Australia passes law to force Facebook and Google to pay for news

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Enlarge / Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. (credit: Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

The Parliament of Australia has passed a final version of legislation designed to force Google and Facebook to pay to link to news articles. The passage of the News Media Bargaining Code marks the end of a contentious months-long negotiation between the Australian government and the two technology giants—which are singled out in the code.

Google and Facebook have long argued that they shouldn’t have to pay a dime to link to news articles, since the links send valuable traffic to news sites. Over the last decade, Google has successfully beaten back efforts to undermine the principle of free linking.

But over the last couple of years, governments in Australia and Europe have become more determined to force American technology giants to financially support their domestic news industries. In 2019, the European Parliament created a new “neighboring right” giving news sites the right to control the use of “snippets” in search results, and French regulators made it clear that Google wasn’t allowed to simply stop showing snippets—Google needed to cough up some cash.

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#australia, #facebook, #google, #link-tax, #policy

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Customer data platform Lexer raises $25.5M Series B for global expansion

Left to right: Lexer founders Dave Whittle, Aaron Wallis, Chris Brewer

Left to right: Lexer founders Dave Whittle, Aaron Wallis, Chris Brewer

The massive shift to online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic means retailers need to analyze customer data quickly in order to compete against rivals like Amazon. Lexer, a customer data platform headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, helps brands manage data by organizing it on one platform, making analysis easier for small to medium-sized brands. The company announced today that it has raised $25.5 million in Series B funding for expansion in Australia, the United States and Southeast Asia.

The round was led by Blackbird Ventures and King River Capital, with participation from returning investor January Capital, and brings Lexer’s total raised so far to $33 million. Blackbird Ventures co-founder and partner Rick Baker will join Lexer’s board.

The company was founded in 2010 by Aaron Wallis, Chris Brewer and Dave Whittle, and its clients include Quiksilver, DC Shoes, John Varvatos and Sur La Table. The new funding will be used to add 50 more people to Lexer’s team, with plans to double its headcount in Australia, the U.S. and Southeast Asia. Whittle, the company’s chief executive officer, told TechCrunch it will also add more features to provide retailers with enterprise-grade customer data, insight, marketing, sales and service capabilities.

Brands use Lexer to increase their incremental sales, which includes sales to both existing and new customers, by helping them understand things like shopping patterns among different groups of visitors, which customers are most likely to make future purchases and what marketing strategies results in the most sales.

Lexer’s best-known competitors include Segments, which was acquired by Twilio for $3.2 billion last year, and Adobe Analytics. Whittle said Lexer’s key differentiator is providing an end-to-end solution.

While brands often have to use multiple data and analytics software to understand data from different sources, Lexer’s goal is to make everything accessible in one platform. “Our customers don’t have to engage expensive and time-consuming third parties for strategy, implementation, customization and project management,” he said.

Before Lexer’s Series B, most of its growth came from single brands, or groups of mid-market retail brands. Now it’s focusing on working with all sizes of brands, Whittle added.

The pandemic has forced many brands to place a greater emphasis on digital engagement to increase their online sales and stand out from other e-commerce merchants.

“There are literally hundreds of tactics we have enabled our customers to deploy to help them adapt to the limitations and barriers COVID put in place. For example, we helped retailers migrate offline customers to shop on their e-commerce sites,” said Whittle. “Another way was that if stock was low due to supply constraints caused by COVID, we helped retailers target their high-value and loyal customers to ensure customers satisfaction.”

#australia, #customer-data-platform, #ecommerce, #fundings-exits, #lexer, #startups, #tc

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After Facebook’s news flex, Australia passes bargaining code for platforms and publishers

A week after Facebook grabbed eyeballs globally by blocking news publishers and turning off news-sharing on its platform in Australia, the country’s parliament has approved legislation that makes it mandatory for platform giants like Facebook and Google to negotiate to remunerate local news publishers for their content, to take account of how journalism is shared on their platforms.

