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Facebook to restore news in Australia after last-minute deal with government (smh.com.au)
138 points by wp381640 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 203 comments





What is news?

Does facebook publish news? I am on facebook for 13 years and I can not remember seeing any news on facebook. Ok, there are people sharing links to news articles (and facebook makes a preview containing title, image, and maybe parts of the lead). There might be people copy-pasting the text of a whole article into facebook, but that is definitely not the default situation. Overall, in order to receive news, I am forced to leave facebook (also applies to google)

I just dont get it. In my opinion the news creators should be grateful to facebook (or google etc.), bringing them interested visitors, potential customers. Shouldn't facebook rather be paid for that instead of convicted?

The same applies to google, a search engine. Why would a news creator NOT desire to be found in the internet in order to attract visitors? The news creators I know, they are that keen on gaining attraction: they even give the full content of pay-walled articles to google (and therefore to everybody) in order to be found.

If they dont want to be found and listed, there are ways to do so.


> What is news?

That's a good question. A slightly different question that might help you to understand what is happening in Australia with this legislation is "What was news?"

Facebook and Google between them receive more than 80% of all digital advertising dollars spent in Australia. [1]

This advertising revenue used to be known as "rivers of gold" when it flowed 80% to newspapers and television, in the decades before the internet existed. In those days, the advertising business was coupled to journalism, because journalism is how media businesses got their product into peoples homes and living rooms every day.

20 odd years ago, the Australian newspaper business began to be hollowed out by new competitors on the internet, such as Seek.com.au for job ads, Domain.com.au for property ads, carsales.com.au for automobile ads, eBay.com.au for the rest of the classified ads, and google and yahoo for display ads. The dozens of pages that used to make up classified ads in newspapers disappeared. As the rivers of gold dried up, the number of journalists employed in Australia declined dramatically.

Whilst you are correct that Facebook and Google don't actually publish news, they do receive the rivers of gold in advertising revenue that once funded journalists wages. This new legislation pretends to redress the imbalance that lead to the decline in journalism by diverting advertising revenue back to the old man who owns most of the newspapers in Australia. [2]

The old man's business doesn't employ half the number of journalists as it did twenty years ago, and the new legislation doesn't require him to hire any more.

[1] https://www.adnews.com.au/news/chart-google-and-facebook-s-s...

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/sep/20/very-australia...


I think that's a terrible argument.

Auto makers shouldn't have to pay a tribute to horse stables for putting them out of business. Refrigerator makers shouldn't have to pay a tribute to ice diggers. Uber shouldn't be required to pay a tax to licensed Taxis. E-learning sites shouldn't have to pay a tax to school tutors.

No business is entitled to a comfortable monopoly. The idea that Google should pay a tribute to traditional media where the amount is entirely at the discretion of media giants because the internet can do everything the old press did better just serves to maintain entrenched old interests.


Your argument doesn’t apply. Carmakers supplanted horses: that’s their objective. Consider the societal positive externalities that commercial news journalism has in society (yeah, I’d rather we had non-commercial news journalism too, but Google isn’t non-profit either).

Google and Facebook aren’t supplanting journalism - they benefit from it: while responsible citizens like you and me may prefer to read a news article rather than skim the headline or article preview and post a take on our timelines - I can assure you the majority of the “news”-consuming public definitely prefers the latter.

Yes, I’m fully aware AUS’ draft laws were Establishment (read: Murdoch) scummy bollocks, but we need to come to a reckoning of the need for a self-sufficient journalistic estate. For all the clickbait that Buzzfeed posts - they use the profits from that to fund real legitimate investigative reporting - that certainly isn’t cheap to run - and only profitable if it results in some politician getting fired. I’m arguing that it’s sucks that idealistic reporters and fact-finders have to sell shit (and shit is the word) to the public to support the good they do. I don’t think bowing, unquestionably, to the altar of the free-market is in any of our long-term interests.

There’s a reason I still pay my UK TV License fee despite being non-resident: quality-journalism is worth tenfold what we pay for it (well, that, and so I don’t feel guilty when I torrent new episodes of QI...)


I strongly disagree as I personally flat out avoid the news. It’s simply not relevant that some school shooting happened somewhere yesterday or some pundits got upset over latest issue.

As far as the general public is concerned newspapers etc where and are simply another form of entertainment. As such, cat videos are just as much competition as whatever a famous person did yesterday. Becoming informed the week before an election is one thing, getting sucked in a year+ from an election is a waste.

Now direct sources like the National Weather Service and CDC are useful. However, channel X news isn’t funding that, tax payers are.

PS: I suspect many will have a strong options that I am wrong, but please post an objective justification for your viewpoint.


Punditry isn't news. It's editorializing.

As for shootings or other things that are news, they are critical for a functioning democracy. What's happening around you should be informing your decisions come election day.


> What's happening around you should be informing your decisions come election day.

Should it? Isn't that how we got into this mess where every single publication and topic is politicized? There's no chance this isn't why public trust in media is dropping aggressively.


Your proposed alternate is to ignore information to vote, which seem obviously worse?

Personally, no. You can easily look up actual crime statistics for example and become informed, watching the news doesn’t make you actually informed about anything particularly relevant.

Put another way, the news cycle is a thin slice of time and news organizations filter things based on what’s important to them in the moment. A mass shooting for example might only make the news because it happened to follow some other even larger mass shooting.


Reporting on shootings (and other things) is also punditry. There's an editorial decision being made about what deaths are important to report and what deaths are not.

If I was shot to death for no good reason of course I’d want people to tell other people about it so they can do something to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Bias is everywhere - but there is still a regression-to-mean for self-interest via societal progress.


That’s why we collect crime statistics and do police investigations etc. If I specifically get shot it’s only really relevant in a wider context or to people who know me. Having 1 million people hear about my death to then forget about it by next week isn’t really relevant to anyone. Meanwhile my friends don’t need to hear about it on the news.

The subtext of my reply was that I was advocating for gun control legislation. There won't be popular support for GC without the news media reporting on unnecessary deaths that could have been prevented with adequate GC.

Plenty of ways to influence popular option without relying on news organizations.

You do not avoid the news, you are on Hacker News right now commenting on a news story.

If you avoid the news you should have been happy with Facebook being forbidden from linking to news.

If the news is just "entertainment", why should Facebook get to use it for free?


I'm not the GP but I personally was happy with Facebook's decision to ban links to news.

If journalism is important, maybe the winning strategy is to have it be funded by taxpayers who have some control over what journalism exists. Because I wouldn't exactly call Murdoch's empire "good journalism" and that is where the "river of gold" would flow towards in this case.

"Journalism used to be funded by ads, ads are now being spent on Google/Facebook, therefore Google/Facebook must fund journalism" is bogus, IMO.


> Consider the societal positive externalities that commercial news journalism has in society

Maybe I'm biased by the past ten years, but from where I'm sitting commercial news "journalism" has been mostly negative externalities, corrupting democracies in all sorts of ways while misinforming the public about many other things (the news stories I have personal knowledge of have all been grossly misleading).


I was going to post a similar reply, but the more I think about it, the more I'm not sure that we're going to get the old sense of journalism back. I'm not sure what the future is, but I don't think it will look like the past.

> Google and Facebook aren’t supplanting journalism - they benefit from it: while responsible citizens like you and me may prefer to read a news article rather than skim the headline or article preview and post a take on our timelines - I can assure you the majority of the “news”-consuming public definitely prefers the latter.

Google and Facebook are, for the reason you point out at the end: people only read the headlines. You never actually leave Facebook or Google. Facebook and Google are your source of news. We've just accepted that "news" translates to "headlines republished on Google or Facebook". We're having an existential crisis in journalism because Google and Facebook are supplanting the news.

More than all of that, though, is that I don't think people actually care about the news anymore, or the news of old anymore. There's not enough demand for balanced investigative journalism anymore. People are pretty happy with the status quo of grassroots efforts and extremely hyperbolic reporting (on both sides, it's not a partisan effort). I strongly suspect that if I asked 100 people to pick their favorite newspaper or news program and then asked them how they decided, I would get 0 responses that say "because I looked into it and they have the shortest record of inaccurate reporting".

