news outlets.

        Nice to see anyway that many old networks still don't understand one of the keys Netflix success was to avoid to waste billions to buy the rights of men kicking, hitting or throwing balls...

        PS: Berlusconi issue is more his national television networks than his single newspaper which is a minor one. His group is hit more by Netflix (and torrents) than Google News - Youtube can be another issue, though, anyway his TV news are made for people who don't use internet sources - which are still a lot.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fishing

          I am pretty sure there is more than one media mogul in Australia

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Fishing

        "they genuinely want to do a good job (sometimes mixed results, I admit)"

        Mixed results is an understatement.

        I learned 30 years ago that most "local reporters" are not interested in anything unless it's delivered to them prewritten and wrapped in a ribbon with a bow on top.

        The idea of actually checking behind the press releases was anathema to most - to the point that you could point to previous stories on the same issues IN THE SAME NEWSPAPER that they hadn't even bothered to look at.

        1. DJV Silver badge

          Re: Fishing

          Totally agree.

          My local newspaper company (Archant) has almost the same attitude to checking things as the Grauniad has with typos. Their website labours under the strain of far too many 3rd party junk adverts and the search facility seem intent on finding anything OTHER than what you're searching for, even if the news item you're seraching for was from less than a week ago and the keywords you've entered are the most logical.

          Even with an ad-blocker running (turning it off means that the site can barely haul itself out of bed to do anything) the site is still an absolutely terrible experience.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fishing

      I think that Google should tell them to sod off in the most expensive way possible.

      1. SundogUK Silver badge

        Re: Fishing

        Google will do exactly that.

        It will come as no surprise, to anybody that has followed my posts, that I am generally in favour of the Australian Liberal party but this is stupidity squared.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Fishing

        The most expensive way possible is simply not use that content for their "news", nor to direct to the source papers - which is exactly what the Goo has done, simply bringing "news" in from other countries.

        The Germans cried 'Onkel' in about 6 weeks and now media there PAY Google et al to bring eyeballs to pages.

        Spain noted this and wrote the laws to prevent individual publishers making agreements with Google. They're now crying "tío", but they have to collectively negotiate through the government - and haven't yet done so. Meantime local media is going down EVEN FASTER than before.

        France didn't learn from Spain's experiences and are trying the same thing. I give it 6-8 weeks before french media are crying 'oncle'

        Now the Aussies are falling for the same thing - and I'll guarantee they're crying "uncle" even faster.

        Of course the beneficiaries of these policies are the big media outlets. It's the smaller outfits who have been disproportionately wiped out by Google adopting a hands-off approach (one might even say dying like flies when the Pea Beu comes out) - and given that we KNOW this will happen, one might be forgiven if one wonders about whether this is the intention (IE: wipe out all competition and Blame Google)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fishing

      Unless your Google News is run very differently, the ads on the pages when you look at a Google News article are decided on by the content provider. It is an AMP page. They can use whatever ad source they want as long as it complies with the speed requirements and sizing etc.

      Many take the easy route and just plug in the Google Ad plugin. This still doesn't mean Google get all the money, the ad money is split with Google just the same way as it is if the piece didn't exist in Google News.

      Hence the trial in a couple of European countries that saw the ad revenue plummet off a cliff when Google stopped hosting them in Google News.

    4. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: Fishing

      I despise Google and everything they stand for but if Australia try to regulate them, it will have the same result as in Spain and France. Unless the US acts, nothing is going to happen and the US is not going to act.

    5. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Fishing

      I'd vote for a 50% tax on all advertising income. Back in the 70's several of my friends used a wide variety of drugs, hash was about 10 quid an ounce, cocaine about 15 shillings a gram. These days they all work for advertising companies instead - they are making tons of money instead of snorting it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fishing

        50% (or less) on revenue rather than income. It is to easy to fudge the income with trumped up expenses.

  2. ThinkingMonkey

    Many newspapers may have shuttered but some are fine

    Our two local newspapers, which cover 3 or 4 small towns and couple of medium sized cities, one of whom I favor and the other I do not, are flourishing.