The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code was developed in conjunction with Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) with the aim of addressing the power imbalance that exists between digital platforms and news businesses.

Facebook and Google had both lobbied aggressively against the legislation, with Google initially threatening to close down its search engine in Australia — before changing tack and hurrying to strike deals with local publishers in a bid to undercut the law by showing an alternative model.

But none of the tech giants’ moves derailed the legislative effort entirely.

“The Code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia,” said treasury minister Josh Frydenberg and communications minister Paul Fletcher in a joint statement today.

“The Code provides a framework for good faith negotiations between the parties and a fair and balanced arbitration process to resolve outstanding disputes,” they added.

The operation of the code will be reviewed by the government within a year “to ensure it is delivering outcomes that are consistent with the Government’s policy intent”, they added.

On Tuesday Facebook reversed course on its intentionally over-broad news ban after the government agreed to make amendments to the draft legislation — including adding a two-month mediation period to allow digital platforms and publishers to agree deals before being forced to enter into arbitration.

The government also agreed to take platforms’ existing deals with publishers into account before deciding whether the code applies to them and provide them with one month’s notice before taking a final decision.

Facebook said it was satisfied with the tweaks, having been concerned commercial deals it struck off its own bat would not be taken into account.

In a blog post which the tech giant entitled “the real story” (yes, really), Facebook’s chief spin doctor, Nick Clegg — aka the former deputy prime minister of the UK — wrote that the law as originally drafted would have forced it to pay “potentially unlimited amounts of money to multi-national media conglomerates under an arbitration system that deliberately misdescribes the relationship between publishers and Facebook”.

“Thankfully, after further discussion, the Australian government has agreed to changes that mean fair negotiations are encouraged without the looming threat of heavy-handed and unpredictable arbitration,” Clegg added.

Who exactly has come out on top in this stand off between a sovereign government and two of the biggest tech giants in the world remains to be seen. But if Facebook and Google were hoping to block the law they certainly failed.

Claims by the Australian government that public interest journalism has won are, however, being tempered by critical suggestions that the law will merely end up favoring big media over small publishers — after all, it’s the larger publishers Google has rushed to strike deals with, for example.

How much of the adtech duopoly’s money ends up trickling down to support smaller publishers and grow media pluralism in Australia isn’t yet clear. But the suspicion among some is that the whole episode amounts to a shake down of big tech by big media via their friends in government — and that ugly oligarchy won.

There is also the risk that by directly linking the funding of public interest journalism — and therefore, by implication, the vitality of a country’s democracy — to tech giants like Facebook and Google it will further entrench the monopoly positions of those selfsame giants.

Suddenly calls to break up Google et al can be conflated with ‘harming democracy’ by taking money away from ‘public interest journalism’. Even just the claim of support suggests rich PR pickings for Facebook and co.

Yet these are platform giants that already have massive and unprecedented power over the public information sphere — as Facebook just demonstrated, via its flex against legislators (showing it can flip a switch to crater traffic to all sorts of publicly valuable information if it so chooses, leaving all its users in an entire country vulnerable to disinformation).

Their dominance has also long been implicated in harming democracy around the world — as their ad-funded business models profile people and amplify content for profit, without any kind of public service mission (quite unlike traditional media).

So if the tech giants were looking for a cheap way to reduce their antitrust risk then paying over a couple of billion every few years to regional publishers (who they may hope will also dial down their techlash rhetoric as a result) probably doesn’t sound so bad.

Facebook said this week that it plans to spend at least $1BN on ‘supporting’ the news media over the next three years. Google also recently outted a $1BN fund for news licensing fees.

Neither company can claim it just discovered the existence of journalism; it’s crystal clear these suddenly pledged billions are only on the table because lawmakers have made platforms paying for news mandatory. (Australia is not alone here; EU lawmakers also legislated in recent years to extend copyright to cover snippets of news — which is starting to result in Google striking licensing deals with publishers in Europe.)

