I wasn’t expecting to become part of the “1 per cent” on Tuesday; unfortunately, it wasn’t in the way I’d hoped. Somehow Google had put me on a list of users of its search engine for whom the ability to find Australian news articles had been removed. Attempting to search for colleagues’ news stories on Tuesday on my laptop returned only references to them on sites other than those owned by News Corp and Nine. The same thing happened from my work desktop, although strangely not when I used my mobile phone.
Source: Adam Creighton, News Corp
Tech giant Google’s shot across the bow may rebound
Apparently, Google had been conducting “experiments” to see how users reacted, it later said. Pull the other one. It was clearly a threat, not an experiment.
The US tech giant was firing a shot across the bow ahead of compulsory negotiations between Google, Facebook and Australian tech giants in coming months.
Following a thorough report by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission made public last year, the government has promised to legislate to force the tech giants to negotiate with Nine, News and other private media companies. The legislation has been sent to a Senate committee.
The spectre of foreign tech giants’ permanently deleting news stories written by Australian journalists is a chilling demonstration of their immense market power and, more profoundly, their control of all digital information.
It’s also unusual timing, given fellow tech giant Twitter has purged millions of users, including the US President, underscoring their collective power.
Google says it provides news sites with millions of dollars worth of “referral traffic”.
Perhaps, but it also benefits hugely from its users’ ability to find media content, which is produced at huge cost by media organisations.
If you could search only for cat videos, Google search wouldn’t have many users, and even less advertising.
The hundreds of billions of dollars in profit it and other tech giants make is partly off the back of media producers who don’t receive a cent of the advertising those Google users generate.
The tech giants have slashed communication and search costs and improved our lives in a many ways. They have certainly been amply rewarded. In the interests of a vibrant press capable of holding business and government to account, it’s time for a fairer distribution of profits generated by readers.
If Google was really running a genuine experiment this week, I could save it some time. Users will have to use a different search engine. I resorted to Bing, owned by Microsoft, which did the job well enough, and I’ve now made Bing a favourite in case this happens again.