Google Threatens To Pull Out Of Australia Entirely; Australians Demand That It Both Stay And Pay News Orgs For Giving Them Traffic

from the how-does-this-make-any-sense dept

For the last year, we’ve been highlighting how Australia’s rush to create a Google News tax is so stupid. It follows similar efforts in Europe and a few other places, where newspapers that spent years dismissing the internet and doing little to adapt, are now whining that Google is… sending them free traffic and not paying them for it.

It’s truly bizarre. Google sends lots of traffic to news organizations. Tons of news organizations employ search engine optimization experts who work hard to get even more traffic from Google. But… around the globe, many of them are demanding that Google also pay them for sending them traffic. Back in 2014, Google shut down its Google News offering in Spain when that country passed a similar law. Over the past few months, Google has tried to explain to Australian officials just how incredibly stupid this plan is, but Australian officials (and the newspaper lobbyists down under) don’t seem to care.

Last week, Google finally pulled out the nuclear option, saying that it might just pull out of Australia entirely if the law passes. That’s an even bigger threat than the one Facebook made a few months back, when it claimed it would likely block the ability of anyone in Australia to share news on Facebook. But Google says it may shut down entirely in Australia:

?If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google search available in Australia,? Silva told senators. ?And that would be a bad outcome not only for us, but also for the Australian people, media diversity, and the small businesses who use our products every day.?

Australian officials flipped out that a private company that they’re looking to tax at ridiculous levels might… no longer want to do business in their country. The country’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, claimed that the country won’t “respond to threats,” but his administration seems to have no problem issuing more threats. Australia’s Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said that it’s “inevitable” that Google and Facebook will have to pay news organizations for daring to send them free traffic.

Frydenberg also claims that Australia can be a “world leader” in passing such legislation, apparently totally ignorant of how many times other countries have already passed similar legislation, and how poorly it’s gone. The Bloomberg article there mentions that pulling out of Australia would open up the market to competitors, but that assumes any of them would want to pay the pointless news tax as well.

The hubris level here remains astounding. Google and Facebook send these companies traffic. For free. It’s free advertising. These news orgs hire experts to help them perform better on Google and Facebook. And now they want to be paid for it too? While politicians are pulling out the fainting couch in saying “how dare” Google and Facebook threaten to block the entire country, perhaps they might want to look more closely at why they’re driving away these successful companies that their citizens (and constituents) clearly like using.

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Comments on “Google Threatens To Pull Out Of Australia Entirely; Australians Demand That It Both Stay And Pay News Orgs For Giving Them Traffic”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Google's real target

The draft bill may have had that, but not the bill read in parliment.

Text

Things that stood out to me:
1) it is not bargaining, not negotiation. It is arbitration. And parties may agree to appoint persons not on the list. … but are not required to. If the news corp says no, no agreement. 52ZM (5)

2) … if the parties don’t agree on members of the arbitration panel, the ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) will do so. 52ZM (8)

3) The Minister decides who is obligated to go through this procedure. (52E) There, my friends, is the thumb on the scale.

We decide who this applies to, we ensure that the people we want are on the arbitration panel.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Google's real target

"I think the real reason Google threatened to pull out has little to do with the taxing itself."

Nope.

If you tell a company the only way they get to do business in your country is by pushing outgoing expenditure over revenue then that company will walk. It’s that simple. The gormless morons in the aussie legislature are trying to make google search and facebook loss leaders by law. The result of this is predictable and even coming up with the suggestion indicates the australian citizenry ought to uproot the talking turnips hogging parliament seats and toss them right back into the outback soil they presumably grew out of.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'How dare you not cave to our thuggery!'

The country’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, claimed that the country won’t "respond to threats," but his administration seems to have no problem issuing more threats.

‘If you demand that we pay for a service we are offering for free we’ll stop doing that’ is now a threat? What a pathetic and obvious attempt to spin their attempted extortion and Google’s refusal to cave as the government being the ‘victims’.

Hey idiot, Google telling you that if you pass a Google tax they’ll shut down in your country isn’t a ‘threat’, it’s simply reminding you of a core part of business, namely that if doing something only has negative effects you stop doing that thing.

I’m honestly not sure which explanation would make this less stupid at this point, whether they really think that Google will cave and pay the Google tax despite the multiple examples of that not happening, or if they are trying to drive Google off to benefit the larger publishers at the expense of the smaller ones that’ll be screwed when Google leaves.

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crade (profile) says:

Re: 'How dare you not cave to our thuggery!'