So news publishers are certainly winning by gaining revenue that wasn’t being made available to them before. Though at what wider cost — if the mechanism being used to support them helps entrench anti-democratic monopolists?

The lack of transparency around the commercial deals being struck between platforms and publishers is certainly unhelpful. Without clarity on such arrangements the risk, again, is that the law will favor the big publishers while the smaller ones (who may have more of a public interest mission) will be at a disadvantage — needing to work even harder to compete with tabloid giants further fattened up with fresh adtech profits.

Australia has for certain won something, though. It’s bagged the world’s attention for taking on tech giants through a legislative code.

Its direct thrust at Facebook and Google — coming up with a framework tailor made to take on their market power — has caught the eye of other policymakers and competition regulators.

The chief of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, Andrea Coscelli, said this week that he’s watching the media code with interest as the UK government moves at a clip to set up a pro-competition regulator with the aim of reining in big tech, calling Australia’s approach of having a backstop of mandatory arbitration if commercial negotiations fail “a sensible one”.

“We are definitely following what’s happening in Australia,” he told the BBC. “We think they are dealing with problems we have in the UK as well and they are coming up with possible solutions to that. There are many variants to it but certainly I think it’s a very important data point for what we could in the UK.”

Asked if the UK should follow Australia’s example, Coscelli gave a cautious thumbs up to something along those lines, saying: “We have said we should also think about fair trading between publishers and the platforms for news content. So I know both government and parliament is certainly interested in what’s happening in Australia — and potentially thinking about something similar.”

#australia, #facebook, #google, #media, #news-media, #platform-regulation, #policy, #social

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Australia’s Social Media Law Won’t Save Journalism

Google and Facebook have objected to a law that will require them to pay media outlets for content. But the legislation won’t protect the businesses it aims to help.

#australia, #computers-and-the-internet, #facebook-inc, #google-inc, #news-and-news-media, #newspapers, #politics-and-government, #social-media

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Brittany Higgins Files Police Report on Parliament House Rape Claim

Brittany Higgins has filed a formal police report against a former government employee who she said raped her in Australia’s Parliament House in 2019, roiling the government.

#australia, #higgins-brittany, #morrison-scott-1968, #politics-and-government, #reynolds-linda-1965, #sex-crimes, #women-and-girls, #womens-rights

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Facebook to reverse Australia news ban after lawmakers alter bill

Facebook logo on a street sign outside a wooded campus.

Enlarge / Facebook’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters as seen in 2017. (credit: Jason Doiy | Getty Images)

Facebook has apparently emerged victorious from its standoff with the entire nation of Australia, as lawmakers in that country have agreed to amend a proposed law that would have required Facebook to pay publishers for news content linked on its platform.

The social networking giant last week banned all news posts both in and from Australia to protest a bill under discussion in Parliament. Users inside Australia became unable to share news links of any kind from any source, and users outside Australia became unable to share links from Australian media. Facebook at the time argued that the proposed law “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content.”

Facebook’s ban turned out to be an extremely blunt instrument, blocking sharing not only of news inside Australia but also of public communications from the government, pages for nonprofit organizations and charities, and other Australian organizations that tried to share links to off-Facebook sites. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison blasted Facebook over the ban, saying last week, “We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code.”

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#australia, #bills, #facebook, #games-of-chicken, #laws, #news, #policy

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Facebook to restore news sharing in Australia after government amends proposed law

Facebook said it will begin restoring news sharing to Australian users’ feeds in “the coming days” after reaching an agreement with the country’s government. The social media giant made the drastic move of restricting news content in Australia last Wednesday after a dispute over a proposed media bargaining code that is expected to be voted into law soon. The code would have forced Facebook, and other major tech companies like Google, to make revenue-sharing agreements with publishers for content posted to their social media platforms.

Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg said changes have been made to the code to “provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the Code is intended to operate and strengthen the framework for ensuring news media businesses are fairly remunerated,” reported Seven News.

The amendments mean the code now includes a two-month mediation period to allow digital platforms like Facebook and publishers to agree on deals before they are forced to enter into arbitration. The Australian government will also consider commercial agreements tech platforms have already made with local publishers before deciding if the code applies to them, and give them one month’s notice before reaching a final decision.

William Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia and New Zealand, said in a statement that the company was “satisfied” with the changes, adding that they addressed Facebook’s “core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognize the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them.”

Facebook’s restrictions last week meant Australian publishers were restricted from sharing or posting content from Facebook Pages, and users in Australia were unable to view or share Australian or international news content.

The Australian government announced in April 2020 it would adopt a mandatory code ordering Google, Facebook and other tech giants to pay local media for reusing their content, after an earlier attempt to create a voluntary code with the companies stalled.

As it lobbied against the proposed law, Facebook first threatened to restrict the public sharing of news content in Australia last September. Google also claimed that user experience in Australia would suffer and suggested it may no longer be able to offer free services in the country.

#australia, #facebook, #news, #policy, #publishing, #social-media, #tc

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Facebook Strikes Deal to Restore News Sharing in Australia

The agreement means users and publishers in Australia can once again share links to news articles, after Facebook had blocked the practice last week.

#australia, #brown-campbell, #computers-and-the-internet, #facebook-inc, #frydenberg-josh, #law-and-legislation, #news-and-news-media, #politics-and-government, #social-media

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Australian Open Offered Unexpected Lessons About Pandemic Sports

The goal was to hold a major international sports event without putting public health at risk. Mission accomplished, but pulling it off presented major, unforeseen challenges and many sleepless nights.

#australia, #australian-open-tennis, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #melbourne-australia, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #quarantines, #tennis, #tennis-australia-ltd

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A New-Media Showdown in Australia

What to make of a proposed law that would require tech companies to pay for news that appears on their platforms.

#australia, #facebook-inc, #google-inc, #news-corporation, #newspapers, #social-media

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Facebook news ban is “arrogant,” Australia will not be “intimidated,” PM says

News is still very much happening both around the world and in Australia... but you wouldn't know it if you're one of the tens of millions of Australian Facebook users.

Enlarge / News is still very much happening both around the world and in Australia… but you wouldn’t know it if you’re one of the tens of millions of Australian Facebook users. (credit: Brent Lewin | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

A long-simmering battle between tech firms and the government of Australia became explosive yesterday when Facebook announced that it would block all linking of news publications inside the country. Not only has this change affected Australian and international news publishers, but Facebook’s wide net has also caught up governments, nonprofits, and basically anyone else in Australia who posts non-news content to the platform.

Australian lawmakers have been considering a bill that would require Internet platforms such as Google and Facebook (“digital platform corporations”) to negotiate in good faith with news outlets (“registered news business corporations”) to link to their content. If the outlets and the platforms can’t reach a deal on their own, they would have to go to baseball-style arbitration, where a neutral third-party arbitrator would decide whose offer is the better one.

The bill would at first apply to only two companies: Google and Facebook. Both, as you might expect, have expressed consistent opposition to the bill. (Microsoft, operator of remote second-place search engine Bing—which captures between 2 and 3 percent of the market—does not oppose the rules that would apply to its largest competitor.)

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#australia, #facebook, #google, #policy

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Facebook applies overly broad content block in flex against Australia’s planned news reuse law

Outrage fast-followed Facebook’s announcement yesterday that it was making good on its threat to block Australian users’ ability to share news on its platform.

The tech giant’s intentionally broad-brush — call it antisocial — implementation of content restrictions took down a swathe of non-news publishers’ Facebook pages, as well as silencing news outlets’, illustrating its planned dodge of the (future) law.