Or maybe I'm just getting jaded as I get older.

Journalism is going to have to fundamentally change. We can legislate revenue to these organizations, but that's not going to force people to read them. Which is the root issue in many ways; people aren't reading them. The Fourth Estate is still dead if they exist but nobody pays attention.

We need a new way to keep people informed. Something that can pull people's attention like clickbait, but with a better quality of information. Perhaps if we can figure out a way to film news events in VR, that will have enough novelty to bring people back for a while. News about rocket strikes in Syria would be a lot more attention-grabbing if the news could make you appear to actually be in the street when the rocket strikes. Although I guess then we have to deal with the fallout of that; not to be a luddite but I have to wonder how close we can get to actually putting people in violent situations before it starts having similar effects to actually having been there.


>societal positive externalities

This argument walks on a very thin ice. In imaginary world journalists are accurate, and trurhful, and therefore societally positive, and should be exempted from normal market. In real empirically observed world journalists produce more inaccurate, and biased information then anything else. Also, it seems to be built around logical fallacy that we get news because of media, and if these poor guys will not get more coins we will be left uninformed. In fact, they are serving naturally existing demand (we are social animals) as any usual business does. With the internet competition increased, and this leads smaller profits, and some journalists being laid off. Which is ok. Neither of this creates any real societal dangers in a way which media biz tries to present it.


> In real empirically observed world journalists produce more inaccurate, and biased information then anything else.

That is just not true. If I go to google news right now the top story is Tiger Woods was in a crash. How is that inaccurate or biased? You're on Hacker News right now because you get some value out of the work of journalists. The exaggerated ideological attack on "the media" is what is inaccurate and biased.


Sorry, you cannot take one example to prove me wrong as I didn't make claims about all reporting.

Btw, you cannot be sure it's accurate unless it's your field - you may like to google for Knoll's law.

I worked in media-related project, and have very clear understanding how things constantly getting warped for clickbaiteness, and to fit main audience tastes.

>The ideological exagerated attack

You're projecting here. I mentioned no ideological labels, and made no distinction on that grounds. I wrote about business incentives essentially. I'm also not sure if my view that media industry is not exceptional among other industries constitute an "attack" in any reasonable meaning of the word.


Weird, I've always heard it called Gell Mann amnesia, not Knoll's law. Anyway, I think it's bullshit. I'm in tech and read tech news and most of the stuff I've read where I had personal experience has been accurate. Journalists generally are just people trying to do their jobs within the constraints they are given. The attacks on the media are ideologically driven by people that want to impose their view of the world on everyone else and don't want journalists ruining that.

>Journalists generally are just people trying to do their jobs within the constraints they are given.

And this is exactly what I wrote about.

>impose their view of the world on everyone else and don't want journalists ruining that

This assumes that journalists are not like us humans, and never want to impose their views. And never work for people who want to impose their views, of course. And their incentives/constraints never push them to publish incorrect, or doctored stuff.


The assumption behind all of your examples is that the new version is a better replacement for the old version. However, social media sites and search engines typically do not do their own journalism. They provide an effective mechanism for distributing information, but that mechanism adds no value until there is some information worth distributing.

So, how much of the reward from people who ultimately receive and benefit from that information should be due to those who did the work to generate it, and how much should be due to those providing distribution services?

Historically, being the middleman in these situations has been very lucrative. Most book publishers still take huge cuts while authors receive only a tiny fraction of the cover price from each sale. It's a similar story for traditional record labels, film production companies, academic journals and so on.

The Internet has been a great equaliser when it comes to distribution of good quality content, allowing creators to reach their audiences more directly than ever before. The Internet has also shown how much easier it is for potentially interested consumers of new content to find it when it's available in well-known places, which shows that big marketplaces for content do still have value. The question here is really about balance, and whether middleman organisations should still be able to keep as much of the pie as they used to.


I wish I could find this quote, but paraphrasing:

"There exists a curious belief that because a business has always made money a certain way, that it is somehow entitled to continue doing so, regardless of the changes in the market. This curious belief however is not borne of any specific law, rule, regulation or principle."


I don't think the comment you replied to is arguing in favor of Australia's attempts to get Google/FB to pay the media companies

The comment author appears to be using the Govs argument in an attempt to facilitate debate, even though they themselves don't personally hold the position. In the "debate, not argument" school this is a good thing because it lets us move the debate forward in good faith. Likewise, the response is to the argument, not the person.

I don’t think this is an argument. IT seems more like a quiet listing of the circumstances and a clear position on how its for the benefit of Rupert Murdoch, in other words corruption dressed up nicely.

> No business is entitled to a comfortable monopoly. The idea that Google should pay a tribute to traditional media where the amount is entirely at the discretion of media giants because the internet can do everything the old press did better just serves to maintain entrenched old interests.

That's a completely false dichotomy. It's not "the internet" that's benefitting from ad spent, but only Fb and Google, while everyone else goes bankrupt. And if there's a "comfortable monopoly" and "media giant", then it's Google and Fb, not the other way around. The AU case is special, though, because of the media concentration in a single hand.


They shouldn't have to, but in West there is something called Corporate Socialism. I find it ironic that the Liberal Government which is a center-right political party enables this.

In my opinion, news media has been dead in Australia for a long time, which has done a terrible disservice to the Australian public. It time to drop the dead weight.


It's also ironic that the center-right government is picking which projects to fund in order to reduce carbon emissions, instead of a market-based emissions trading scheme

The idea that "centre right" has anything to do with economic policy preferences is a bit dated by now. "Centre right" means "ignore traditional values; be rude; promote the policies of large businesses which may not be profitable but at least have wads of cash to invest in lobbying". Perhaps that is an economic policy ("For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away") - but it is not an economic policy based on argument, but rather, might makes right.

Redress what imbalance? News publications are entitled to a certain portion of add spend? That's news to me.

> The old man's business doesn't employ half the number of journalists as it did twenty years ago, and the new legislation doesn't require him to hire any more.

Rest assured, he won't be hiring any more. These are the figures:

- news.com.au publishing (newspaper) revenues in 2019-2020: $1B. [0]

- Amount Google is reportedly paying news.com.au: $30m/year. [1]

- news.com.au decrease in revenue from 2019 to 2019: $119m. [0]

I'm not sure what the legislation is meant to be achieving, but with numbers like that the one thing you can be absolutely sure it won't be doing is saving newspapers, or journalists.

[0] https://newscorp.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/news-corp-20...

[1] https://theconversation.com/why-google-is-now-funnelling-mil...


Why don't the news outlet simply build their own search engines and social medias? If they don't like the existing ones they are free to compete.

Google sure didn't get a "tax on Yahoo" law, Facebook didn't get legislators to force MySpace to share their revenue with them.


I imagine Google will welcome competitors as well as Microsoft welcomed competitors in the 90s, buying out anything that might divert revenue

I think you've got a much better grip on it than the news publishers.

Just to back that up with evidence as to who gets value from news links on FB. When FB blocked news links, the traffic to AU news sites dropped by from 7% to 9% (according to some estimates), directly affecting their ad businesses. The impact on FB was some bad PR.


I wouldn't call it bad PR to anyone who doesn't have vapor for brains. For examples of said vapor brains see Australian PMs.

Not sure about FB as I'm not a FB user. But for Google that's was not the case long time ago. In the past Google was sending visitors to the source link/original location but that practice now becomes showing the visitor a digest by default and diminished the original link in small grey text and thus most visitor can hardly spot the original link and and the page visiting the original site deserves is not going to happen any more.

How does such a digest look like? Does it allow to read news articles without leaving google?

> In my opinion the news creators should be grateful to facebook (or google etc.), bringing them interested visitors, potential customers.

I'm not a fan of Australia's policy in the least. But I understand why they made it and your comment is about as misguided as Australia's policy.

Yes, publishers benefit greatly from Facebook.

Facebook also benefits greatly from publishers and content providers content. Facebook is the forum, the news and articles people link is a good chunk of what draws people in to Facebook. If it wasn't for outside media, people would quickly blow through the pictures of their friends and family and be off the platform.

