Google experiments: ACCC to be humiliated?

As Cats know the Australian legacy media have been conspiring with the Australian federal government (and it’s so-called ‘independent’ agency the ACCC) to impose a tax* on Facebook and Google.

Under the proposal Facebook and Google would have to pay the legacy media a fee when they directed users to an Australian media article. Now this is the exact opposite of how a finders fee would work. It seems to me that the legacy media should be paying Facebook and Google for directing custom to them. But Facebook and Google are not the dinosaurs in this story and like all endangered businesses they have run to Canberra for help.

Of course Facebook and Google have pushed back, including threatening to geo-block Australians from using their media search functions. I have to say business often makes threats along these lines but seldom seems to actually deliver. Although, to be fair, I’m not surprised that private investment in Australia is low – that is evidence that business is shunning our shores.

But anyway, yesterday this started coming through:

Well yes. The official story:

The company said in a statement that the move was part of a “short-term experiment”. It means that for some users, news stories from commercial media outlets, including The Australian, are being hidden by the company’s algorithms.

“Every year we conduct tens of thousands of experiments in ­Google Search. We’re currently running a few experiments that will each reach about 1 per cent of Google Search users in Australia to measure the impacts of news businesses and Google Search on each other,” a Google spokesman said.

Adam Creighton is not happy either:

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.

No. The stories have not been deleted. They remain in the hard copy that gets published and remain on the websites run by Australian media. They just cannot be found using Google’s search engine. They could be found by using the media’s own internal search functions – expect that the search function on the Australian’s own site is so useless that nobody uses them. Including, it seems, the Australian’s own employees.

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.

Nice piece of moral hazard there: lobby government to force Google to pay you when anyone uses the google search engine to search for your own stories, then search for your own stories using Google.

Then to the conspiracy theories:

It’s also unusual timing, given fellow tech giant Twitter has purged millions of users, including the US President, underscoring their collective power.

No. It is not unusual timing.

The head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said he would shortly release a report on Google’s power over the local online advertising market that would “have a lot to say” and is likely to lead to more legal action, off the back of a landmark case against Google in the United States.

He expects the controversial media code for the tech giants to negotiate commercial deals for news content to be finalised across February and March.

What we are witnessing is a bare-knuckled fight between a corporation that can only deploy market forces against a government agency that can deploy coercion and  violence.

Adam Creighton’s solution:

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.

and

If you could search only for cat videos, Google search wouldn’t have many users, and even less advertising.

Time will resolve uncertainty – I suspect it’ll be  easier and cheaper for Google to simply exclude uppity consumers than deal with them. In the meantime, I’m barracking for the people who want to earn a profit, over the people who have guns and threaten violence.

*Purists may argue that it isn’t really a tax. Strictly they are correct. Nonetheless the government will be forcing Google and Facebook into a ‘voluntary’ negotiation requiring them to pay money directly to Australian media companies. That is extortion.

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65 Responses to Google experiments: ACCC to be humiliated?

  1. stackja

    Google doesn’t like free speech?

  2. H B Bear

    Like The Donald said, “Be careful what you wish for.”

  3. H B Bear

    Or as Oscar Wilde once said, the only thing worse than being on a Google search is not being on a Google search.

  4. Paul

    So why haven’t Google algorithemed out their ABC?
    Ohhh yeah, they don’t make money, only left wing propaganda. No need to block them.

  5. John Bayley

    I, on the other hand, am barracking for people who will boycott Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other such ‘social media’ due to persistent snooping, shadow-banning of wrong-think, cancelling of free speech and generally behaving like totalitarian thugs.

    The sooner Google and others lose enough market share to feel it, the better. Hopefully they may then remember the ‘Do No Evil’ motto they started with.

  6. stackja

    In the early days, Yahoo was the search engine. Google selective search results now exclude what?
    Duck go go and Tor good alternative.

  7. Epicurious

    There was a Liberty Quote earlier today on this site along the lines of “everyone wants peace and freedom however you can’t necessarily have peace and freedom at the same time”, seems very apt for where the world is heading.

    I would imagine, nay hope, that many millions across the world are moving away for the FB, G and Twatter.
    It is quite logical to oppose restrictions in truly competitive markets, where the market resolves what the community wants and not oppose them in uncompetitive ones (monopolies, oligarchy, BigTech). Time to break up these intrusive, manipulative Titans either by market pressure (us) preferably, or through government regulation.

  8. sam

    Give google the flick, Duckduckgo and Brave browser and they don’t sell your information. Proton email also keeps your information private.

  9. Snoopy

    Under the proposal Facebook and Google would have to pay the legacy media a fee when they directed users to an Australian media article.

    So it’s not about unsolicited news feeds which bypass paywalls?

  10. H B Bear

    The sooner Google and others lose enough market share to feel it, the better. Hopefully they may then remember the ‘Do No Evil’ motto they started with.

    Word to the wise – it will never happen. When Google is replaced it will be by something new, something better or something cheaper like any product. Remember Netscape?

  11. I agree with the good professor, most organisation’s software search functions are worse than useless. My workplace own IT support suggest ‘Google search’ instead of the built in corporate website search.

    I received an email yesterday form a subscribed newspaper with a preview image of a newspaper’s front page for valued subscribers. On the front page was an interesting article headline, I wanted to read the article, went to the newspaper’s website and typed in the exact headline, the article got zero hits, just a list of irrelevant other articles.

    I particularly like being hammered with relevant advertising, I deliberately click on adverts for things I am interested in so I get served up lots of them rather than the usual dross; russian brides, thigh cream or solar panel installers.

  12. Tom

    What we are witnessing is a bare-knuckled fight between a corporation that can only deploy market forces against a government agency that can deploy coercion and violence.

    Here we go again with the libertarian autism: What Silicon Valley is actually deploying are the forces of unregulated monopolies, obtained through their purchase (that is, billions of dollars in bribes) of the US Congress.

    The social media companies are unregulated monopolies that control almost all of the world’s online political discourse. And — surprise, surprise — they’re operated by a power-drunk mob of sociopathic HTML code-writers who prefer talking to machines before humans and hate democracy and liberty.

    Once again we see libertarians cuddling up to fascists whose aim is the destruction of the Western liberal democracy by whatever means it takes, from election fraud to censorship and the abolition of free speech.

    And Silicon Valley has its own privately-funded army of street thugs to bash and shut down any dissident or small business that won’t submit to the new fascism — the triumph of Orwellian doublespeak: antifa.

    There is nothing libertarian about the 21st century’s Silicon Valley robber barrons. They are the enemy of freedom. They should be the enemy of libertarians and it’s shameful they aren’t.

  13. Bruce of Newcastle

    The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable, and me without popcorn.

    Goolag’s news tab has been getting worse and worse, so it’s no loss if they have no Australian news. And what passes for Australian news from the MSM is mostly lies and propaganda anyway. Let them fight each other into oblivion, while we cheer them on.

    Hopefully ACCC, ASIC, AUSTRAC and APRA all get involved too. It would help keep those fruit-salad agencies off the back of persecuted Aussies for a while.

  14. Epicurious

    Go Tom.
    I hope you’re not writing from Silicon Valley.
    Just because we’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get us.

    Talking of being paranoid, I’m now on the list of G traitors as I’ve removed them as my browser and search engine. I’ve found Opera on my Mac (built in VPN) to be very fast and “s’truthful”.

  15. Epicurious

    I’ve cancelled my The Australian subscription, can anyone suggest a good source of news and commentary from both sides of the fence?

  16. H B Bear

    Not sure I agree with your take Tom. Remember the old joke about half of the money spent on advertising is wasted but not being sure which half? Google goes some way to solving that problem but still can’t tell you if the “eyeballs” it delivers is someone looking for your product or someone’s Mum who doesn’t know how to use a trackpad. I must say my take on this is closer to Rupe than Brin but I am a legacy media user with a newspaper subscription. In other words, a dying breed.

  17. Snoopy

    Not sure I agree with your take Tom. Remember the old joke about half of the money spent on advertising is wasted but not being sure which half? Google goes some way to solving that problem

    How often are you deluged by Google ads for something you concluded days before?

  18. Youngster

    Google is effectively a monopoly. There is no functional free market in this space. Google has the power to simply crush anyone who tries to get around them. That’s not a good thing for anyone.

  19. WDYSIA

    Google, like most silicon valley business models, derives its income by using your content and the fact that people want your content. It charges businesses, including newspapers, a fee to optimise their position on their search engines, fees for them to serve ads and so on. It still runs Google news using your content to attract users and advertising revenue. I am comfortable with news media demanding a fee.
    Google is also pretty lame if it thinks every one believes that they are conducting experiments on live data which disadvantages paying customers. Like newspapers.

  20. ”The stories have not been deleted. They remain in the hard copy that gets published and remain on the websites run by Australian media. They just cannot be found using Google’s search engine. They can be found by using the media’s own internal search functions – expect that the search function on the Australian’s own site is so useless that nobody uses them. Including, it seems, the Australian’s own employees.”

    lol. So much in that extract that illustrates the character of modern j’ismists.

  21. Rex Anger

    thigh cream

    This isn’t that kind of blog! ☹

  22. How is this different to a plumber having to pay a $1,000 annual fee to Phonographic Recording Rights Australia (or whatever they’re now called) to play a music on hold if he can’t take your call in real time?

    Or the same fee, to the same music industry outfit, for having a TV showing ABC24’s news channel (muted – vision only) in their reception area?

  23. H B Bear

    How often are you deluged by Google ads for something you concluded days before?

    All the time. So what. Is it any better than getting two minutes of ads for products I am not going to buy every 10 minutes while I watch TV or every hour if I pay $60 a month?

  24. DM OF WA

    As an experiment I just now tried Bing and saw plenty of Australian news stories.

  25. H B Bear

    How is this different to a plumber having to pay a $1,000 annual fee to Phonographic Recording Rights Australia (or whatever they’re now called) to play a music on hold if he can’t take your call in real time?

    It’s not. Bit rich to be complaining about IP theft by the Chinese and then go and do the same thing yourself.

  26. Ken S

    One can (and should) lament the disappearance of principled argument. Just because I might really dislike the way Google shows results, side-lines ideas it doesn’t want visible – or much worse – doesn’t mean we should jettison sense. What if a Sydney Morning Herald news item mentioned a new restaurant or placed an ad for it in their smallsheet (do people still do that anymore ?) … should the power of the state be used to force the Herald to pay that restaurant for each provably redirected customer ? I suspect the Herald would insist that they be the recipient.

  27. Sinclair Davidson

    Once again we see libertarians cuddling up to fascists whose aim is the destruction of the Western liberal democracy by whatever means it takes, from election fraud to censorship and the abolition of free speech.

    Tom, mate, Bex, lie down. You’ll strain something.

  28. Leigh Lowe

    H B Bear

    #3723813, posted on January 14, 2021 at 11:30 am

    Or as Oscar Wilde once said, the only thing worse than being on a Google search is not being on a Google search.

    Bwah ha ha ha ha.
    Yes.
    The phrase “do not use content without paying for it” implies two possible courses of action:-
    1. Use the content and pay for it; or
    2. Don’t use the content.
    Surely they saw that bus coming.
    Didn’t they?
    Tell me they are not that stoopid.

  29. H B Bear

    Tell me they are not that stoopid.

    Might as well try get a five finger discount. Better in my pocket than yours, eh Rupe? I’ll buy you a drink at Davos.

  30. H B Bear

    I expect the ACCC will deal quite well with humiliation. How else do you explain the periodic media releases on the petrol price cycle?

  31. Sinclair Davidson

    Tell me they are not that stoopid.

    Hmmmmmmmmm. Wish I could.

    Mind you – they have probably heard this argument before and not had the business follow through.

  32. Amused

    Oh, Australian ‘journalists’ suddenly care about Big Tech censorship?

    That’s cute.

  33. tgs

    If Twitter and Facebook were ordinary media sites, offering content created and curated by a limited set of authors and editors (such as Quillette itself), none of this would present much of a problem, as we could rely on the free market to do its work. Don’t like our ideological litmus tests? Try the site down the street.

    But Twitter and Facebook aren’t ordinary media sites: They’ve become everyday communications utilities that people use to share their opinions, solicit advice, agitate politically, promote their businesses, find love, connect with like-minded hobbyists, and much else besides. A confused Brandenburg-era FCC regulator might see them as a mash-up of news television, call-in radio, classified ads, a telex, a political rally, and a soapbox.

    That regulator might also be struck by how much of the content on these social media—Twitter, especially—consists of people complaining about the medium itself. That’s not because we feel ripped off (these sites are free, after all), but because we feel trapped: So much of a person’s reputational capital now consists of his or her accumulated followers, an asset that takes years to build up but which can be squandered in an instant if one gets suspended (a terrifying proposition for many young professionals, especially since there is typically no real way to appeal the decision to a real human being). As satirist Titania McGrath put it: “Big tech censorship is a right-wing myth. If you don’t like our rules, just build your own platform. Then when we delete that, just build another one. Then when we delete that, just build your own corporate oligopoly. I really can’t see the issue.”

    In our view, the most promising solution lies with antitrust law, a policy instrument that has played a major role in the reform of commercial sectors that, like social media, feature built-in network effects, and which lend themselves to monopolistic corporate control—from railroads to computer operating systems. Crucially, unlike other modes of government intervention in the marketplace of ideas (such as the aforementioned Polish model), antitrust law has the benefit of being widely accepted among both mainstream progressives and conservatives as a legitimate instrument of state policy.

    https://quillette.com/2021/01/11/social-media-oligopolists-are-the-new-railroad-barons-its-time-for-washington-to-treat-them-accordingly/

  34. John A

    Adam Creighton’s solution:

    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.

    What? Has he never heard of the others such as DuckDuckGo (my current) or, as a last resort, using Ctrl-F to Find in the web page (browser search on the News Ltd site of choice)?

  35. H B Bear

    Microsoft is the good guy?

  36. Up The Workers!

    So Twitter’s totalitarian Socialist arrogance has now apparently empowered it to remove the Right to Free Speech of the President of the U.S.A., along with 80 million of his colleagues, supporters, followers and voters?

    I have only one thing to say to Jack Dorsey:

    “Heil Twittler”!

    Your predecessor, Dr. Josef Goebbels had an identical view of the importance of free speech.

    (You haven’t been indulging yourself in the crack-cocaine inventory of Hunter Biden, that well-known and highly sought-after expert on Ukrainian coal mineralogy, by any chance, have you?).

  37. Sinclair Davidson

    Microsoft is the good guy?

    Right up until the ACCC asks them to start subsidising the Australian legacy media.

  38. John Bayley

    Word to the wise – it will never happen.

    Perhaps, but then there’s no reason to complain, is there, for those who choose to continue using those platform, and being abused by them accordingly?

    For what it’s worth, there is no shortage of search engines out there, that do not track or filter results, or, if one can’t live without it, also alternative social media sites, without the censorship now so blatantly on display by the Big Ones.

    I would, in any case, argue that there is little point in Google having the best search algorithm, if the results you will be served have been filtered according to their own political bias.

    In any case, it is actually not all that hard to stop them from tracking you, and then be bombarded by unwanted ads. Most people are just too lazy to bother to find out how to do it.

    Just like they believe the ABC, when it tells them a snotty rag over their mouth and nose will save them from the killer virus with 99.97% survival rate.

    Anyway, new technologies already exist, for those willing to learn, to step out of the Goolag permanently.

    Beaker browser allows for distributed site self-publishing, so ‘wrongthink’ sites cannot be taken down a.k.a what Amazon did to Parler.

    Distributed platforms like ipfs.io or zeronet.io aim to attain something similar.

    We are a long way away from the days when Netscape and Internet Explorer were all there was.

  39. BalancedObservation2

    I found The Australian pretty quick to censor, or delay in almost permanent pending, quite a few posts I made. And I had actually paid The Australian for the right to post them.

    And The Australian has the temerity to hold itself out as a champion of free speech. Something I made a point to tell them each time they censored my posts.

    No worries now though. I ended my subscription and saved $40 per month.

  40. BalancedObservation2

    Forrester

    #3723866

    Agree. Google search is far superior to just about any site specific search engine. I’ve given up using site specific search engines.

  41. H B Bear

    I found The Australian pretty quick to censor, or delay in almost permanent pending, quite a few posts I made. And I had actually paid The Australian for the right to post them.

    I’m not sure that is what a newspaper subscription is for. Perhaps Rupe should pay for comments which are often more informed and more entertaining than his j’ismists.

  42. Paul

    However the left wing propaganda online news receive a benefit from Google by ranking their propaganda higher on search results than opposing political views. So why would the left wing msm demand a fee when its already done free of charge?

  43. BalancedObservation2

    UpTheWorkers
    #3724080

    Brilliant comments.

  44. BalancedObservation2

    HB Bear

    #3724095

    Shrewd comment about the posts. I also often found them better than the articles. And I’ve got to wonder how many interesting posts I missed reading, through the censorship carried out by the paper which promotes itself as a champion of free speech.

    I was of course speaking for myself. It was my main, not my only, reason for subscribing.

  45. BalancedObservation2

    Monopolists or virtual monopolists are often the strongest advocates for the “free” market and non intervention by government … until it suits them to lobby governments to nobble the market even more in their favour.

  46. Dinky

    The government should instead slash the ABC’s funding & redirect the money to the legacy media if they’re sooo concerned about their survival. The ABC is just as much a threat to them as big tech.

    But my view on the MSM & big tech is a pox on both their houses.

  47. Howard Hill

    It means that for some users, news stories from commercial media outlets, including The Australian, are being hidden by the company’s algorithms.

    Well they do have a policy of removing fake news.
    And governments are ok with that.

  48. Bela Bartok

    Why would anyone put their business in a Google Cloud platform when, if the mood took them, Google could just terminate your service leaving you without a business, all because of a tweet 10 years ol saying ‘All Lives Matter’?
    Just like using Facebook, or LinkedIn, or even AWS… first they turned off Trump’s servers, and I did nothing…

  49. Sinclair Davidson

    Even worse – it looks like Parler was hacked. Why put your business on a hackable platform?