Facebook took the step to censor a bunch of pages as parliamentarians in Australia are debating a legislative proposal to force Facebook (and Google) to pay publishers for linking to their news content. In recent years the media industry in the country has successfully lobbied for a law to extract payment from the tech giants for monetizing news content when it’s reshared on their platforms — though the legislation is still being drafted.

Last month Google also threatened to close its search engine in Australia if the law isn’t amended. But it’s Facebook that screwed its courage to the sticking place and flipped the chaos switch first.

Last night Internet users in Australia took to Twitter to report local scores of Facebook pages being wiped clean of content — including hospitals, universities, unions, government departments and the bureau of meteorology, to name a few.

 

In the wake of Facebook’s unilateral censorship of all sorts of Facebook pages, parliamentarians in the country accused the tech giant of “an assault on a sovereign nation”.

The prime minister of Australia also said today that his government “would not be intimidated”.

Reached for comment, Facebook confirmed it has applied an intentionally broad definition of news to restrict — saying it has done so to reflect the lack of clear guidance in the law “as drafted”.

So it looks like the collateral damage of Facebook silencing scores of public information pages is at least partly a PR tactic to illustrate potential ‘consequences’ of lawmakers forcing it to pay to display certain types of content — i.e. to ‘encourage’ a rethink while there’s still time.

The tech giant did also say it would reverse pages that are “inadvertently impacted”.

But it did not indicate whether it would be doing the leg work of checking its own homework there, or whether silenced pages must (somehow) petition it to be reinstated.

“The actions we’re taking are focused on restricting publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content. As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted. However, we will reverse any Pages that are inadvertently impacted,” a Facebook company spokesperson said in the statement.

It’s also not clear how many non-news pages have been affected by Facebook’s self-imposed content restrictions.

If the tech giant was hoping to kick off a wider debate about the merits of Australia’s (controversial) plan to make tech pay for news (including in its current guise, for links to news — not just snippets of content, as under the EU’s recent copyright reform expansion of neighbouring rights for news) — Facebook has certainly succeeded in grabbing global eyeballs by blocking regional access to vast swathes of useful, factual information.

However Facebook’s blunt action has also attracted criticism that it’s putting business interests before human rights — given it’s shuttering users’ ability to find what might be vital information, such as from hospitals and government departments, in the middle of a pandemic. (Albeit, being accused of ignoring human rights is hardly a new look for Facebook.)

The Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff’s academic critique of surveillance capitalism — including that it engages in propagating “epistemic chaos” for profit — has perhaps never felt quite so on the nose. (“We turned to Facebook in search of information. Instead we found lethal strategies of epistemic chaos for profit,” she wrote only last month.)

Facebook’s intentional over-flex has also underscored the vast power of its social monopoly — which will likely only strengthen calls for policymakers and antitrust regulators everywhere to grasp the nettle and rein in big tech. So its local lobbying effort may backfire on the global stage if it further sours public opinion against the scandal-hit company.

Facebook’s rush to censor may even encourage a proportion of its users to remember/discover that there’s a whole open Internet outside its walled garden — where they can freely access public information without having to log into Facebook’s ad-targeting platform (and be stripped of their privacy) first.

As others have noted, it’s also interesting to note how quickly Facebook can pull the content moderation trigger when it believes its bottom line is threatened. And a law to extract payment for sharing news content presents a clear threat.

Compare and contrast Facebook’s rush to silence information pages in Australia with its laid back approach to tackling outrage-inducing hate speech or violent conspiracy nonsense and it’s hard not to conclude that content moderation on (and by) Facebook is always viewed through the prism of Facebook’s global revenue growth goals. (Much like how the tech giant can here be seen in a court filing chainlinking revenue to its self-reported ad metric tools.)

#australia, #censorship, #facebook, #media, #news, #platform-regulation, #policy, #social

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Facebook’s New Look in Australia: News and Hospitals Out, Aliens Still In

The social network’s decision to block journalism rather than pay for it erased more than expected, leaving many outraged and debating what should happen next.