Baby pictures don't foster long debate and engagement, people look at them and move on. It's the media (aka news) which causes engagement (and debate). Engagement is where Facebook makes their money.

So Facebook needs the media, the media needs Facebook, no problem right?

Well not quite. The problem is, while they both "need" each other, there is a lot of competition for news, and Facebook is a monopoly. The end result is Facebook (and Google) sucks all the profit out of the room.

As I mentioned initially, Australia's policy is crappy. But the current situation isn't sustainable either.


How does Facebook have a monopoly over news discussion? Isn't that what we're doing here? And reddit, and twitter?

Where does the insane fallacy that "anything which uses your input in anyway entitles to 100% of the profits or else it is automatically theft" come from anyway? It is recognized as absurd to try to sue TV guide for listing your shows name yet it is the right thing to do with references towards news stories?

I’m not even sure how this post relates to what I said.

I didn’t suggest anyone was entitled to anything.


because most people dont consume news, they consume headlines

and if you only read the headline, whoever created the content does not get the ad revenue , customer engagement or any other benefit for having created the content


This seems to be the crux of the issue to me.

Merely linking to another site is clearly not something that should incur any responsibility or financial liability. Breaking this breaks the Web.

If most of the value in news reporting is truly in the headline/lede/photo, then there is an argument that linking to a news site but also scraping that content from them to display a much more detailed preview with the link is something that should be compensated. However, there are a couple of problems with this argument.

The first problem is that lots of news publishers voluntarily choose to serve their content with open graph metadata that was designed by Facebook for this exact purpose. If that isn't an acknowledgement that those news publishers are inviting sites linking to them to show those more detailed previews, what is?

The second problem is that the usual justification given for protecting established news media organisations through government intervention in the market is that they provide deep reporting and original investigative journalism that are valuable to society. If this is true, and if a headline attached to a link really is announcing an important news story backed by substantial research and deep analysis, then surely someone reading that preview is more likely to click through the original source and read further? On the other hand, if the problem is that people aren't clicking through clickbait headlines to tabloid fluff pieces as much as the tabloids would like and it's hurting their business model, is that really the type of journalism we should be intervening to protect?

I suspect both Facebook and the Australian and other watching governments will have learned a valuable lesson from this incident. Facebook has been reminded that there is a price to pay for arrogance and that governments around the world are still in charge if they want to be. At the same time, governments have been reminded that if a business is providing a useful service, you can't just impose unreasonable restrictions on it that create a hostile environment and expect no consequences to follow, and that includes transparent cash grabs that are suspiciously well aligned with the interests of your political sponsors.


Exactly. This is why, when someone sees the front page of a physical newspaper in a store, we detain then until they've paid 10 cents for the privilege.

Ah, I remember when newsstands were a thing and they would get MAD if you read the above-the-fold front page of a paper without buying it. So I guess unreasonable expectations in this regard are hardly a new thing..

Well then let's start talking about headlines, not news. What is the value of a headline?

> I just dont get it. In my opinion the news creators should be grateful to facebook (or google etc.), bringing them interested visitors, potential customers. Shouldn't facebook rather be paid for that instead of convicted?

Can't agree more, this law by the Australian government was the most asinine and ill considered thing since the GDPR which got us bloody cookie popups all over. Governments are entirely useless with regulating the internet.


The act defines it as: "Journalism about publicly significant issues; journalism that engages Australians in public debate and informs democratic decision making; and journalism relating to community and local events."

Charging for links had to be the single most destructive piece of tech legislation ever conceived in a 'free' democratic country.

Links that connect the web as we know it would be monetised, destroying the free flow of information. Australian media companies (who are themselves part of a larger group of global media organisations) know that paid links are completely incompatible to the free internet. Thats why they lobbied the government to break the internet on their behalf. Enter the dystopian 'media bargaining code' that,

1) Force companies to display selected media links and then charge them for it. In short, Extortion.

2) Paid links = lower search ranking. To circumvent the foundations of net search, this new law would force Google (and others in the future) to alter their algorithms to preference media organisations and charge the search engine in the process. An aggressive takeover of a companies service through government legislation.

The media, like everyone else, can create their own websites and charge as much as they please for their content. They are not happy with this level playing field and require laws to take control of another companies services. It is an attack on the free internet itself for no other reason than some entitled companies thinking they deserve money because they were beaten at their own game.


Yep, I feel like both Australia and Europe are going backwards. Hope this isn't a new trend, and maybe they'll realize they are making a mistake and turn around. I haven't been following the news much but last I heard Europe wanted link taxes and copyright upload filters.

Except FB and Google aren't simply sharing links. They're skimming headlines, photos, and content and re-posting it outside the publisher's site and control. Most consumers are happy to read the headline, see the main photo, and possibly read a few lines of text - they don't click through the full news article.

The legislation is wrongheaded - link sharing isn't the problem. But, the problem still exists.


They could very easily opt out of getting scraped by Google. They choose not to though because it is beneficial to them to have Google help people find their content.

Also note, Australia has specifically said removing article snippets from search results is not enough for Google to avoid payment. This legislation is not about protecting websites from content theft. It's solely about the Australian government forcing Google and Facebook to pay the propagandists that helped them get elected.


> Except FB and Google aren't simply sharing links. They're skimming headlines, photos, and content and re-posting it outside the publisher's site and control.

If it was copyright infringement why was a new law needed? If it was not (hint: it was not) then why should they pay? And why should they have to pay news companies and not every other site? If you want to re-invent copyright so that search engines become non-feasible, please just don't, because I like search engines, the world is better off for having search engines, maybe just don't use them yourself if you have such a big issue with them.

> But, the problem still exists.

No it really does not.


I agree with you, but "the world is better off for having search engines" is not a valid excuse.

As you mentioned copyright, world is better off for having piracy too.


> but "the world is better off for having search engines" is not a valid excuse.

A valid excuse for not infringing copyright? What is the action that needs to be excused here? And if the sites don't want to be indexed by the search engines, why do they go out of their way to be indexed by search engines?

What exactly is the problem that needs solving?


I meant and I said I agree with you, but "world will be better like this" is rarely valid defense.

> "world will be better like this" is rarely valid defense.

Fair enough, it is never a good defense, but in this case it is not meant as a defense as much as a reason against changing laws from what it currently is. There was no action to be defended until Australia changed their laws to something which makes search engines non feasible and to me that is a good reason why the law should not have been made.


News are providing that information for scraping though, viewing source of any of those sites and look into the "og" or "twitter" meta tags, they are designed to be used that way.

> Charging for links had to be the single most destructive piece of tech legislation ever conceived in a 'free' democratic country.

It depends what you mean by free. Australians have an "implied right to political communication", but it's not the same as "free speech" in the U.S.

It would have been an interesting case to determine whether sharing news links on private servers (FB & Googs) was a constitutional right.


This makes me so angry, not just because of Australia's clear attack on open web and a completely inverted value flow illusion, but also because it made me agree with Facebook on an issue (when they initially showed opposition and called Australia's bluff). Though they also went back on that, which is just disappointing to me.

Australia needs to step out of their illusion and stop shoveling snow up an avalanche. The only way to benefit from the age of internet is to embrace its realities.

I'm also curious why this didn't work when Germany tried to do it but it works when Australia does...


Facebook is not the open web. Facebook is a walled garden.

The issue is considered to be an attack on open web, because for the first time there will be a national law forcing someone to pay for posting a link. The ability to freely post links is the basis of open web.

The difference is the value of the link. As someone who does seo, a link certainly can be ascribed a price.

Facebook still isn’t even close or near being part of the open web. It’s a convenience aggregator if anything, and that’s where the difference lies. And Facebook benefits freely from something it did not produce.


Should Hacker News have to pay money to link to SMH? Answering "Yes" is an attack on the fundamentals of the internet.

> And Facebook benefits freely from something it did not produce.

Arguably the news publications get at least as much value out of news links being shared on Facebook as Facebook gets, if not more.