On it’s face and by itself I’d say the claim that Google is "threatening" by saying they will stop doing the thing that Aust. is saying is wrong instead of paying the fine for doing it kind of undermines any claim that they are trying to protect the news orgs instead of just exploiting google. It’s like if the gov lays down a fine for speeding, they probably aren’t going to claim people are "threatening" to just stop speeding then.. You know because they don’t want speeding, thats why the fine is there?

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BernardoVerda (profile) says:

Re: 'How dare you not cave to our thuggery!'

News media:
You must link us and advertise our news stories,
and you must pay us for advertising our news stories.

Google:
Ummm… That’s not actually how the advertising business works.

News media:
Well, we went and got the government to pass a new law;
So now we’re making you an offer that you can’t refuse.

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crade (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Google’s statement on this from arstechnica article

Our issues with the current version of the Australian Code are not about money, we’re willing to pay. It’s about being asked to pay for links and snippets which EUCD (and the French transposition) does not. This is where we draw the line. Links and snippets are the building blocks of the free and open web. To pay publishers in Australia, we’re proposing to do the same thing we’re doing in France – to pay publishers for value with News Showcase. The difference would be that News Showcase would operate under the Code, that means publishers can go to arbitration on News Showcase to solve any disagreements.

Anonymous Coward says:

Pulling out of Texas

Being US-centric, I often think of Australia as roughly Texas, although that is based on population.

Population

Perhaps, gross domestic (or state) product would be the better comparison, but then, Toto, I don’t think we’re in Texas anymore.

GDP

  • Australia: $ 1.4 trillion (USD)
  • Texas: $ 1.9 trillion (USD)

Imagine Google pulling out of Texas.

crade (profile) says:

"It’s truly bizarre."

Normally I think of these as standard protectionists measures.. Basically EU companies can’t compete against Google, so try to hamstring Google there and have the European version of Baidu come in and take some of the market (the law should somehow be subtly more tolerable to either smaller or local companies), so it doesn’t seem so much bizarre to me as underhanded or dishonest way to do tariffs..

Trying to say that google must still stay though, I’d say is just posturing since they know people don’t want google to leave and since Australian Baidu isn’t available yet.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The EU also just loves every one of their buggywhip makers far too much and moves heaven and earth to protect vested interests which cannot compete and are frankly economically irrelevant relative to the influnce they wield. You can’t have a competitive economy when doing so makes you guilty of felony interference with a business model.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"You can’t have a competitive economy when doing so makes you guilty of felony interference with a business model."

Sadly this is one of those things the US used to be better at than Europe. And then came the 80’s, when the US changed all that and outsourcing really took off.

Currently the powerhouse with the most solid foundations for its economy is China, simply because right now that’s where most supply chains begin. The US, meanwhile, tried to make non-material articles – brands, copyrighted goods, and patents – it’s major commodity to earn it money, which is, to say the least, a foundation about as solid as a jenga tower.

And thus we now have a situation where every US president, irrespective of party, has protectionism on the top three of their agenda in some form.

Thinker10122 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

NOT the Biden Regime.. they have a China/World FIRST policy.. beginning at our own Border, where it is more permissible (in the Biden mindset) for an illegal migrant to cross than it is for a LAW ABIDING CITIZEN to go out for a walk in a NATIONAL PARK without a Biden-endorsed Face Diaper…. What a maroon.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Walking in a national park

If you’re walking out in the wilderness (say, a national park) say, alone or with a dog or a family member, then you’re not mandated to wear a mask. (Though check with your own county regulations to see what they are. Here in Yolo, I can walk my dog mask-free).

If you’re in a place where you’re going to encounter a lot of other people, then yes, cross contamination risks are greater.

Oh, and politics is not football. If you’re not voting for your own self-interests (say because you like a given team rather than its platform) then you’re voting for more corruption.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"…have the European version of Baidu come in and take some of the market (the law should somehow be subtly more tolerable to either smaller or local companies)."

Ah, Qwant. Must confess that even as a european, I had no idea that thing even existed until I googled for it.

"…so it doesn’t seem so much bizarre to me as underhanded or dishonest way to do tariffs.."

Yeah. European realpolitik is a bit subtler than the US version, usually. European politicians often use lube.

"Trying to say that google must still stay though, I’d say is just posturing since they know people don’t want google to leave and since Australian Baidu isn’t available yet."

Of course it is. It makes australian politicians looking like the schoolyard bully panicking over the risk of suddenly not having excess lunch money anymore since his dedicated gopher’s about to transfer out for being bullied. A lot of immature bluster, attempts to shift the blame, and trying to turn the victim into the aggressor.

I think it’s high time the aussies began feeding their politicians to the drop-bears.

