Digital Updates – August

DIGITAL UPDATES

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AUGUST UPDATES

Google Suspected in Latest Campaign Against Australian Bargaining Code

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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 Change.org 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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