Look I get it - we all hate Facebook. Facebook and Google and Amazon should face more regulation, but this is not it. Lets actually aknowledge that the government is forcing websites to pay for linking to a site. Links that, in Facebook's case, the publishers voluntarily submit and post!


Good point you’re making. There seems to be a symbiotic relationship really. News producers do get the short end of the stick though when it comes down to it.

I also think this particular government intervention is not helpful. But something akin to a shared revenue system might be an option?


Most articles are paywalled so the publishers get subscription and ad money.

>Should Hacker News have to pay money to link to SMH?

Why ask this? Nobody's asking them to and nobody will.


News sites are certainly welcome to tell Google not to index their sites and I'm sure Facebook would be happy to set up a similar system. The fact they don't shows that they know they receive value from these links.

If you have mates in government it's easy to setup such money grab. I wonder what they are going to do next. For example coffee makers will demand a share of ones salary? (After drinking coffee you are more productive and make more money, it's only right to share with coffee producers % of your earnings, right? Then you will say you'll stop buying coffee and government will call you being anti Australian and will force you to drink coffee. It is that bad.

The law is forcing two walled gardens to pay - because they are walled gardens. That's exactly the opposite.

If they never reached a deal users would seek news not on Facebook or google but elsewhere - perhaps on the open web.


> forcing two walled gardens to pay - because they are walled gardens

How is Google search a walled garden? You search, see a link to a news story, click on it, leave Google.

(Disclosure: I work at Google, speaking only for myself)


Because you increasingly don't leave Google:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/202...

https://sparktoro.com/blog/less-than-half-of-google-searches...

When users stay on the Google and Facebook platforms then news media companies are for practical purposes forced to have a presence on both, but that also means Google and Facebook will capture most of the advertising revenue and the news media companies producing the actual content will see less. Hence the regulation.

Google has already done deals with various news media companies in Australia. Facebook is in the process of doing the same. The Australian government got what they wanted.


no they are forcing all websites to pay. There's just a delay between the 2 they've targeted currently and the millions yet to be targeted.

Every website on the open web is a walled garden. Attacking Facebook for doing something every other website does is an attack on the open web.

Your argument is tantamount to saying the US isn't a free country because you have to take your shoes off when you visit your friend's house. And then saying your friend should be required to pay you for taking your shoes off.


That's totally true. What I was trying to say was that Facebook's interests became aligned with the open web's interests and their "triumph" (i.e. stopping this law) would've also benefitted the open web.

> Australia needs to step out of their illusion and stop shoveling snow up an avalanche. The only way to benefit from the age of internet is to embrace its realities.

Unfortunately you're 'shovelling snow up an avalanche' (what a polite way of putting it) if you expect that Australian governments will change any time soon.

Both major Australian parties are far too captured by corporate interests to do anything so radical.

The current Liberal[1] government trashed our attempt at doing a nation-wide FTTH rollout and cancelled our attempt at a carbon-tax/emissions-trading scheme.

Labour are uninterested in going down that path again because they lost last time, in significant part to the attacks from Murdoch and Packer owned news organisations.

Embracing the internet, clean energy or other things risks upsetting major empires, which those empire-owners are decidedly against.

[1] For the non-Australians: The Australian Liberal Party is a center-right/conservative party. Think sort-of like the US Republicans prior to the Tea Party/Trump. The Australian Labour Party is more center-left/progressive party.


> Both major Australian parties are far too captured by corporate interests [...]

Someone said "as if Rupert Murdoch himself wrote this law", which I think is quite apt.


What is worrying is that the bodies that are supposed to protect citizens from such corrupt relationships do nothing.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recommended that something be done in relation to the concentration of digital market power, and the impacts to Australia's regulatory regime and economy:

"The 2019 University of Canberra Digital News Report found that that 33 per cent of Australian consumers report accessing news through social media, with 25 per cent using search engines to search for news brands and 20 per cent using search engines to search for particular news stories.

Google is a critical source of internet traffic (and therefore audiences) for news media businesses. A news media business risks losing a significant source of revenue if it prevents Google from providing links to its websites in search results. While Facebook contributes a significantly lower proportion of traffic to news media businesses, it remains a vital distribution channel for a number of media businesses, particularly those seeking to target a particular demographic group.

The content produced by news media businesses is also important to digital platforms. For example, between 8 and 14 per cent of Google search results trigger a “Top Stories” result, which typically includes reports from news media websites including niche publications or blogs.

While the digital platforms clearly value the news media content that they are able to display to their users, Google and Facebook each appear to be more important to the major news media businesses than any one news media business is to Google or Facebook. As set out above, this provides each of Google and Facebook with substantial bargaining power in relation to many news media businesses.

The reliance by news media businesses on traffic from Google and, to a lesser extent, on traffic from Facebook also means the digital platforms and their business models have a significant effect on news media businesses. Particular concerns raised during the course of the Inquiry include: * the lack of warning provided by digital platforms to news media businesses of changes to key algorithms relating to the display of news content or news referral links * the implementation of policies and formats that may have a significant and adverse impact on the ability of news media businesses to monetise their content and/or to build or sustain a brand and therefore an audience * the impact of such policies on the incentives for news and journalistic content creation, particularly where significant effort is expended to research and produce original content.

A key concern relates to Google’s use of news media businesses’ content in snippets, the short summaries or extracts of text that accompany links to a news story and are displayed when a consumer searches for a news story. A similar concern exists in relation to the posts of news stories that appear in a user’s Facebook News Feed.

The ACCC recognises that news media businesses, digital platforms, and importantly, consumers benefit from the reproduction of news content in snippets.

Media businesses benefit because a snippet provides context and an indication to the user of the value of that content, increasing the likelihood of consumers clicking through than if no snippet were provided (although this may depend on the length of the snippet). Consumers value snippets for a related reason, as the context enables them to make an informed choice of which article to click on. While Google does not generally sell advertising opportunities next to search queries that are considered by Google as having a ‘news intent’, Google benefits because the inclusion of news stories and snippets in search results increases the attractiveness of the Google search engine.

This in turn increases the likelihood that consumers will use the search engine for other queries, which can be directly monetised. Facebook benefits because news stories appearing on a user’s news feed retain the user’s attention, enabling more advertisements to be displayed. However, the inability of news media businesses to individually negotiate terms over the use of their content by digital platforms is likely indicative of the imbalance in bargaining power. Individual news media businesses require Google and Facebook referrals more than each platform requires an individual media business’s content."

The ACCC recommended:

"Given the imbalance in the relationships between the leading digital platforms and Australian news media businesses, the ACCC recommends that designated digital platforms should each separately be required to provide a code of conduct to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) to govern their commercial relationships with news media businesses. The ACMA would be responsible for designating which digital platforms should be required to implement a code. The development of each code should be informed by a consultation process with news media businesses and contain a strong enforcement mechanism. The ACMA would closely consult with the ACCC in performing its role under this recommendation.

Breaches of the code would be dealt with by the ACMA, which should be vested with appropriate investigative and information gathering powers and the capacity to impose sufficiently large sanctions for breaches to act as an effective deterrent.

The ACCC considers that if a digital platform is unable to submit an acceptable code to the ACMA within nine months of designation, the ACMA should create a mandatory standard to apply to the designated digital platform"

As I understand it, none of the tech giants played ball, so the Government drafted legislation to force the issue.

From https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Digital%20platforms%20i...


> Though they also went back on that, which is just disappointing to me.

This is actually a pattern for Facebook. Something happens, they have a good point in their favor, then instead of explaining it they just completely ignore the best arguments in their favour and just grants the point. It is incredibly infuriating.


Can someone explain to me why I uncritically need to accept the status quo of the 'open web', when it to me seems to be one of the primary reasons for shifting revenue from users and publishers to aggregators and platforms?

What exactly is wrong with the notion of having technology companies pay for links? The links and content are a form of intellectual property that is collectively produced by users and firms in a nation, and a law like the one passed in Australia effectively just functions as a form of collective bargaining over that information with Google or Facebook.

Why do we need to accept the logic that the most powerful and profitable technology companies in the world get to utilise our data for free?