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dysmey (profile) says:

Hubris? You bet

Evidently it never occurs to Australians that:

  • Europe is a big market, and Australia with only 25 million people is not, so why should Google placate them?
  • Australia has no idea how much Americans (esp. Google) despise Rupert Murdoch and know that he is the news organization there; and
  • the other search engines like DuckDuckGo do not do news, and will certainly not start in Australia.
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aerinai (profile) says:

This doesn't stop

Once the publishers get Google and Facebook to pay… then they make small businesses pay for links, then it kills the free and open web.

These politicians are willfully ignorant of how the internet works and should be voted out. Unfortunately, being a jerk to ‘big tech’ is in vogue right now, so good luck with that…

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David says:

Re: Re:

Australians are about to find out what’s more useful in their day to day lives, Google’s services, or Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers. I don’t think Rupert will win that fight.

How do you not win a fight when you are the only survivor? The loser would not be Murdoch. The loser would be the Australians.

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Bloof (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m not so sure about that, if Murdoch’s papers are doing so poorly they need the income from the government taxing Google, they won’t win any more sales by doing something that blatantly harms the public in their day to day lives and reeks of corruption.

Murdoch has turned making people vote against their interests into an art form and gets away with it because the effects aren’t immediate, while Google withdrawing and blocking australia would be.

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Anonymous Coward says:

You're still missing the reason

The issue is that it’s a tax for the use of the link to any news site, not just Google News doing linking to news stories. Then there is the forced amount that they have to pay to Murdock. So this is far more than just a Google News tax but a link tax.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They’ve done similar several times now, even going so far as to pull service from a country entirely when the choice was ‘pay or pull service’, so I’d be surprised if they didn’t this time around since even they’d have to know that if they fold then countries around the world are going to be lining up for ‘their’ cut.

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The Central Scrutinizer (profile) says:

It’s maddening from both perspectives really. I am certainly no fan of the Murdoch press or Murdoch himself. He owns 70% of the news media here, so we get a lot of crap from his right wing rags and TV commentators. I’m also no fan of Facebook or Google.
To me, the argument boils down to a company, albeit a very large one, having to pay news organisations merely for linking to them, which goes against the whole spirit of the Internet.

Even Tim Berners Lee has said it will break the WWW. If Google et al are forced to pay for links, how deep does the wedge then go?
Technologically clueless politicians, beholden to Murdoch, break the Internet for an entire population just so they can stay in his good books.

Yeah, this is going to end well.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Even Tim Berners Lee has said it will break the WWW. If Google et al are forced to pay for links, how deep does the wedge then go?"

Until the centralized domain name system breaks and the internet goes deep and dark, that’s how far. As always the reason we can’t have nice things is because of shameless self-serving politicians defrauding their citizenry.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Pass it on

lol. Considering google really has no way to collect the money, and will certainly still be charged when people find a way around what ever measure was put in place, sure that is a great idea.

Nah, just put a paywall in front of search results with a mandatory login. Not only does Google get a personalized tracker tied to a bank account, a.k.a. more profit. Google can pass the Murdok tax directly to the idiots that created it. (Australians.)

R.T. says:

Does the SEO really matter here?

I have always been uncomfortable with this rhetoric around the media organisations hiring SEO experts somehow disqualifying their position. It is hardly contradictory to want there to be more of something and to want to be paid for that thing. The same argument could be made for sales representatives after all.

The overall point remains valid, and I agree with it, but the SEO thing feels like a poor argument in favour of it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Does the SEO really matter here?

The argument goes that you can’t honestly both claim that another company is unfairly benefiting from you and you deserve compensation for them using your stuff and work to get them to use your stuff even more, especially if there’s an easy way to block them from linking to you.

Either your stuff showing up on their service is bad and needs to stop, or it’s beneficial and the idea that they should be paying you for it becomes absurd.

R.T. says:

Re: Re: Does the SEO really matter here?

The argument goes that you can’t honestly both claim that another company is unfairly benefiting from you and you deserve compensation for them using your stuff and work to get them to use your stuff even more, especially if there’s an easy way to block them from linking to you.

If I made screwdrivers and people want to use my screwdrivers then they would be benefitting from them which would seem unfair if I was not being compensated for them. But at the same time I might invest in marketing to ensure more people want to use my screwdrivers. The two do not seem mutually exclusive. Pretending that they are feels badly disingenuous.

Either your stuff showing up on their service is bad and needs to stop, or it’s beneficial and the idea that they should be paying you for it becomes absurd.

This argument I’m fine with as it speaks to the relevant economic externalities of the case (i.e. content providers benefit from linking, but linking services don’t specifically care about that); it feels to me like the place where the conversation ought to be focused. The SEO argument apparently applies just as well to the screwdriver scenario, which lacks comparable externalities.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Does the SEO really matter here?

