“Australia now has a template for forcing Facebook and Google to pay for news - TechCrunch” plus 1 more

“Australia now has a template for forcing Facebook and Google to pay for news - TechCrunch” plus 1 more


Australia now has a template for forcing Facebook and Google to pay for news - TechCrunch

Posted: 31 Jul 2020 09:18 AM PDT

Australia is closing in on a legally binding framework to force adtech giants Facebook and Google pay media companies for monetizing their news content when it's posted to their social media platforms or otherwise aggregated and monetized.

Back in April the country's government announced it would adopt a mandatory code requiring the tech giants to share ad revenue with media business after an attempt to negotiate a voluntary arrangement with the companies failed to make progress.

Today Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has published details of a first pass at that mandatory code — which it says is intended to address "acute bargaining power imbalances" between local news businesses vs the adtech duopoly, Google and Facebook.

The draft follows a consultation process before and after the release of a concepts paper in May, in which the ACCC sought feedback on a range of options. More than 40 submissions were received, it said.

Under the proposed code the ACCC is suggesting a binding "final offer" arbitration process as a way to avoid platforms seeking to drag payment negotiations. Under the proposal they'd get three months' "negotiation and mediation", after which an independent arbitrator would choose which of the two parties' final offer is "the most reasonable", doing so within 45 business days.

"This would ensure disagreements about payment for content are resolved quickly. Deals on payment could be reached within six months of the code coming into effect if arbitration is required," the ACCC writes.

The code also aims to enable groups of media businesses (such as local and regional publications) to collectively negotiate to get a better deal out of platforms use of their content.

On the enforcement front, the draft proposes that non-compliance — such as not bargaining in good faith or breaching minimum commitments — can lead to infringement penalties, with the maximum set at $10M or 3x the benefit obtained or 10% of a platform's turnover in the market in the last 12 months (whichever is greater). So Facebook and Google could potentially be on the hook for fines running to many millions of dollars if they are found to have breached such a code.

The scope of the code's application looks broadly enough drawn that it seems intended to try to prevent platforms from dodging payment by simply switching off a single news-focused products (such as Google News). Google did just that in Spain instead of paying for reuse of news snippets there (and it remains switched off in the market). But the ACCC's proposal also applies to Google search and Discover so Google would have to forgo showing any Australian news content to avoid the revenue share — which is a far bigger switch to flip.

Another interesting aspect of the proposal would require the platforms to give news media businesses around a month (28 days') notice of algorithm changes that are "likely to materially affect" referral traffic to news and/or the ranking of news behind paywalls; and also for "substantial" changes to the display and presentation of news, and advertising directly associated with news.

Another notable requirement is for platforms to give news media businesses "clear information" about the data they collect via users' interactions with news content on their platforms — such as how long people spend on an article; how many articles they consume in a certain time period; and other data about user engagement with news across platform services.

This aspect of the proposal looks intended to tackle the problem of dominant platforms using their market power to maintain their grip on the attention economy by being able to monopolize access to data by blocking content producers from being able to access information about how Internet users are engaging with their work.

Platforms like Facebook have sought to centralize others' content to their advantage — applying market power to encourage content to be posted in a place where only they have full access to interaction data. This breaks the link between news producers and their own audience, making it harder for them to perform analytics around articles or respond to changes and trends in consumption behavior.

Being cut off from so much user data also makes it harder for media outlets to cultivate closer relations with consumers of their product — something that looks increasingly vital for developing successful additional revenue streams, such as subscription offers, for example.

"There is a fundamental bargaining power imbalance between news media businesses and the major digital platforms, partly because news businesses have no option but to deal with the platforms, and have had little ability to negotiate over payment for their content or other issues," said ACCC chair, Rod Sims, commenting on the proposal in a statement.

"In developing our draft code, we observed and learned from the approaches of regulators and policymakers internationally that have sought to secure payment for news. We wanted a model that would address this bargaining power imbalance and result in fair payment for content, which avoided unproductive and drawn-out negotiations, and wouldn't reduce the availability of Australian news on Google and Facebook."

"We believe our proposed draft code achieves these purposes," he added.

The proposal contains more suggestions aimed at breaking down the power imbalance between the two adtech giants and news producers. One element would require them to publish proposals for recognizing original news content on their services — which sounds like an 'exclusive' label (to go alongside 'fact-checked' labels platforms can sometimes choose to apply).

The pair would also need to provide news media businesses with what the ACCC dubs "flexible user comment moderation tools" — such as the ability to turn off comments on individual stories posted to a platform.

The theme here is increased agency for news businesses vs Facebook and Google so they have a better chance to shape public debate happening around their own content — platforms having also gobbled up the sorts of conversations which used to happen via a newspaper's letters' page.

In terms of eligibility, the ACCC says media businesses would be eligible for payment for platforms' content reuse if the online news content they produce "investigates and explains issues of public significance for Australians" or "issues that engage Australians in public debate and inform democratic decision-making; or issues relating to community and local events".

Other criteria include adhering to minimum levels of professional editorial standards; maintaining a "suitable degree" of editorial independence; operating in Australia for the main purpose of serving Australian audiences; and generating revenue of more than $150,000 per year.

The code, which would initially only apply to Facebook and Google (though the ACCC notes that other platforms could be added if they gain similar market power), is not intended to capture any non-news content producers, such as drama, entertainment or sports broadcasting.