    Both have been around for at least 40 years and are doing as well as ever. They both have interesting, original content. About as many advertisements as any other actually-printed-on-paper newspapers.

    There's a HUGE reason I think they are both still going strong: Neither have an online presence. No website for either. Not even classified sections. So needless to point out, there's no way Google or anyone else can scrape their content. And neither are large enough for said scrapers to bother scanning and OCR'ing the content to turn it digital.

    So 2 key factors, I think; they have great content (more often than not, anyway) and are not susceptible to the problems mentioned in the article.

  3. Tim99 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Of course

    If it got too expensive, Alphabet could just set up their own news service...

    1. LDS Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Of course

      Sure, I think it would be like its fibre business....

  4. jonathan keith Silver badge

    Frankly, Google needs to be broken up.

    1. steviebuk Silver badge

      As much as I dislike them I disagree. Some things they do good and free. Google Keep is very useful, shame no decent plugin for Firefox. And Google Maps is very useful, being able to see my old home town in street view is fascinating.

      1. Qumefox

        Nothing Google does is actually free. The services only appear to be free on the surface because you can't see all the data slurping that goes on in the background as google builds and maintains VERY detailed profiles of everything they can about your life to sell to their advertisers.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Still free as in beer. I wouldn't overestimate their 'profiles' either. They aren't that advanced - you can see if you set up a double click account the sort of categories you get to choose from. The pretence that they are really advanced is so that they remain the ad leader.

          And they don't sell any of that data to an advertiser - they sell an ad space for a user based on the advertiser's selected profile. So, as an advertiser, if I want to market my product to 20~30 year old males, who like cars and cinema I can paid for a certain number of ad slots on certain platforms where the recipient fall into those categories.

          I could never ask Google for a 100,000 user details so I can look through them and market to the ones I want.

          You can balk at areas of Google for sure, but the idea that they sell personal data is not true. They use it to be able to target adverts, which in turn enhance click-through rates which in turn are more likely to make Google money (based on Pay-per-click, rather than page impressions).

          1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

            Still free as in beer

            And that is the problem - how does anyone else compete with "free" ? You might invent the best mousetrap that's ever existed, but if your only option is to give it away for free then you aren't going to make much profit on it. So it is with Google - they have such an entrenched and dominant position that they can cross subsidise any new venture and literally buy their way into a dominant position.

            They are the Standard Oil and IBM of today.

  5. Denarius Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    odd isn't it

    Oz fed gov wants mass surveillance via metadata retention, more snooping by nominally military focused chairbourne divisions but wants the hoi polloi to carry a fairly benign battery draining app to track virus infections. Meanwhile, Slurp, F*bitch and goggle have more than enough data on our movements from the Android and PC slurping built in. One would think a match made in hell. Then this morsel thrown out for News Corp. Ironically I know of no-one outside of ABC advertisements who trusts any of the mainstream media so whole issue is of little significance in long run. Unless this is cover for the slurps to quietly deliver all the required data and more to bored bureaucrats and po faced policedroids in the TLAs. Nothing like a fake fight to cover close co-operation. Or am I paranoid ?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is solely Murdoch and his crumbling empire. He hates the BBC because it doesn't have to compete on a level playing field by chasing advertising dollars so he asks his friends in Politics to make life hard for them. He doesn't like Google/Facebook/Etc because they are making the billions that are should rightly be in the hands of the world's largest media mogul.

    All the while his own newspapers are illegally hacking into peoples phones, doing criminal acts that are "just one rogue reporter" destroying peoples lives for one little bit of fake gossip and thinking no rules apply to them.

    The fact that the Mail online is so successful shows that Murdoch could've been an internet powerhouse (perhaps even without sinking down to that level) if he'd been a bit more astute and employed some decent people at the top rather than concentrate on his old style print roots and nepotism.