If I made screwdrivers and people want to use my screwdrivers then they would be benefitting from them which would seem unfair if I was not being compensated for them. But at the same time I might invest in marketing to ensure more people want to use my screwdrivers. The two do not seem mutually exclusive. Pretending that they are feels badly disingenuous.

Physical to digital makes for some sloppy comparisons but in this case I suppose it would be like someone showing a picture of your screwdrivers to people and telling them where to get the real thing, which undoubtedly would benefit you, and you trying to charge them for that even as you’re handing them professional photos of said screwdrivers so the people they’re showing them to get a better idea of what they look like.

To the extent that they(the people showing photos/providing links) benefit from ‘your’ stuff it’s by getting more people to visit them and use them as a source to find stuff, not so much from your stuff directly, and one need only look at previous incarnation of this stupidity to see that the ones complaining about the likes of Google ‘taking advantage of them/their stuff’ know full well how valuable that extra attention is as evidenced by the fits they threw when Google stopped providing it.

R.T. says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Does the SEO really matter here?

To the extent that they(the people showing photos/providing links) benefit from ‘your’ stuff it’s by getting more people to visit them and use them as a source to find stuff, not so much from your stuff directly, and one need only look at previous incarnation of this stupidity to see that the ones complaining about the likes of Google ‘taking advantage of them/their stuff’ know full well how valuable that extra attention is as evidenced by the fits they threw when Google stopped providing it.

I like this.

In my analogy there was deliberately no analogue of Google. I was observing that without that situation we don’t see any problem with companies paying for marketing to receive more customers. So obviously there are factors about this situation that are different; the role of linking and indexing services creates a different economic reality.

As you point out above, although there are valuable externalities on both sides, content providers clearly know that they are receiving the lion’s share of the value, or at least enough that they can’t reasonably forgo it. This seems like the best argument to me now.

Thank you for your input.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Does the SEO really matter here?

"If I made screwdrivers and people want to use my screwdrivers then they would be benefitting from them which would seem unfair if I was not being compensated for them."

Well, yeah, but that’s a piss-poor comparison which doesn’t fit as an analogue.

Try this one out for size; You sell screwdrivers. Google indexes your store and provides a service which allows people to find your store. You then try to make Google pay for showing people the way to your store. That is how shameless this is.

R.T. says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Does the SEO really matter here?

I think you misunderstood me or I’m misunderstanding you. I agree with the underlying point, I was highlighting that using the employment of SEO experts shouldn’t disqualify their position. Having that be part of the rhetoric distracts from the economic realities.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Does the SEO really matter here?

"I was highlighting that using the employment of SEO experts shouldn’t disqualify their position."

Ahh. Yes. that’s my bad, then. I tend to trigger easily these days whenever I hear the words "google" and "link tax" for some not so weird and wondrous reasons.

Yeah, media agencies – or any corporation, really – have one job; to maximize their revenue. Any expertise which furthers that cause in a legal way is a legitimate acquisition.

The problem begins where the hired experts advise measures which are ethically bankrupt and requires changing the law to make racketeering part of the business model.

The issue here is that the message being brought is fraudulent and intended to generate a Red Flag Act which either cripples the new infrastructure rendering the old business model cumbersome, or forces the new kids on the block to tithe to the old guard.

Anonymous Coward says:

I do not understand the seemingly double position taken by lots of commenters. If facebook or google or whatever private company boots out some of their customers, it is OK because it is done according to the law (they are private companies and can do what they want with their own property). If elected officials try to propose new tax laws against google or facebook it is not OK, why? They are elected officials, by the same argument, their actual work is to sit there and make new laws. It is fully in their democratically elected capability to ban google from Australia if they wanted to – that is what governments do, no? If Australia is my pub and the owner (parliament elected) decides to boot out an unwelcome guest (google), where is the problem? Lots of companies are under sanctions, and the democratically elected governments barring them from having businesses in specific regions-areas-domains have all the right to do so.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

If elected officials try to propose new tax laws against google or facebook it is not OK, why?

For starters, the tax law in question is literally about taxing hyperlinks based only on the site to which the link leads. That is a ridiculous proposition in and of itself. Now bring in the fact that this law aims itself squarely at Google. They’re far from the only party that links to news sites. For what reason, other than “it’s big”, should the government force Google alone to pay any kind of tax for a service they offer free of charge that relies on an aspect of network technology literally anyone can employ on a daily basis?

If Australia is my pub and the owner (parliament elected) decides to boot out an unwelcome guest (google), where is the problem?