  50. MatrixTransform

    And I had actually paid The Australian for the right to post them.

    no you didn’t
    you paid for the Austrailian to tell you … not the other around

    If you engage me for engineering services, then the last thing in world I’m interested in, is your ‘opinion’

  51. Nob

    stackja
    #3723820, posted on January 14, 2021 at 11:34 am
    In the early days, Yahoo was the search engine. Google selective search results now exclude what?
    Duck go go and Tor good alternative

    Duck Duck Go uses Google to search.

  52. John Bayley

    Duck Duck Go uses Google to search.

    True, although they claim they also use their own web crawlers as well. They do strip the trackers off Google etc.

    Try Startpage, Qwant, Wolfram Alpha or even Yandex (also with trackers, but less relevant unless you’re Russian, and they do not filter results),

  53. BalancedObservation2

    MatrixTransform

    #3724302

    “If you engage me for engineering services, then the last thing in world I’m interested in, is your ‘opinion.”

    You’d be a very unsuccessful engineer if you didn’t ask your client’s opinion about that what they wanted. That’s the first principle of project management.

    In fact you’d be as unsuccessful as an engineer as you are a blogger here. And that’s a very harsh observation.

    Quite surprising not to see the word “wanker of fuckwit” in your post. Have you run out of turps for tonight?

    I’d still be subscribing to The Australian now if my only reason for subscribing was being told like you say.

    But I wanted to post on the leading centre right daily newspaper in Australia. However I found the censorship too unbearable. So I cancelled my subscription.

    No one would possibly think The Australian would be interested in the opinion of people posting. Why would you even raise that? That’s not why anyone would post there – because they thought The Australian would value their opinion. No one is that naive. It’s incredibly naive to think anyone would think that.

  54. MatrixTransform

    You’d be a very unsuccessful engineer if you didn’t ask your client’s opinion about that what they wanted. That’s the first principle of project management.

    more opinions?

  55. dover_beach

    (such as the aforementioned Polish model)

    Isn’t the Polish model that to the extent the speech is lawful, that social media cannot curtail that speech? I find that eminently sensible.

  56. Covid Dopperfield

    Google : An operation that’s changed our experience and access to “knowledge” . Privately financed ,made the investment of $$$$ to create a genius platform of data capture, analysis and commercial sell-on etc. Seems fair?
    On the other hand seems the barriers to entry seem loaded? Still hard to reconcile why that’s inherently wrong? I don’t know enough to understand if these barriers could be deemed anti-competitive? Any legal decision will bring howls of anger from all sides anyway.
    What’s interesting tho is the pricing elasticity “test”. In a genuinely competitive mkt , a dominant mkt leader that is comfortable enough to charge a premium for ad pricing (Google) – over years – vs others would be vulnerable to a competitor(s) that maybe doesn’t have the user reach as Google, but in terms of cost represent better value per click.
    That fact that Google’s mkt position is blissfully unaffected by pricing strategy tells me there’s an issue and classic free market economics aren’t at play here?
    Just a view…

  57. Louis Litt

    Investment in Ozis low – annual leave, sick leave, compassionate leave, domestic violence leave; but the big one which scares everyone off – redundancy payouts.
    Redundancy is the dream of all employees, look at Whyalla One Steel, the redundancy payments would have bankrupted its two other businesses which are really good profitable businesses.

  58. Squirrel

    Clearly, the solution to this policy imbroglio is a Strayan government search engine, for Strayan news, which is accessible through MyGov (but only for those who’ve “had the jab”) – all paid for by funds sequestered from the ABC budget…… (something in that for just about everyone, I reckon).

    Slightly less heretically, a useful thing for the government to do might be a generous tax write-off for Australian companies to develop and implement search engines for their public websites which actually work, particularly when it comes to searching for a specific phrase. That would be a big step forward, and not just for media outlets – too many of our companies (notably some retailers) have websites with search functions which are lamentable compared to their international competitors.

  59. dover_beach

    Squirrel, the Bunnings search function is terrible.

  60. mundi

    The problem with media is this:

    -They government and business give press releases, which the media just regurgitate, adding nothing. They are not needed to perform this function when you can just subscribe to a feed of the gov/org in question.

    -That leaves only journalist opinion an analysis. And this is what the real battle is. Journalists writing their columns had little competition. As long as they got the gig, they basically were ensured circulation and a readership. All you had to do is be 0.1% better than the next guy, and you got a huge following, while they got next to nothing. However on the internet, everyone is basically equal.

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