#australia, #censorship, #news-and-news-media, #social-media

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Facebook goes nuclear, banning all news posts in Australia

A man in a suit seems concerned.

Enlarge / Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the Munich Security Conference in 2020. (credit: CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

Facebook has gone nuclear in its long-running battle with the Australian government over news content. Australia is considering legislation that would require Facebook to pay to link to Australian news stories. In response, Facebook has announced a wide-ranging ban on users linking Australian news content.

The ban means that Facebook users in Australia can no longer make posts that link to news articles—either in the Australian media or internationally. Meanwhile, users outside of Australia can’t post links to Australian news sources. The ban has already gone into effect, as I discovered when I tried to post a link to The Sydney Morning Herald on Facebook:

Facebook says that Australian news publishers will be blocked from sharing or posting content to their Facebook pages. Posts by news publishers outside of Australia won’t be available to Australian users.

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#australia, #facebook, #link-tax, #policy

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Facebook restricts users in Australia from sharing or viewing news links

Australian Facebook users will be forced to go elsewhere to read news after the company announced Wednesday that they will be restricting users in the country from sharing or viewing news links on the platform. The drastic move follows debate on proposed legislation from the Australian government that seeks to push internet platforms — with a particular focus on advertising giants Facebook and Google — to pay news publishers directly for access to share their content.

Pulling back entirely was a nuclear option for Facebook which had previously floated the possibility. In a blog post, the company sought to minimize the material impact of the decision to Facebook’s bottom line, while emphasizing what the move will cost users in Australia and around the globe. The company disclosed that just 4% of the content in Australian users’ feeds was news, though the platform did not break out other engagement metrics tied to news consumption.

In their post, Facebook sought to drive a distinction between how news content was shared on Facebook by users while content is algorithmically curated by Google inside their search product. “Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content,” William Easton, Facebook’s managing director for the region, wrote. “On the other hand, publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook, as it allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue.”

Google has already begun working with publishers to drive lump sum payments so that they continue to surface news content in the country, striking a deal Wednesday with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, despite their own earlier threats to shut down in Australia. Facebook’s action has ramifications for global users outside Australia who will be unable to share links on the platform to news publications based in the country.

This legislation is an aggressive example of regional legislation having the potential to drive global change for how internet platforms continue to operate. It’s clear that plenty of other countries are watching this saga play out. Facebook taking a hard line approach while Google seeks to strike private deals to stay active showcases different approaches from very different platforms being forced to reckon with how they operate in the future.

#australia, #computing, #facebook, #facebook-platform, #google, #murdoch, #news-corp, #rupert-murdoch, #social-media, #software, #tc, #world-wide-web

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Serena Williams’s Catsuit Already Won the Australian Open

The tennis champion is changing the game in multiple ways.

#australia, #australian-open-tennis, #black-people, #dresses, #fashion-and-apparel, #french-open-tennis, #griffith-joyner-florence, #tennis, #williams-serena, #women-and-girls, #your-feed-fashion

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Aslan Karatsev of Russia Continues an Unlikely Run at Australian Open

The unknown Russian became one of the few players to make the semifinal of a Grand Slam after surviving the qualifying tournament.

#aslan-karatsev, #australia, #australian-open-tennis, #israel, #russia, #tennis

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Brittany Higgins’s Parliament Rape Claim Roils Australia

A former government staff member said she had been made to choose between going to the police and keeping her job. The government expressed regret if she “felt unsupported.”

#australia, #liberal-party-australia, #politics-and-government, #sex-crimes, #women-and-girls

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An American Made Week 2 at the Australian Open. He Avoided Djokovic and Nadal.

The next generation of American men are still searching for a big win on a Grand Slam stage against the best players.