You misread the article. The government doesn’t want to boot Google from Australia. It wants Google to stay in Australia and pay a tax for linking to news sites through Google News. Google reminded the Australian government that it can’t hold Google hostage. If the government insists on enforcing the link tax, Google will simply stop serving Australia. For what reason, other than "it’s big”, should Google be forced to keep serving Australia?

Also:

yes or no: are you against elected government officials regulating by law what companies can and cannot do in their jurisdiction and how much taxes should they pay?

This is a bad faith question, and you know it’s a bad faith question. This story isn’t about the government regulating and taxing companies. This story is about the government of a given country trying to force Google into paying a tax and continue servicing the country after Google said “fuck all this” to the tax and “we’re leaving” to staying open in the country.

Credibility is like your spinal cord: Snapping it takes a second, and if you ever regain function later, you’ll never be the same. Bad faith questions put stress on your “spine”. Snapping it won’t be anyone’s fault but your own.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I disagree about the bad faith. The government has the power to enact the law, and google can decide if they want to stay or not. It is an obvious power play that measures empirically how much can really google be regulated against the will of the people, which can walk back and decide not to tax because they do not want to lose the service like it happened in spain. the government can try it, but it is probably bound to fail. I want to point out the asymmetry here of the play by google, or facebook, which always turn the table to put themselves in a very comfortable position vs whatever government by simple threat of leaving, counting on having captured the public opinion with their "free" services. To me, seeing this worldwide repeated failure to regulate is worrying in the extreme and i do not like the article just pointing out "here’s another spain, nothing will be achieved, move on".

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The government has the power to enact the law

Except, the proposal is not a general law, but rather a forced business relationship between companies, implemented by the demands of one of them. You will carry our content, and you will pay is is different from if you want what we provide you will pay us. The latter is open to the newspaper via robots.txt. That none of them have used that ability shows that being in the Google indexes is more valuable that not being their.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

So what? Many laws impose forced business relationships of some sort. The process just makes clear who is the stronger – the one who wins and imposes his terms. How can anybody claim that mass media are more influential that big tech – if the only thing google has to do is to threaten to shut down the service to generate a public uproar and win whatever case they want?

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

the only thing google has to do is to threaten to shut down the service to generate a public uproar and win whatever case they want

Google yanked some of its services out of Spain was because Spain didn’t concede on its link tax. They didn’t “win”. Nobody “won” in that situation. The same concept applies here.

Google has every right to decide if it wants to service Australia. It shouldn’t be forced to do it because the Aussie government said “stay here and pay us, you cunts”. If you think Google saying “we’re not staying” because of (and eventually leaving over) the link tax is wrong, you may want to consider your definition of “right”.

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Tech 1337 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The one-sided nature of the proposed link tax law is part of the problem. The news corps say Google should pay them 10% of their advertising revenue based on an estimate that 10% of Google searches were for news, so Google did an assessment and found closer to 1% of searches were for news. Under the proposed legislation, who decides how much to pay? A mandatory arbitration committee decides, without any need to justify their decision based on evidence. We need evidence-based legal decisions, not a kangaroo court.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"So what? Many laws impose forced business relationships of some sort."

Yeah, and many of those laws have been struck down or abolished when the businesses forced into those relationships either walked or went bankrupt.

What is happening here is as if a publisher insisted that every time someone searched for their books in a library index or amazon then the publisher should be paid by the people building the index, irrespective of whether anything was bought or not.

Australia is trying to set up a sweet racketeering deal for news publishers, where Google have to be forced to provide a free service AND pay the news publishers for doing them that service.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

" I want to point out the asymmetry here of the play by google, or facebook, which always turn the table to put themselves in a very comfortable position vs whatever government by simple threat of leaving, counting on having captured the public opinion with their "free" services."

You DO realize that if the will of the people is that Google should not be taxed for indexing businesses like a phonebook, then government’s job – at least in a democracy – is to shut the fuck up and obey?

"To me, seeing this worldwide repeated failure to regulate is worrying in the extreme…"

Only if you are of the opinion that government should be allowed to regulate a company when the vast majority of the citizenry does not feel that regulation worth the price.

There are plenty of things the government could do. Set up an alternative to Google search. Subsidize the news services through tax money or tax cuts. But to levy a tax which forces the digital equivalent of the mapmaker to pay money to every business placed on the map is insane. It’s as if the local library would have to pay the book publisher every time someone looked their books up in the library index or the plumbver got paid every time anyone flushed a toilet they’d fixed at some point. Pure and unadulterated grift.

"worrying in the extreme" that governments can not force private industries to stay in their country at gunpoint? No, if anything that’s a sign of health.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Can Facebook kick out socialist groups? Can Twitter kick out antifa groups? Sure, it happened this week. Should they? No. However, most of commenters here do not support this view. Most commenters (formally) correctly point out that they are private companies and the 1A does not apply. I find this attitude biased towards facebook, twitter, google. Big tech plays the card of being private companies when it suits them – and the threat of a (perceived) "provider of universal free service" when they want. Am i the only one to see the hypocrisy here?

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Can Facebook kick out socialist groups? Can Twitter kick out antifa groups? Sure, it happened this week. Should they? No.

Twitter can kick leftists off Twitter for no reason other than they’re leftists. The moral and ethical questions are irrelevant to the legal question.

most of commenters here do not support this view

I don’t support that view because it comes dangerously close to saying “Twitter should be forced to host this speech”. Even if I agree with the speech being talked about, no platform should be forced to host it.

I find this attitude biased towards facebook, twitter, google.

How about MySpace? Or Mastodon instances? Or Gab, Parler, Stormfront, and other right-wing/alt-right shitpits? Because they shouldn’t be forced to host speech, either.

Big tech plays the card of being private companies when it suits them

But…they are private companies.

and the threat of a (perceived) "provider of universal free service" when they want.

…fucking what

Am i the only one to see the hypocrisy here?

You see the difference between the truth of the law and the lies you believe are the truth. That isn’t hypocrisy — it’s…shit, how do I put this? Oh, right! It’s facts not caring about your feelings.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Am i the only one to see the hypocrisy here?

Nope. The idea fundamentally boils down to: Rule of Law on the "ban stuff I dislike on the internet" front, but then changes to Rule of Money on the "new tax law" front.

I.e. It’s a case of wanting to eat their cake (I support Rule of Law) and have it too (But only as long as it doesn’t get in the way of my Capitalism.)

In doing so, they stand for nothing.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Google standing for...???

Google is a for-profit company. It stands for Google earning a positive net profit. Anything else is stands for is altruism (or, more likely, marketing; making its services more attractive?)

Google doesn’t have to host content it doesn’t want to. And if Google finds the regulations of Australia too inclimate it doesn’t have to provide them.

Given the Australian government has shown to be about as morally consistent as the US in recent years, there’s no morality. There`s no ethical high ground. There’s only game theory. If Australia depends on Google for services, it needs to do what Google wants. Or it can conseider what competitors of Google offer similar services.

That’s the situation. There’s no should except maybe the government of Australia might want to consider what best serves the people of Australia. But that nonsense has been out of fashion for decades.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Tech 1337 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If you’re worried about inconsistencies or a lack of principles in decision making, then you should be worried about this proposed link tax law.

The law would create two special classes of company, the news media companies (I think of them as the "lords") and the tech companies (the "serfs"). The news media companies self-identify as such (whether they actually must create news articles, or Australian news articles, is unclear), whereas the tech companies are identified by a minister (currently only Google and Facebook are taxed, with the minister having the ability to expand the list as desired without having to justify that choice, one sided). There’s a lack of clearly articulated principles behind those choices, for instance there’s no certainty around what triggers being added to the "taxed companies" list. (This creates more business risk for tech companies thinking to do business in Australia.) Companies had best behave themselves lest they be reclassified as serfs.

The law stipulates the tech companies must pay for certain links to the news media companies, but is conspicuously silent about the tech companies being paid for the value of referrals to those media companies. It’s a one sided tax; money shall flow only from serfs to lords and never the other way around.

Although originally justified as promoting Australian journalism, there is nothing in the law that ties any payments to actual funding for journalism; it’s just slush funds for news corps. There’s no articulated methodology for reviewing whether the law is achieving any of the goals used to justify its introduction, perhaps to avoid any questions or debate about the appropriate uses of said slush funds. What the lords do with their ill-gotten gains is not for your eyes!

If tech companies makes changes to their algorithms, they are forced to share details with the news media corps, one sided. No ordinary companies are required to get such insights. No compensation is allowed to the tech companies for this breach of their trade secrets.

If a tech company has privacy-invading info on users, they are forced to share details with the news media corps, one sided. Again, no ordinary companies, or citizens, gain such insights. No affordance is made for privacy concerns from mere citizens.

Why do these particular media/entertainment companies gain the power to become our lords and masters and no-one else? Why should a tech company be forced to index links for free and then also be forced to pay for the privilege? More fundamentally, how have we come to a place where merely referring to information is taxable, something Tim Berners-Lee has said "risks breaching a fundamental principle of the web by requiring payment for linking between certain content online"? Where are the principles here?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

For me it is about google being able to mobilize public opinion with the threat of stopping their services and gaining so much traction from the bottom to actually lobby the parliament into changing course. If this is the power play – google can lobby people directly and the parliament can only comply – who is the serf exactly? I am just tired of the fairy tale that big tech is not that influential and cannot manipulate people, when you have legislative proof in front of your eyes. And mind – I am talking from the left here, and for the millions of small shops and businesses that have been destroyed. They don’t even have a couple of MPs, these poor chaps, but the result for them is all the same. Close down or give all margin to Amazon. And no, your law cannot do anything to protect you, because the discussion in parliament, whatever discussion, is already lost on the threat of "stopping the service for all". They are eating us alive, while you cheer from the sides.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

For me it is about google being able to mobilize public opinion with the threat of stopping their services and gaining so much traction from the bottom to actually lobby the parliament into changing course. If this is the power play – google can lobby people directly and the parliament can only comply – who is the serf exactly?

‘Our service is popular, if you do this and drive us out then people are rightly going to be mad at you’ strikes me as just as much a ‘power play’ as it is a ‘threat’, which is to say it isn’t, it’s simply reminding the people trying to put the squeeze on Google at the behest of wanna-be parasites that actions have consequences and the politicians aren’t going to like these particular ones.

For all the power Google might have they don’t seem to be the ones getting politicians to shake down another industry for their benefit here, rather they’re in the position of responding to that, so of the two, Google and the parasitic publishers one of them seems to be wielding far more power over the government at the moment.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"If this is the power play – google can lobby people directly and the parliament can only comply – who is the serf exactly?"

The government. In other words it’s democracy at its finest.

If a company provides a service important enough the people as a whole want it retained then the job of government is to say "Yes Sir" and comply. No matter if the existence of that company or offered service feels threatening to an ailing industry who needs a few government-mandated grants to survive the information age. Implementing a Red Flag Act just because, metaphorically, the stagecoach drivers feel threatened by the invention of the automobile is not the answer.

You know, next time you try to spin a sob story about how "Big Tech" is "corrupting" a democratic regime by having the people on its side you may want to polish your rhetoric a little. I recommend reading the petition of the candle makers guild by Frederic Bastiat for that purpose.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Big tech plays the card of being private companies when it suits them – and the threat of a (perceived) "provider of universal free service" when they want. Am i the only one to see the hypocrisy here?"

Yup, because there is no hypocrisy. Just a bad faith argument from your side.

Google provides a free library index. That index contains book names and locations. Australia now insists that Google must include all names and locations and must pay the companies mentioned for the privilege of providing that free service.

This is normally called racketeering.

Of course Google is free to leave. Same as Facebook and Twitter are free to toss out alt-right crackpots and anti-fascist activists if they so choose. In both cases what a company offers free of charge is completely up to that company.

Your rhetoric isn’t just fundamentally dishonest, the logic you try to apply rather backs the assertion that it’s normally a bad thing for governments to compel speech or service.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

i got it – if the government does it it is racketeering. if big tech does it, it is free market. and dont make new laws, because their services are sooo cute. that is the essence of moral hazard and refulatory capture all in one. from too big to fail, right into too big to be regulated. what could possibly go wrong, eh?

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

"…rather than engaging in discussion you resort to mockery."

You making up a bunch of straw man arguments and moving the goalposts isn’t an invitation to discuss. It’s just blatant trolling and needs to be treated as such. That’s all there is to it.

And you pounding out the exact same rhetoric as the known stormfront refugees posting here – like shel10 and restless94110 – tells us all exactly where your sympathies lie when it comes to your "views" on how Big Tech and Social Media ought to be suppressed.

At least put on your Big Boy pants and own the implications you keep tapdancing around with crappy rhetoric.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"i got it – if the government does it it is racketeering. if big tech does it, it is free market."

It’s racketeering no matter who does it.

Big Tech isn’t racketeering here though, so your argument fails on being a straw man irrelevant to the debate. To be fair to you, though, I will admit that to anyone who looks down on democracy with contempt the fact that the people as a whole can influence government must be outright criminal.

"…that is the essence of moral hazard and refulatory capture all in one. from too big to fail, right into too big to be regulated."

And here we observe quite a few moved goalposts. Because forcing a company to pay for providing a free service is neither a moral hazard nor a case of being "too big to fail".

Either Google linking to news sites is bad and they should stop, or it’s beneficial and they should be free to continue. Make your laws accordingly.

If Google leaves Australia, which seems likely now, then Australia is free to set up its own search engine to replace it. It’ll be a permanent drain on tax money since the government will have to pay for it, but if that’s what the government chooses then it’s simply up to the citizenry to either validate that course of action or reject it by sacking every politician known to have pursued it come next election.

So no, you didn’t get it. You only delivered the argument that The state should seize the means of production.
I wish I could say that I was surprised at the consistency with which you alt-right trolls have started delivering the arguments of Karl Marx whenever Big Tech and Social Media is concerned.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

trying to characterize me as alt-right troll is wrong. I highlighted in my comments about the banning of socialist party from facebook and antifa on twitter before techdirt made a post on it, so your attempts to put me in a set box and diverting from the arguments I am making. I do understand that you get a lot of trolling, though, so if in the end you are tired of having discussions and prefer to hit the red button, fine. It is not whatever what I am trying to say. What I am trying to say is that most commenters are complacent towards big tech and hostile towards the government regulating the internet. Which was a perfectly fine position, which I personally shared, until not long ago. Now, with lots of industries (small businesses, retail, media, electronic repairs shops, you name it) suffering from the monopolistic and predatory tactics of big tech, it is only normal that MPs are trying to react. And they do it clumsily, so yes, I also do not like the law how it is presented. But the power play – get the monopoly using public money, as google was financed by government VCs in the beginning to give all that "free" stuff, then once the user base is big enough use it to influence the policy decisions, is what I am challenging. Precisely because of the early funding from the government, and then the slick move of embracing capitalism. I call bullshit on this predatory attitude and do not support it.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

"What I am trying to say is that most commenters are complacent towards big tech and hostile towards the government regulating the internet."

Context helps.

The government regulating the internet is almost universally a bad thing, because the "internet" as such is a communications channel which doesn’t transport or deal with physical commodities. There is literally no way of regulating this which doesn’t skirt or intersect government regulating speech.

Government’s role in internet issues must remain as impartial arbitration only.

When it comes to complacency towards Big Tech…no. Mention the likes of Oracle, Apple and any number of less known but harmful internet industries like Palantir and you’ll find plenty of grievance. Where google and facebook are concerned you may have a case if your argument is in favor of, say, forced interoperability or some such.

But we will surely be on the side of Big Tech whenever the specific case brought is a hamfisted attempt by government to bring outright soviet-style protectionism to the table.

Where the link tax is concerned, the way Australia brings it, it’s not a case of "regulation". It’s a way to legislate serfdom for a narrow set of corporations in the same approcimate manner as some commenter above likened to mandating that banks need to pay you interest on your mortgage.

"Now, with lots of industries (small businesses, retail, media, electronic repairs shops, you name it) suffering from the monopolistic and predatory tactics of big tech…"

Again, context. With a few notable exceptions those industries are suffering no more than the stagecoach drivers and buggy whip manufacturers got hit by the invention of the automobile. This is neither a new phenomenon nor a cause for government intervention.
It’s just a case of a new business model proving superior to an older one, and in the case of Google, Facebook, and similar information-only platforms, monopolistic only insofar as that the market is wide open but no one has been competent enough to exploit it.
The notable exceptions I referred to would be the likes of Amazon, Oracle, etc…there’s the part of Big Tech making unfair practice a core part of their business model. And if those were the ones getting the stink-eye I have no doubt most people would be on board. But that’s not what is being discussed here. What’s being discussed here is a set of Mickey Mouse laws bought and paid for by an ailing gatekeeper industry which can’t make ends meet in the modern era and wants to make someone else pay for making getting shit done online easier.

"…as google was financed by government VCs in the beginning to give all that "free" stuff, then once the user base is big enough use it to influence the policy decisions, is what I am challenging."

Yeah, and that’s the point. You are literally challenging democracy.
The precedence set here by Australia is that it’s fiscally impossible to run a search engine which works, and all because two guys in a garage with an idea came up with a successful concept which has the incumbent middleman industry shitting bricks. If The People want a working internet with a search engine which works then the government needs to shut up and not cater to the whims of an industry unable to stand on its own.

"Precisely because of the early funding from the government, and then the slick move of embracing capitalism."

You mean…business as it has always been done, in ways every major industry in existence today has done it? Yeah, we can challenge that, but singling out Google of all things, is like singling out a relatively well-behaved rat on the sidelines and blame it for the black plague. There may be a problem to be found but addressing it starts with introducing general concepts of hygiene and basic quarantine guidelines.

What is also fucking horrifying is the precedence being set. It’s not government regulation, but a law which allows for a private entity to be compelled to forced servitude. I’m not a fan of legislation which sets a foundation stone for the reintroduction of government-enforced slavery as long as the good of the nation can be invoked.

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