    Personally I can't wait for the end of the clickbait era of journalism and get to a point where people actually pay for decent content or the content is paid for by decent articles and decent advertising (No, I don't think "Wow, these are the scariest bridges in the world ever" is decent advertising)

    1. SWCD

      Huh

      In one breath, praise for the Mail Online.. In another you can't wait for the end of clickbait journalism? That's what the Mail Online excels at, along with it's daughter, Metro.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Huh

        Hold on ... where did I ever praise the scummy mail online. I even said "(perhaps even without sinking down to that level)".

        The Mail Online is a cesspit. That doesn't mean it isn't successful. It's highly successful and that is why I look forward to an era where clickbait doesn't work anymore. So new sources can be as successful as the Mail Online without the 'populism' and low quality journalism.

  7. Paul Shirley

    too few Australian eyes

    A company that profits from the number of eyes seeing it's product, that was prepared to cut off 47mil Spanish, won't think long before cutting off 28mil Australians.

    Until small minded politicians worldwide stop looking for headline grabbing, easy but badly targetted actions that support only their own backers, the Googles & Facebook's of the world will face no pressure to change where they actually are wrong.

    1. The Central Scrutinizer

      Re: too few Australian eyes

      Jesus, the population jumped 3 million overnight! Lockdown's really producing some surprises.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: too few Australian eyes

        I read that 1/4 million temporary visa holders scarpered off home in response to Covid19. Approximately the same number of expats returned home to ride out the storm in isolation.

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: too few Australian eyes

      "A company that profits from the number of eyes seeing it's product, that was prepared to cut off 47mil Spanish, won't think long before cutting off 28mil Australians."

      OK, so GOogle News is shuttered. I actually think that might be a good thing in general. Closing as many of Google's services as one can would be beneficial to everyone (apart from Google). But Facebook is in a rather different position. Either they start some sort of content moderation to stop the ability to share Australian news stories, or they will have to pony up.

      And Australia will not be alone in starting to ask very serious questions of Google and Facebook, among others. Netflix will be in the firing line soon.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: too few Australian eyes

        "OK, so GOogle News is shuttered."

        Except it's not. What it does is brings you news about your region FROM OTHER REGIONS - all perfectly legally.

        If advertisers do deals with a foreign newspaper to ensure their ads are seen by local eyeballs, how are you going to stop them doing so? (or Google USA instead of Google Australia)

        And the local rags can't do a thing about it, because apart from genuinely local content, they're buying their content from the same place as everyone else - Reuters and friends (who pay a fixed rate for articles which are syndicated)

        Protectionism simply doesn't work and protectionist tactics are invariably for the benefit of a monied few, not the general population.

        As for Netflix, they'll simply move out of the country. It will be a VERY BRAVE GOVERNMENT which attempts to censor flows of data based on who hasn't been paying up and I'll guarantee that the real result will be a return to the days of widespread VPN streaming that used to exist before these outfits setup local shops.

        Then again, this is Australia: A country where a CSIRO scientist tore apart a number of radar prosecutions because of the appallingly sloppy way Australian police were setting their speed traps up - so the Australian government passed laws declaring radar infallible in court AND further laws prohibiting government scientists appearing for the defence in cases brought by the government against its citizens.

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: too few Australian eyes

          "As for Netflix, they'll simply move out of the country."

          OK, well bye bye then. I don't see this idea that we should allow tax avoiding companies to reap vast profits in countries with the threat that they'll leave if we don't allow them to pillage.

        2. Philip Lewis

          Re: too few Australian eyes

          What has this got to do with Netflix?

          1. jonathan keith Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: too few Australian eyes

            They're probably stealing Australian children - all that content doesn't just dig itself out of the mines, you know.

  8. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    On the one hand, the likes of Google and Facebook clearly need regulating.

    On the other hand, Rupert Murdoch can fall into a really, really deep hole full of scorpions as far as I'm concerned.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On the one hand, the likes of Google and Facebook clearly need regulating.

      Why? What do you have against scorpions?

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