#australia, #australian-open-tennis, #djokovic-novak, #fritz-taylor-harry-1997, #isner-john, #mcdonald-mackenzie, #melbourne-australia, #mmoh-michael-1998, #nadal-rafael, #querrey-sam-1987, #united-states-tennis-assn

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Trust Me, Sports Without Fans Is Not Sports

For five days the Australian Open had cozy stadiums half-filled with fervent fans, and sports once again felt normal. Then a snap lockdown quieted the stands.

#australia, #australian-open-tennis, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #djokovic-novak, #kyrgios-nick, #melbourne-australia, #tennis, #williams-serena

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Australia’s ‘Rebel Reverend’ Goes Viral With Barbed Liberal Messages

The Rev. Rod Bower became a national sensation with pugnacious political signs shared by millions over social media. Now he’s questioning the internet dynamics that made him famous.

#anglican-churches, #australia, #bower-rod-1962, #content-type-personal-profile, #discrimination, #gosford-australia, #politics-and-government, #priests, #signs-and-signage, #social-media

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Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios Trade Shots Off the Court

A squabble at the Australian Open between stars with different styles.

#australia, #australian-open-tennis, #djokovic-novak, #kyrgios-nick, #quarantines, #tennis

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At the Australian Open, Bianca Andreescu Is the Great Unknown

She won the United States Open in 2019 but has barely played since then because of injury and the pandemic. Yet it is after long layoffs she has been the most dangerous.

#andreescu-bianca, #australia, #australian-open-tennis, #tennis

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At the Australian Open, Sports Flirts With Normalcy

Fans, noise, lines for food and booze. In a country that has the coronavirus under control, a tennis championship delivers a glimpse of what sports can one day be again.

#australia, #australian-open-tennis, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #osaka-naomi-1997, #tennis

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China Arrests Cheng Lei, Australian Host for Chinese State TV

The case of Cheng Lei, a CGTN host who was detained in August, has added to tensions between China and Australia.

#australia, #cheng-lei, #china, #china-global-television-network-cgtn, #classified-information-and-state-secrets, #international-relations, #news-and-news-media

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For Melburnians, the Australian Open Tests Anxieties About the Virus

Australians have gone to great lengths to control the coronavirus. And some don’t want to throw that away for a tennis tournament.

#andrews-daniel-1972, #australia, #australian-open-tennis, #barty-ashleigh, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #kyrgios-nick, #melbourne-australia, #tennis, #tennis-australia-ltd

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As the Tennis Party in Australia Begins, an Uncertain Year Awaits

Officials in Australia moved mountains to make the country’s annual professional tennis swing happen. That will be far more difficult after the tour leaves this isolated island nation.

#assn-of-tennis-professionals, #australia, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #djokovic-novak, #melbourne-australia, #nadal-rafael, #osaka-naomi-1997, #quarantines, #tennis, #tennis-australia-ltd, #williams-serena, #womens-tennis-assn

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Microsoft backs Australian law forcing Google to pay for news links

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. (credit: Microsoft)

Google has portrayed itself as a defender of the open Internet as it battles an Australian proposal to force Google and Facebook to pay Australian news organizations to link to their articles. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, has argued that the ability to link to content without paying is “fundamental to how the Web operates.”

Google has warned that if the proposal becomes law, the company may exit the Australian search market altogether.

But Microsoft, one of Google’s top search competitors, isn’t rallying to defend the principle of free linking. “While Microsoft is not subject to the legislation currently pending, we’d be willing to live by these rules,” Microsoft said of the Australian proposal in a statement to Reuters.

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#australia, #google, #link-tax, #microsoft, #policy, #search

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First Came the Lockdown. Then Came the Wildfire.

Residents on the outskirts of Perth in Western Australia fled their homes in the middle of the night, just days after being told to stay in because of the coronavirus.

#australia, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #fires-and-firefighters, #perth-australia, #wildfires

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One Coronavirus Case, Total Lockdown: Australia’s Lessons for the World

The country’s short, sharp responses have repeatedly subdued the virus and allowed a return to near normalcy. