Digital Updates – All 2021

DIGITAL UPDATES

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2021 UPDATES

Google Enters Agreement to Pay French Publishers

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On January 21, Google officially signed an agreement to compensate a coalition of French publishers for Google’s use of their content. In a blog post, Google called the agreement a “major step forward” and a framework for all of Google’s future negotiations with publishers. This framework includes considerations like daily volume of publications, monthly internet traffic, and other contributions. The parties did not release the exact payment amount or details on how compensation was calculated. These agreements were mandated by the French Competition Authority, after the country passed a copyright law in 2019 granting news publishers a “neighboring right.” Read more here.

State AGs to File Third Lawsuit Against Google

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On January 15, Reuters reported that State Attorneys General are planning to file a third lawsuit against Google focusing on its Play Store for Android phones. The lawsuit is expected to be filed in February or March. Google’s policies include the ability to ban apps for objectionable content and requiring payments of up to 30 percent of the app’s revenue. A Google spokesperson said that Android phones are compatible with multiple app stores, giving app developers options if they disagree with Google’s terms. The Apple App Store, which is incompatible with Android phones, has also come under scrutiny by DOJ and developers. Read more here.

WhatsApp Delays New Privacy Policy After Backlash

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On January 15, WhatsApp announced it would delay its recent privacy policy update after users raised concerns about the app sharing data with its parent company, Facebook. Originally, users were required to consent to the policy by February 8 or their accounts would stop working. Users voiced their concern about the new privacy policy and exactly what information would be shared. WhatsApp has since walked back its original statement by pushing back the date users would have to review and accept the terms. The company’s latest announcement also claims that the update only includes “new options” to interact with businesses and increase transparency with data use and collection. This is an attempt at monetizing the app after failed attempts to do so in the past. Many users are already flocking to other messaging options, as competition increases. Read more here.

Google Experimenting with Removing Australian Media from Search Results

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On January 13, Financial Review reported that Google was adjusting algorithms to block Australian news sites as part of an “experiment.” A Google spokesperson confirmed this report, saying that the adjusted algorithms would “reach about 1% of Google Search users in Australia to measure the impacts of news businesses and Google Search on each other.” This is Google’s latest retaliatory effort against the ACCC’s News Media Bargaining Code. The Google spokesperson told Guardian Australia that the experiments should finish by early February. A spokesperson for Nine — the publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and Financial Review — called Google’s actions “a chilling illustration of their extraordinary market power.” Read more here.

Google Experimenting with Removing Australian Media from Search Results

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On January 13, the The Australian Financial Review reported that Google was adjusting algorithms to block Australian news sites, as part of an “experiment.” A Google spokesperson confirmed this report, saying that the adjusted algorithms would “reach about 1% of Google Search users in Australia to measure the impacts of news businesses and Google Search on each other.” This is Google’s latest retaliatory effort against the ACCC’s News Media Bargaining Code. The Google spokesperson told Guardian Australia that the experiments should finish by early February. A spokesperson for Nine—the publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age, and the AFR—called Google’s actions “a chilling illustration of their extraordinary market power.” Read more here.

FCC No Longer Clarifying Section 230

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On January 7, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a C-SPAN interview that he no longer intends to move forward with the notice of proposed rule-making to clarify Section 230. He said he had insufficient time to complete the administrative process after the 2020 election. This comes three months after Chairman Pai’s original announcement that the FCC had the authority to interpret Section 230. Read more here.

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