Digital Updates – August


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Google Having Secret Meetings with Select Publishers about Privacy Sandbox


Digiday reported that Google has been meeting with select, large publishers about its privacy sandbox. Though a Google spokesperson said they are “committed to open dialogue with publishers of all sizes,” most publishers were excluded from these meetings. Google and any known participants refuse to disclose who was involved in the meetings. Conversations included Google’s evolving FloC technology, as well as timelines for implementing its new Privacy Sandbox technology.

New York Chosen as Venue for Google Antitrust Cases


The Judicial Panel for Multistate Litigation (JPML) ruled on the antitrust litigation pending against Google and selected New York as the forum for all cases. This is a very positive development, as the venue is more favorable than California as Google would have preferred. New York is a faster forum and does not grant Google a “home court advantage.” The Panel’s decision cites the Alliance amicus brief filed in the proceeding.

ACCC Allows for Greater Collective Bargaining by News Publishers


On August 5, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced that it would allow Country Press Australia (CPA) and its members to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook. The authorization will last for 10 years. The CPA, which represents 81 news publishers, has already reached a three-year deal with Facebook and Google that will best benefit the publishers. Read more here.

Twitter Partnering with News Publishers to Diminish Misinformation


On August 2, Twitter announced that it would be collaborating with The Associated Press and Reuters “to identify and elevate credible information on Twitter.” This program should increase and improve context added to certain tweets, anticipate and identify emerging conversations, and improve the effectiveness of already-existing features. Both Reuters and AP spokespeople are “excited” to be a part of giving easy access to quality journalism and diminishing disinformation.

Google Suspected in Latest Campaign Against Australian Bargaining Code


On August 26, The Australian reported that Google is suspected of using “scare tactics” to push back against the recent passage by the Australia Competition & Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) mandatory bargaining code to fairly compensate news publishers. Both Senators and Members of Parliament have received thousands of emails, all with the same message condemning the bargaining code. These messages are apparently sourced from an anonymous petition with over 40,000 signatures calling the Code an “assault on Australia’s democracy.” A Google spokesman said they have been informing users, creators, and partners about the law, but they are “not involved with this petition or email campaign in any way.” Read more here. 

Google Implements New Ad Blockers


Google is supposed to implement a new “heavy ad blocker” in late August, according to a Google official’s activity on a Chromium message board. Google defines a heavy ad as any ad that a user hasn’t interacted with that uses the main thread for more than 60 seconds in total, uses the main thread for more than 15 seconds in any 30-second window, or uses more than 4 megabytes of network bandwidth. Google explains that this update is “to be fast and responsive without harmful or annoying experiences,” to comply with the Coalition for Better Ads “Better Ads Standards,” and to protect against “abusive experiences.” This comes as tension continues to rise with Google’s unwillingness to compensate news publishers in Australia. Read more here.  

News Publishers Push Back on Apple Policies


On August 20, Digital Content Next (DCN) sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking about better terms for revenue sharing from digital subscriptions to news publishers’ content through Apple’s App Store. DCN represents a broad variety of news publishers, including NPR, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post. For any subscriptions through iOS apps, Apple takes 30 percent of the revenue and then 15 percent after the subscriber’s first year. DCN points out in its letter that Amazon has received much more favorable terms from Apple, allowing it to generate more revenue. The letter requests Apple share what terms Amazon met to receive a more favorable revenue split so that news publishers could potentially receive the same. Read more here. 

DOJ Attorneys Want to Delay Big Tech Lawsuit


The Wall Street Journal reported that some Department of Justice (DOJ) staffers are concerned that the lawsuit against Google is not ready to be filed, despite Attorney General Barr hoping to file by the end of the summer. While the DOJ has dozens of attorneys working on the matter, they are worried about vulnerabilities in the high-profile case. Senior officials are still adamant about the quicker timeline, with some suggesting they may try to file before the election. Read more here.

Google Spreads Misinformation About ACCC News Media Bargaining Code


Google released an open letter to Australians claiming that the Australia Competition & Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) draft news media bargaining code threatens consumer data privacy, the accuracy of search results, and the ability of Google and YouTube to remain free services. The Guardian reports that Google is targeting Australian consumers with ads that take them to the open letter. The ACCC released a statement saying Google’s open letter contains misinformation and correcting the errors. The statement makes clear that Google will not be required to charge for its services or share any additional user data with news businesses. Instead, the ACCC argues, the draft code simply allows Australian news publishers to negotiate for fair compensation for their content. Google invoked similar strategies in 2011-2012 to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). The ACCC says they “will continue to consult on the draft code with interested parties, including Google.” Read more here.

ACCC Rules Facebook & Google Must Pay Australian Publishers


On July 31, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) released its mandatory News Media Bargaining Code to correct the power imbalance between big tech and news publishers. The Code ensures publishers’ ability to be meaningfully compensated for news content through their negotiations with Google and Facebook that will result in forced arbitration after three months if an acceptable business arrangement cannot be reached. It provides that financial materials must be shared on demand to determine the adequate remuneration and prevents Google or Facebook from removing content as an alternative to payment. The draft Code also requires digital platforms to disclose algorithmic changes and other unilateral decisions that could affect news publishers’ bottom line. The ACCC is accepting comments on the draft Code until late August, after which the Australian Parliament will have to pass the final legislation before the Code can take effect. Read more here.


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