Links are what make the web! When you're talking paid links, you're talking about breaking the foundations of the net and limiting the free flow of information. It's that simple.

Content you see will be limited to whatever companies have made agreements with each other. Organic search would just be broken.

As paid links are in complete opposition to the way the net works, government intervention is required to dictate the rules of information. Politicians will decide what we see, what services will be given benefits and who misses out.


Without paid links, neither Google nor Facebook would exist. A Google ad is a paid link. The only difference in this case is that Google is the one getting paid. Ditto for Facebook. Both have become much more agressive in recent years in making sure that any clicks off their platforms are being paid for. Organic search no longer really exists for any search that can be monetised by Google, especially on mobile and some Governments are waking up to this.

There is a difference between advertisement and mandated government legislation that forces businesses to pay for links. Google still uses organic search, it simply places clearly marked ads in obvious places. If they embedded search results with hidden ads, that would be another story,

Google is a trillion dollar company because people pay to be linked to. The giveaway is that the Drudge Report has been around since the mid 90's but no news companies have ever complained about it because they benefit from the traffic that it drives. The reason they go after Google and Facebook is because they have a lot of money to grab, whereas the Drudge Report is tiny compared to the media outlets that it links to.

It's nothing wrong with having to pay for links - its a commodity after all. The problem is that you are being forced to host those links and pay for existence. If government forces private entity to host certain information that is the other side of censorship coin. It's just wrong and reeks of China way of doing things.

> What exactly is wrong with the notion of having technology companies pay for links? The links and content are a form of intellectual property that is collectively produced by users and firms in a nation, and a law like the one passed in Australia effectively just functions as a form of collective bargaining over that information with Google or Facebook.

A link is how the web has decided to say "go here if you want to learn more". It doesn't make any sense to me to make people pay to tell you where you can go find out more about something. It becomes a tax on the transfer of knowledge, which is the worst tax idea I have ever heard in my life.

It also creates perverse incentives. If Google and Facebook have to pay to show you the news, then their obvious incentive is to either not show you news, or make you uninterested in the news. Do you really want a world where Google and Facebook are motivated to convince everyone that the news is a lie, or that it's not interesting, or that the best sources of news are tiny conspiracy theory outlets that are too small to actually have to pay for news?

Also consider that most people use the news as part of their decision on how they vote. Having "the most powerful and profitable technology companies" in the world motivated to mess around with something that directly feeds into the voting process sounds like something that will inevitably lead to a crisis. They helped create the Capital invasion on accident. I shudder to think what will happen when they really start tinkering with the news.

> Why do we need to accept the logic that the most powerful and profitable technology companies in the world get to utilise our data for free?

Because knowledge should always be free. No one should ever be too poor to learn. I accept that sometimes other people will do things I don't love with that knowledge.

> Why do we need to accept the logic that the most powerful and profitable technology companies in the world get to utilise our data for free?

Also, I can see at least 3 other potential solutions in that sentence that don't involve changing the word "free".

"powerful" - use some of your anti-monopoly laws then. They're meant to break up companies that become too powerful.

"profitable" - cool, tax them then. That seems to be the route France is going, and closing down the loopholes where they shift money around.

"world" - if they're that bad, then ban them in your country. I'd rather live in a world without the conveniences of Google than a world where someone can be too poor to know what's going on in the world.


FB: We provide you reach and you get advertising revenue because of it. Why would we pay you for something you benefit from?

AU: Because.

FB: We'll just stop giving you reach...

AU: Like to see you try

FB: ...

AU: Yeah, maybe that doesn't work for us after all.

I wonder what would have happened if this had been in the US. I'm guessing that Australia's news content is a nice-to-have, and not (yet) part of their core revenue. Some consumers probably enjoyed having fewer news items appear in their feed. It hurt Facebook a little, but it hurt news providers more.


> Some consumers probably enjoyed having fewer news items appear in their feed.

Compare the comment from the other thread on the same topic, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26234376

> the only evidence of backlash has been from reports in mass media, we were all loving the new newsless Facebook.


If this happened in the US, then hacker news would suddenly be way more about personal blogs and product announcements and links to only primary sources than it currently is.

Depending on the wording of the law, links to relevant stories in the comments might be auto-killed by a filter.

I'd see a whole lot less news period.

Either the publishers would yield to indexing and aggregation, or the market would outright die.


And to the larger point about there being too much "news content" much of which isn't news at all of course, I would much rather read one good article a week (or insert preferred time period here) than reading 10, but all of them being so light on content that there isn't a takeaway from them anyway.

HN would be better without the big media links. Mostly.

If by AU you mean Murdoch's media companies, then yeah.

I was quite surprised Google backed down, they might be kicking themselves now.

Someone on the other thread pointed out that search engine users are often specifically seeking news in a way that Facebook users aren't.

That makes this an area where competition between search engines matters, even if what link targets want doesn't matter at all.

It's entirely possible that Google's internal position was "this is a tax on search engines, and the higher the taxes on search engines are, the better for us".


But it didn't apply to search engines generally, just Google specifically.

Oh? How did Facebook get involved?

It applied initially to Google and Facebook. The Treasurer has the power to apply it to other companies in the future.

Google as a search engine specifically. The legislation targeted Google and Facebook.

not yet, but you'd be a fool if you thought it's only going to target Google and Facebook.

They didn't back down. Back in June 2020, before the draft code was released, Google said they were prepared to share revenue from news.google. But not search. They demonstrated "good faith" by entering into agreements with some news providers, paying them money for news. [0]

The AU government then specifically included search in the act's explanatory memorandum. Google then threatened to ban search from Australia.

In response to Google threat, the government and Google talked. After the talks, Google withdrew it's threat. The Government claimed Google backed down.

Now we read search is excluded. [1]

How do you know a politician is lying: his lips are moving.

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/17/business/media/australia-...

[1] https://theconversation.com/this-weeks-changes-are-a-win-for...


You're thinking about it wrong.

1. People have short attention spans

2. Aggregators provide easy access to summaries of news

3. People read the summary on the aggregator and never visit publisher site, let alone subscribe to the publisher.

4. High quality news will cease to exist because no one pays or even looks at it's ads

5. Australian people have good reason to want high quality news to exist without the current tragedy of the commons

6. Therefore news needs to be subsidized by the government

7. What better way to subsidize than by forcing the aggregators that have sucked all the value up to pay publishers?


> 3. People read the summary on the aggregator and never visit publisher site, let alone subscribe to the publisher.

> 4. High quality news will cease to exist because no one pays or even looks at it's ads

If everyone is happy to read just the summary, then why don't news publishers produce only summaries? That would be cheaper for them, and it would also make it unambiguous that Facebook hosting the summary on (or in) their pages would be copyright infringement. I suspect the situation is more complicated than the way you want us to think about it.


Many do produce only summaries. There's little value in it since your content will immediately repurposed by every other site since it's too short to be unique. You can't copyright facts after all. I think everyone can agree that such a race to the bottom isn't sustainable, eventually no one will create the original article since the summarizers just steal it for no cost.

The problem with human beings is we are all different.

Half the people might want (and need) summary-only content. But many people do not trust the editorial spin that most news outlets put on their summaries.

I agree to some extent that a subsidized news media has value (though this needs to be entirely divorced from any kind of control, because even if the government tries to be hands-off with it, if there is even the possible threat of pulling funds, the news outlets start pulling their punches and failing to hold the government to account. Governments are very bad at this, and benefit greatly from doing this badly)

The way the current system works though, and I think what you are saying is, currently those summary-only people are being subsidised by those who are willing to read the full articles (and endure the adverts)

This in itself provides incentives for the publishers to provide low-quality summaries (think clickbait, but many other techniques exist) to force users into their site. For those who cannot deal with the full articles (e.g. eyesight impaired, language barriers and attention deficit), this puts them at a disadvantage, and leaves them more susceptible to misinformation and half-stories.

Aggregators, on the other hand, provide competition, which may be enough to ensure some baseline quality.

