Tech Giants gravely mis-judge the value of News Content

Google and Facebook have hit back at the recent news codes drafted by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), putting digital news content at risk.

Shortly after the ACCC released the codes on July 31st, Google released an open letter that allegedly mislead the Australian public about the code, threatening that is puts Google’s services at risk and will hinder the algorithm unfairly.

The news code will allow Australian news businesses to bargain with Google or Facebook over payment for content. These tech giants will also need to share any relevant algorithm changes and disclose any relevant data collected from news consumers.

Google has stated that “The law would force us to give an unfair advantage to one group of businesses – news media businesses – over everyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business.” 

The problem with Google’s letter is that it reduces Australian news to the same status of any other form of content, when its role is far more important in serving public interest, than say an internet-born conspiracy theory is.

To be fair, Google has explained their stance by saying that “Google doesn’t “use” news content—we link you to it, just like we link you to every other page on the web”, and realistically, it isn’t Google’s fault nor problem that they have a successful business model that has taken the limelight off of traditional journalism, but it has created a problem regardless, and it needs solving. And pointing the finger at Google, along with the massive financial power it holds, seems like the easiest option for the ACCC.

Rodd Sims, Chairman of the ACCC has said that “The rise of digital platforms has caused significant harm to news and journalism, for example, you’ve got costly investigative journalism; journalism that can take some months to put together, [and] is often not rewarded, as the algorithms don’t prioritize original material.”

Major news companies such as Nine Entertainment, News Corp Australia and Guardian Australia, all support the news code.

Facebook has also contested the ACCC’s proposal, threatening to pull news from the site, further displacing the actual need for journalism. If it goes ahead, it might just show us how big of a place news hold in the digital world.

The situation in itself does seem bizarre, I cannot think of another instance in where one company asks i’s competitor to pay them because the competitor puts the company at risk. The difference with this situation between the ACCC and Google, is that the Australian news media is not just another company, it’s arguably the difference between a clocked-on society and one riddled with underground conspiracy movements.

Maybe I’m being optimistic about the ACCC’s position, as a studying journalist, it’s nice to dream about an abundance of jobs in Australian news. Or maybe I’m romanticising the idea that journalism is important, either way I’ll have my eyes peeled watching this game of chicken unfold.

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