Op-Ed: The insanity of Australia’s Google-Facebook paying for news links

Posted Jan 22, 2021 by Paul Wallis
Of all the harebrained, backward options possible for internet regulation, Australia has found the dumbest of them all. This blatant pandering to News Corp and the other idiots is the lowest of the low.
Google says it has invested heavily in initiatives helping Australia's struggling news industry
Google says it has invested heavily in initiatives helping Australia's struggling news industry
A lot of “news” has been saying the parties are "working together" to solve the issues. That’s now been shown to be typical right wing media blather as Google threatens to remove services from Australia.
The theory of the idiotic pay for links idea is:
1. Google and Facebook make revenue from posting links to news.
2. Therefore the new sites should get some of this revenue.
3. Therefore they’ll get a part of Google and Facebook’s massive advertising revenue.
Let’s look at a few facts for a change:
1. Google and Facebook hits drive about 2 billion hits on Australian news sites. That’s high value in any possible interpretation in a country of 25 million people.
2. Ad revenue is structured for hits on ad links, not on sites.
3. Ad payments to advertisers are based on clicks on ads.
4. Advertising, both pay per click and other ads are done under PRIVATE contract with Google and Facebook. This legislation would screw up any number of Australian advertisers using Google ads.
The people who matter worldwide disagree
So far, disagreement with the Australian legislation is coming thick and fast. The United States government is anything but in favour. The Yanks are evens saying it may contravene the US/Australian free trade agreement, which is serious language. Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the internet, says it strikes at the most fundamental principles of the internet.
Who’s running the country?
The only voices in favour of the idea are coming from News Corp and the Nine Network, a decrepit TV network which imploded on “management cultural issues” some years ago. The excessive influence of the Murdoch press in Australia is well-known, and much-loathed, by many Australians.
Any legislation which acts so blatantly in the interests of private companies is suspect by definition. Suicidal legislation which can only damage Australian media and businesses is more than suspect – It’s inexcusable.
The present Liberal government is a conservative government which has followed all the mistakes of conservatism overseas. Deregulation, privatization at massive cost to the public, undermining the public broadcaster, it’s all there. This is the usual ideological rubbish tip.
Google says its income from news site links is about $10-20 million or something like it per year. That’s less than the average leading Australian company’s ad budget per year. It’s peanuts. For this sort of chump change, we’re going to disrupt major telecommunications?
When it comes to disrupting basic business and business communications, however, it’s a very different matter. Who’s dictating Australia’s telecommunications policy, Australian government or News Corp and its obsolescent associates?
Backlash incoming
The likely gigantic backlash will be murderous. Australians are almost totally hooked up to the internet. We do business online every day. Google search is undeniably the preferred option. We use Facebook every day.
This particular sleeping dog should be let lie. If this is such a good idea, why didn’t it occur to anyone over the last 25 years? Why now? To achieve what? A few bucks in the hands of the people who helped QAnon get traction in the States? A further proof that Australian governments don’t have the guts to argue with media? Take this miserable stupidity and shove it back up whatever fecal miracle generator it came from.