So I agree that the route you are proposing has merit; but also there is danger in it, and unless the government is going to stipulate fees that are commercially viable for the likes of Google, the net damage outweighs the gains.

Also, I've not seen anything that tells me this is what the government are doing or that it is even part of their game-plan. But then, maybe it's just not included in the summaries?


How is the comment you replied to "thinking about it wrong"? It sounds like you simply disagree on the point in question (whether aggregators provide value, or leech it).

And it seems like the parent comment makes a bulletproof argument, while you're simply stating "I think it's the other way"

If what you're saying is true, the Australian government should have rejoiced at the departure of Facebook. The fact that they went back to the negotiating table suggests otherwise.


Aggregators provide value to consumers and leech it from content creators, I don't see how that is contradictory. They are overall value creators. The OP and most others in this thread are trying to think about this as a consensual business transaction when it's actually just a tax on the externality that is created by the tragedy of the commons that aggregators use.

Revenue from news sources is a very small part of FBs revenue base. At least according to the episode of Pivot podcast where Prof Scott Galloway covered that question.

What percentage of all Australian user engagement is driven by the sharing and discussion of Australian news media content?

I never noticed anything different in my Facebook feed. Granted I’m only on it for specific reasons. But the whole thing was over blown from my perspective.

Still got my news from the regular places.


> FB: We provide you reach and you get advertising revenue because of it. Why would we pay you for something you benefit from?

Well, the story went into fiction right there ... if FB was actually providing reach and not "reach", nobody would be complaining.


The issue is that nobody wants to pay for news anymore, not that news sites aren't generating enough traffic.

Well, that too. But FB and Google skimming from that shrinking revenue is certainly not helping matters.

I have never understood why people insist on getting news from Facebook. To me that seems a bit like heading to the nearest bus stop in search of medical advice.

While I don't have a Facebook account myself, I do recognize that apparently their service has some value to a lot of people. But using it for news -- in the traditional sense, i.e., reports on large-scale developments in the real world -- has to me always seemed ill-advised.


People don’t read the news on Facebook. They read the headline, choose the reaction that aligns with their political leaning, then proceed to grandstand in the comments section.

People know how to get the news directly from the web. They were angry because they couldn’t fight with the other side and show off to their friends in the comments.


I think that behaviour is universal. You've just described another site that we're frequenting right now

As long as there's a vote/like/share/other counter, people are going to be incentivized to act like that. It's the part of our monkey brains that are desperate for approval from others.

I wonder if the solution to that problem is better education, like we teach kids not to do drugs. Both drugs and internet points activate chemicals in our brains that make us feel good, and both fuck us up if we do them too much. Yet we're able to coexist with drugs, but having problems with social networks.

Maybe we need PSAs and cheesy slogans with mascots to tell us that "cool kids don't dopa-meme!", and hip celebrities kids can identify with (Youtubers?) to casually mention that they don't use gamified social networks, etc.


> Maybe we need PSAs and cheesy slogans with mascots to tell us that "cool kids don't dopa-meme!", and hip celebrities kids can identify with (Youtubers?) to casually mention that they don't use gamified social networks, etc.

That's not likely to happen. The real secret of the gamified social networks is that they've found a way to keep you participating in the economy 24/7. Even when you're not doing anything, you're creating value in the form of metadata that gets shuffled off to Google and Facebook. Even when you're off work, you're "working" in the sense that you're contributing to the economy.

If we cut all of that off, I would expect a drop in GDP as people revert back to having large periods of time when they're not active in the economy.

I'm with you, I think they need to go away, but it won't be without it's drawbacks.


Imagine thinking that anti-drug advertising ever worked...

Perfect summary.

> To me that seems a bit like heading to the nearest bus stop in search of medical advice.

I think you've got it backwards.

I would say that they are not heading to Facebook to get news, they're there to see pictures from their friends/celebs they follow/etc. That it's also a convenient way to get news articles is just a bonus.


Same end result though. If I randomly get medical advice by people at my local bus stop and I therefore [mostly] stop trying to get it from other sources, the randos at the bus stop will have become my [main] source of medical advice.

> I therefore [mostly] stop trying to get it from other sources

That makes the assumption that these people were looking for news sources anyway. Sure, there's going to be some people that fall into that camp.

I can't provide evidence either way, but I would be entirely unsurprised if there were a large percentage of people who don't look for news with any regularity at all. They wern't interested in hitting up a news site.

And to be clear, when I say news, I don't mean the latest celebrity gossip mag, or some specialist/niche publication on their particular interests that might have some news content.


> That makes the assumption that these people were looking for news sources anyway.

It doesn't assume that, it assumes that they would have looked if they didn't get advice at the bus stop. If I have a cut and want to know if it needs stitches, I go to the hospital. If someone at the bus stop is a doctor and tells me that I don't need stitches, then I don't go to the hospital. However, I would have gone to the hospital if there wasn't a doctor at the bus stop.

News is the same. I want to keep up to date on the news. If Facebook doesn't show me the news, I have to go to a news site to get the news. However, if Facebook shows the news and I was going there anyways, then my news needs are taken care of incidentally.

> I can't provide evidence either way, but I would be entirely unsurprised if there were a large percentage of people who don't look for news with any regularity at all. They wern't interested in hitting up a news site.

I think you're right, but it's because they get enough news from Facebook. It might be enough news for you or me, or the kind of news we like, but it is for many people.

The interesting question is how many of them would look for news if Facebook stopped serving news.


I recall the Daily Show finding out it was the only source of "news" for many of its viewers despite being a comedy show. People watched for a laugh, but also got some exposure to the news as a side effect.

News gets pushed into your feed, so you don't have to remember to pull it yourself. Like email, except more people actually check it.

I get all my news pushed to me through the PointCast Network, no need to use Facebook.

Ironically posted to Hacker News on an article about a current event.

It is ironic but, I expect, the quality of news linked from HN is of a far higher quality and much less likely to resonate with my own preconceived views?

I also do not have a facebook account, but there's an obvious benefit to having news filtered by people you know and trust. The alternative is having news that is only filtered by the half-dozen massive companies that own it.

When I was on facebook (a decade ago) my feed was a good source of news, probably because I consciously kept my friends list small.


In my experience, they don’t insist on it. People post links to news sites like any other content, then the algorithm does its thing. You get news in your timeline from the people you follow — just like Twitter, or many other social media sites.

The bus company doesn't place chattery doctors between you and the bus door.

After reading the article, it appears that this deal favors large media companies who are able to negotiate a decent deal for themselves with Facebook. It seems like that the government will also use it as an excuse to cut finding to state-funded news sources. I cannot see how the deal favors the general public at all.

Cory Doctorow had (as usual) a good write up on these happenings. He spends a good while talking about how lopsided this law is. For a start:

> But of course, this isn't a negotiation between workers and employers: it's a bargain between a cartel of news organizations and a search duopoly. That's not ideal! For starters, it means that the government gets to decide who is a "news organization."

> That's ripe for abuse. News organizations are expected to report on the government and the government gets to decide whether they are entitled to participate in collective bargaining with Googbook, which could mean the difference between financial viability and bankruptcy.

https://pluralistic.net/2021/02/21/paltrow-industrial-comple...

He does say that there is some public accountability & reporting that big companies like Facebook & Google will face, which should be helpful generally. But yeah, this looks like a very silly effort, alas:

> It's not wrong to say that the only reason this regulation got off the drawing-board is that [Rupert] Murdoch viewed it as a way to shift a few balance-points from Big Tech's side of the ledger to Big Media's side.


That was an interesting read which shows the original intention behind it wasn't necessarily evil, and that the media code was designed to treat the symptoms of an underlying problem (which are of course the monopolies).

I only have a superficial understanding of the legislation, but my impression is the opposite - it requires Google/Facebook to enter into good faith negotiations with news organisations that can choose to negotiate individually or collectively.

There's a Q&A from the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) that drafted the code:

https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/DPB%20-%20Draft%20news%...

> How would the code benefit smaller, regional and rural news media businesses?

>The bargaining power imbalance between news media businesses and the digital platforms is particularly acute for smaller, regional and rural news media businesses. The draft code would allow news media businesses to bargain with a digital platforms either individually or (more likely) as part of a collective. Bargaining as part of a collective would allow smaller news media businesses to negotiate from a stronger position than negotiating individually. Collective bargaining is likely to also reduce costs for individual news media businesses, and allow groups to pool resources and expertise during the negotiation process.


> it requires Google/Facebook to enter into good faith negotiations with news organisations

It's funny how the human mind tries to make sense out of complete nonsense. (This isn't a dig at you.) You read the act was forcing them to bargain, and you (like me as it happens) immediately assumed to bargain someone must have something to sell and the price is determined by what it is. What it is must be access to news, surely?

So with that in mind, read this direct quote from the act [0]:

> Division5—Non-differentiation 52ZC … (2) The responsible digital platform corporation must ensure that the supply of the digital service does not … (a) differentiate between registered news businesses, because of … (iii) a registered news business being paid, or not being paid, an amount of remuneration

But no, they are not bargaining over access to news. So what, precisely? Well, as far as I can tell the act doesn't say. They just, must, bargain.

I know the advice is not to watch the sausage being made, but geeze ...


Why would you expect a deal to favour the general public or state funded news organisations?

Because the media code set by the government should, in an overall sense, benefit the people of the nation. Clearly it's not the case, and the government deserves to be called out for it.

I get how you would like things to work.

You do know who conceived of this legislation in the first place though, don’t you?


All I can find is that it was tabled by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission at the request of the federal government. But if I was to take a wild guess, I'd say that Murdoch was somehow behind it.

What surprises me the most is how Murdoch made the media look like the good guys here, when this was just bluff from someone who still lives in 1999.

Lots of interesting thoughts here.

I wonder if news is not that different from education:

Privileged people always had access to it, sometimes on a 1-1 basis (informants/tutors).

Then came technology [writing|printing], but real scale still required capital to pay for platform [campuses|printer] and content [educators|journalists].

But inevitably the profitability of businesses decline over time until all the profits are gone. Due to competition they start giving away content for free and start selling eyeballs, quality declines and the incumbents need ways to make money other than their primary revenue source.

In both cases the most successful of the businesses can use their size to their advantage: Academia partners with industry to fund "scientific research". It also "helps prepare students for the job market". Newspapers decide to double down on advertisement.

Basically both sell their soul, only a little at first, but things only get worse over time. The internet accelerates all this. Stupid fights like the above breaks out about who should get what share of the pie.

But at the end of the day the core value still comes from the individuals (journalists/educators) who rightfully feel that they have been reduced to mere numbers and they could provide more value to less people and make more money going independent. So a lot of them do.

We now have platforms for independent education (self published books, online courses, patreon, etc) but we don't really have them for (verifiable) journalism yet. I don't even know how that would look like. The best I could find was comedy and news-commentary podcasts where the reporters can really be themselves.

edit: typo + minor edit


So now Facebook and google have near monopoly dominance in the Australian internet. Because they can negotiate with government while startups cannot.

We should get used to the idea of aristocracy and worker misery making a comeback in the 21st century.


The code, which is backed by Labor and will become law, sets out a framework for forcing Google and Facebook to broker commercial deals with media companies for the value they obtain from having news content on their platforms. Facebook and Google have both fiercely resisted the code, describing it as “unworkable” and threatening to curtail their services in Australia if it passed unamended.

I don't see the big deal about this. FB and G have done well in monetizing their work and good fortune in centralizing people's attention and some part of the value is derived from FB and G's linking association with content providers like newspapers and such. Those companies are seeking to capture some of that value through a law. The law conceptually seems to favor private negotiations with a tax or tariff-like backstop.

This wouldn't be an issue if FB and G hadn't done so well in centralization or if they had been craftier in disguising it. As it stands, Australia seems to be saying "nice business model, shame if something happened to it." One might not wish governments to behave like gangsters but seems pretty standard for tariffs. Getting too far ahead paints a target on your back.


If the Australian government called this a tariff or a tax, they would be in violation of various reciprocal free trade agreements.

Thats interesting. I wonder if the US would pursue that if FB/G were more favorably viewed by the government.

Probably, it's very unfortunate for Facebook and Google that "big tech" has become a political boogyman of both the left and the right.

Reading the article, it seems like facebook is actually the one who has capitulated:

> Going forward, the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation.

So they will still pay, only be able to back out if they cant reach a deal. Off course this gives them EXTREME leverage over smaller outlets: “accept our deal or we’ll legally ban you on facebook...”


It was never about pay, it was about all the other conditions. I am sure there is a model that provides some revenue that works for all concerned, but when you demand algorithm updates for a few, it is just plain silly.

This is modern political reporting - a binary focus on one single element that ignores the multitude of other things tacked on.


The previous situation was that news outlets could post their own links on facebook, that facebook would have no say in it, and facebook would have to pay for the links. So news organisations could link spam facebook to extract revenue and FB would just have to sit there and take it.

This way both sides need to come to an agreement, you know, the way it works in every other free market ever.


The article was written by an organisation who petitioned the pollies to risk their political capital to the organisation some favours. Before this, the act specifically banned a digital platform (ie Google/Facebook) from changing a newspapers ranking based on whether the newspaper forced them to pay, or how much they paid. The act says the arbitrator is forced to accept one of the bargains offered (and no other amount), be it from Facebook or the newspaper, but the considerations in the act heavily biased it towards using the newspaper's offer. So the newspaper was free to drive a pretty hard bargain.

Here is what an Associate professor in regulation and governance, UNSW said changed [0]:

> the non-discrimination provisions (crafted as an anti-avoidance mechanism) will not be triggered in respect to remuneration amounts or commercial outcomes that arise in the course of usual business practice

So, now Facebook can tie the rankings (think: how many newsfeeds will a newspaper link will appear on) to how much the newspaper forced them to pay during bargaining.

Still think it was a capitulation?

[0] https://theconversation.com/this-weeks-changes-are-a-win-for...


"Content is king."

Google nor Facebook produce any.

It's one thing for consumers to not want to pay for content. We are used to having news for "free". But it's another thing for middlemen to expect to get news for free that they can use to turn a massive profit, undercutting the source's own business.

Bravo to Australia for standing up to the middlemen.

It worked.


This was not government standing up for anybody. This is a shakedown, pure and simple.

If the government wanted to insure that Australians had a healthy independent news ecosystem, they would have legislated against filtering news for your bubble.

They would have passed laws insuring balance and impartiality in the news itself.

Update: There is nothing in legislation that says the money paid by these companies needs to be paid to journalists or to produce news. This money will go directly into executive bonuses and the news organizations will still go out of business.


I've never really understood this argument, the content is still on the news sites right?

The news sites provide blurbs and descriptions through OpenGraph metadata that Facebook use, if they don't want entities to use metadata to make a link richer they could just remove the metadata no?

Basically I want to know how Google or Facebook are exploiting news content to make a profit.


Not just news content but all content. It is very simple. These are high traffic websites that produce no content. They are pure middlemen. Content is what attracts traffic.

Does the website pass the traffic on to the source of the content. The content is the reason for the traffic. Google and Facebook actively aim to keep the user from leaving the website and/or try to track the user after she has left.

What makes news content a pernicious case is the media and these websites are in fact in competition since they share the same customers: advertisers. Google and Facebook produce no content, nor do they sell anything. Except online ad services.

It is fascinating that commenters see this as a "shakedown" when it is tech companies who have raised this concept to new levels. Look at companies like Yelp and DoorDash for blatent examples. More subtle examples are everywhere. Middlemen everywhere. The internet is infested with middlemen.

This cannot last forever. Eventually the novelty of internet service wears off and it is just another means of communication. Tech companies are like switchboard operators. The internet is still in its infancy. They seem indispensible. So too were swicthboard operators, at one time. But in the end, we will not need them. That's innovation. Eliminating the middlemen.


The business model for news is "pay a journalist to write a story, serve that story to readers accompanied by ads, make enough money on the ads to pay the journalist".

Neither FB nor Google pay journalists. But they have the audience. So the newspaper posts their news story to FB and lets Google index it in the hope that enough people click through the link to read their story and see their ads.

But FB and Google both also serve ads along with the story listing, and they often post enough of the story so that the reader doesn't have to click through to the actual news site. So FB and Google get all the revenue that the story generates, and the news site gets none, despite having to pay the journalist to write it.


> But FB and Google both also serve ads along with the story listing, and they often post enough of the story so that the reader doesn't have to click through to the actual news site.

This is already covered by copyright law and the news sites can tell Google not to index the site and provide less OpenGhaph data for Facebook.


The problem is that the news sites don't have a loyal audience of readers, and instead rely on traffic redirected from Google and FB.

> This is already covered by copyright law and the news sites can tell Google not to index the site and provide less OpenGhaph data for Facebook.

They can't delist with Google, because then they don't get that traffic.

They can't provide less data, because then FB's algorithm won't shove their article into enough people's feed.

They can't sue for copyright infringement when they specifically granted both Google and FB permission to use their content as part of their listing.

It's a really tough position for newspapers. The solution is that they need to charge readers directly for news. But that would be a massively difficult undertaking (though the success of the Guardian's "support us directly" campaign using the Wikipedia model does show some hope). It would also mean changing a generation's worth of journalistic practices.


I don't know why the news media hasnt innovated like Hulu or Netflix or Apple music or Spotify or... has in the wake of the internet. It's like they think that they are a special form of media or something.

They seemed content to stand by and let their business die rather than adapt a new business model.


I think you are mis-understanding what the news organisations source of business is. It's NOT the consumers of news, and never was. It's the advertising companies who place ads on the news organisations properties - and now the news organisations customers (i.e. the ad companies) have found it more beneficial to advertise with Google and FB.

> It's NOT the consumers of news, and never was.

You're right for the vast majority of news organization on internet but we can't say that it's "never was" (or "is" for the matter). I have at least 3 examples [0] in mind of news organizations for which advertising is not part of their business model (or a very insignificant part compared to "consumers of news" part). And I'm sure we can find similar example all around the globe. Of course such organization generally relies on subscription and/or donation. And of course for this to works "consumers of news" need to pay for it.

[0] Sorry all French : Le Canard enchainé (paper) ; Le Monde Diplo (paper and web) ; Mediapart (web)


Perhaps we should wait until the deal is negotiated before claiming it worked.

My guess is it was likely the Australian news agencies unhappy that their traffic dropped who then pressured the government to reconsider the law and restart talks with FB.


You're... saying this on Hacker News. A website that expects to get "news for free".

Is HN using the data it gets from HN users to sell services to advertisers. You dont think there is a non-commercial versus commercial distinction.

So you think that any commercial website (is HN, ran by a VC firm, even non-commercial?) should have to pay the website for links its users submit?

No. But with respect to how Google News and Faceook use "news" to support their respective rackets, I think this is different from the example of HN. For one, HN is not trying to compete for advertiser payments with every website that gets submitted. "Commercial" in the sense I am using it means deriving revenue from the use of news. Perhaps HN does that somehow but to support its VC business but that seems a poor comparison to the likes of Google/Facebook. Big difference between Google News and HN, or a Facebook "news feed" and HN.

Media wanted the cake and eat it too while breaking internet. Media want not only free promotion on FB but to also get paid for it. Its a money grab.

Fresh from this success I expect Toyota to demand a law requiring restaurants and shops to pay Toyota for bringing people to their establishments.

No no, you’ve got it backwards. Per the logic of the law, the restaurants should demand to be paid by Toyota for Toyota bringing them customers.

People only drive cars to get to places they value. So why should Toyota capture all this value and not pay the restaurant industry?

(I am being sarcastic but this is really the news industry’s argument)


Please get rid of news from Facebook. It's toxic.

    s/news from/

This tells me that Australian government is extremely corrupt and they erode the quality of law so their mates can make some money. This is immoral and stupid. What would they do if people stopped sharing Australian news? What can we do about this brazen attack on open web?

So, in essence, our (Australia’s) government blinked

Yep. Because people pay to have things on FB. That's good enough for small companies, good enough for big.

How so? Facebook is negotiating deals with media companies. The Australian government got what it wanted.

The Australian government did a last-minute deal in which it pushed through changes to its laws that are amenable to Facebook. I wouldn't say it was a win for them.

To quote the article the changes are:

- "The amendments require the Treasurer to take into account whether the digital platforms have already struck commercial agreements with news publishers before passing further regulation to make the code formally apply to them"

- "In the event the Treasurer decides to enforce the code, the tech giants must be given one month’s notice"

- "Another change will add a two-month mediation period into the code to give the parties more time to broker agreements before they are forced to enter a binding final-offer arbitration process. This comes on top of the existing three-month negotiation period."

These changes don't seem like a loss to me.


All of these amendments favour Facebook. It also buys them time. I guess we will have to wait and see after the 2 month mediation period is up who has the upper hand.

I guess the answer to who won, Facebook or the Australian government depends on what you consider a win here. I personally would consider Facebooks strike and the forcing of the Australian governments hand to pass legislation that didn't want to pass a win for Facebook.


For Facebook it's not as good as the status quo but is nowhere near a bad as what the government/News Corp/Nine were proposing.

Have you looked at the amendments? They are incredibly minor and don't change the basic operation of the law (i.e. to compel negotiations between Google/Facebook and news publishers). This is 100% face saving for Facebook. I would guess the original calculation re the black out was to gauge impact on other jurisdictions and when they saw/heard resolve tightening in Canada (who has a long history of imposing these sort of 'taxes' on middlemen)/UK/France/etc they blinked.

Money changed hands. A few lawyers, lobbyists and politicians will be able to afford nicer cars/condos/coke mirrors next year. That’s all.

So Facebook decided to pay the Danegeld?

I'm extremely disappointed, but I guess it was predictable.


Facebook blinked.

The amendments are nothing concrete, but it gives Facebook something to spin in a press release, allowing them to save face.


As far as I understand it the Australian government is about to allow Facebook to effectively choose winners and losers in the Australian press ecosystem, which would be a monumental win for Facebook.

Is that the case? I'd love to know how such a regulation is great for anyone but Facebook.


Am I the only person who is a bit disappointed that Facebook get to carry on as usual?

That's not a deal. It's a can kicked down a road.

The amendments pave the way for Google and Facebook to avoid the code altogether if they can satisfy the government they have struck enough deals outside it.

I doubt this means they’re allowed to strike a deal with every news outlet except Murdoch’s.


I hope they try. At this point I just want FB, Google, Murdoch and AuGov to collide in an abysmal trainwreck of policy and petulance.

None of this has the citizens of Australia in mind at all, so I hope all the companies involved fuck themselves over by accident.


Big tech got big on premise, that the information on the Internet is for free. How come the platforms want to use other people's intellectual property and not pay for it, in the same way, we all have to pay for theirs?

Actually big tech got big on the premise that advertising is valuable. The real question is how come news sites want other people's platforms to pay them for the privilege of having links to their sites.

I don't think it's a good example. To show analogical one - why would artists want money for their work, e.g. songs, from radio stations playing them?

I don't think your analogy is as good as you are imagining. Payola[0] was definitely a thing, so there have definitely been artists (or rather, rights holders) who would pay to have radio stations play their songs (the reverse of being paid by the radio stations).

Of course, not every rights holder did that with every song, but your analogy also fails to account for the fact that platforms aren't hosting the entirety of each article, they are providing links. That's more like an artist sending a clip from their new song to a radio station and letting them play it for free, so that people go out and buy the full recording.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payola


Would love to know which side caved?

Facebook. The changes are minor.

Aus bent the knee.

Will all web content creators eventually get to charge social media companies for sharing links? Is this the end game?

I don't see why not. Having Amazon on Google is clearly an advantage to Google because people go there to find stuff, so maybe Amazon should charge google for being listed on Google. Then Google can charge Amazon for listing them more prominently. That makes Amazon even more popular and therefore valuable to Google to list, so Amazon can charge them even more, so then....



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