In a statement responding to the proposal Google expressed deep disappointment. Mel Silva, MD of Google Australia, said:

Our hope was that the Code would be forward thinking and the process would create incentives for both publishers and digital platforms to negotiate and innovate for a better future – so we are deeply disappointed and concerned the draft Code does not achieve this. Instead, the government's heavy handed intervention threatens to impede Australia's digital economy and impacts the services we can deliver to Australians.

The Code discounts the already significant value Google provides to news publishers across the board – including sending billions of clicks to Australian news publishers for free every year worth $218 million. It sends a concerning message to businesses and investors that the Australian Government will intervene instead of letting the market work, and undermines Australia's ambition to become a leading digital economy by 2030. It sets up a perverse disincentive to innovate in the media sector and does nothing to solve the fundamental challenges of creating a business model fit for the digital age.

We urge policymakers to ensure that the final Code is grounded in commercial reality so that it operates in the interests of Australian consumers, preserves the shared benefits created by the web, and does not favour the interests of large publishers at the expense of small publishers.

Facebook had far less to say — sending a line attributed to William Easton, its MD for Australia & New Zealand — which says it's reviewing the proposal "to understand the impact it will have on the industry, our services and our investment in the news ecosystem in Australia".

In terms of Australia's next steps, further consultation will take place on the draft mandatory code during August, with the ACCC saying it will be finalised "shortly after".

More details about the draft code can be found here.

While regulation being applied to big tech now looks like a given in multiple jurisdictions around the world — with US lawmakers alive to the damage flowing from a handful of hyper-powerful homegrown tech giants— the question of how fair and effective it will be is very much up in the air.

One potentially problematic element of Australia's approach with this news ad revenue share is that it does not appear to tackle Facebook's and Google's abusive model of surveillance capitalism — which remains under regulatory scrutiny in Europe — but seems set to further embed the media with data-mining business models that work by stripping consumers of their privacy to target them with behavioral ads.

Critics contend that a myriad of harms flow from behavioral advertising — from time-wasting clickbait at the low end to democracy-denting disinformation and hate speech at the other. Meanwhile other less intrusive types of ad-targeting are available.

A section of the proposed code that touches on "the privacy of platform users" notes only that: "The draft code's minimum standards require digital platforms to provide clear information about the data they currently collect through news content. However, the code does not include any requirements for digital platforms to increase sharing of user data with news media businesses. Accordingly, the code does not have an impact on the privacy protections currently applicable to digital platform users."

Global searches for nearby jobs skyrockets by 242% in the last three months - Dataconomy

Posted: 23 Jul 2020 05:10 AM PDT

The number of people searching for nearby jobs has skyrocketed in the last three months due to various factors like the current coronavirus pandemic. Data acquired by Finbold indicates that based on queries logged on the search engine Google, the global interest in the phrase 'job hiring near me' grew by 242.85% over the last three months globally.

Our data overviewed the searches between April 6 and June 29 this year with a popularity score of 28 and 96 respectively between the two periods. From the data, the search attained the peak popularity of 100 on June 11th. On June 22, there was another notable spike in queries with a popularity score of 84 before slightly dropping by 10.71% to 75 the following day. On June 26th, the search registered another high of 96 before dropping to 57 two days later. Last month, the lowest score was registered on June 21st at 44. 

During the period under review, the nearby jobs attracted the lowest interest on April 18 with a popularity score of 18. In May, the highest interest was registered on 26th with a popularity score of 78. On the other hand, the highest search volume in April was on 15th with a score of 55.

Worldwide interest in nearby jobs

The Philippines and US records the highest interest in nearby jobs searches 

The Finbold.com research also overviewed countries that witnessed the highest interest in the phrase 'job hiring near me' during the period under review. From the data gathered, Philipines leads with a popularity score of 100. The United States lies in the second spot with a popularity score of 72.

Elsewhere, Canada with a popularity score of 21 occupies the third spot followed by South Africa at 13. Australia caps the top five slots with a popularity score of 7.

Top 5 countries by interest in nearby jobs

On the Google Trends platform, the popularity scores represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term while a value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. Elsewhere, a score of 0 means there was not enough data for this term.

Explaining the spike in nearby jobs searches

From the data, it can be assumed that people have been desperately looking for work after being rendered jobless due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. As a measure of containing the virus spread, most countries imposed lockdowns that led to economic shutdowns forcing many companies to send workers homes indefinitely.

At the same time, people might look for jobs nearby as a means of reducing the time spent while commuting to work. Hence, reduced commute time is a financially effective and time-saving solution. The need to reduce work commute time mostly applies to students looking for internships. During this period, students are looking for internships in finance, communications, programming among other sectors.

Some governments like the United States and the United Kingdom released stimulus packages to keep businesses and citizens afloat, but they were not enough. Most people therefore resorted to looking for jobs nearby. Despite governments announcing unemployment benefits, some countries saw delays forcing people to look for work nearby.  Workers who have been mostly been hit are from the sectors of tourism and air travel. 

With governments still working on bailout initiatives aimed at mitigating the pandemic's impact on the economy, it's impossible to know how high joblessness will get. Some employers are now recalling workers as some regions begin to ease lockdown measures. However, some workers are scared of getting sick but have no choice to resume normal work. 

Notably, the current health crisis has largely led to increasing job searches. However, the full impact of the pandemic on employment cannot be known at the moment. According to economists, the full extent of coronavirus will not be clear until the entire crisis has been contained fully. Projecting the impact has become difficult considering that such a pandemic has not been witnessed in recent history. 

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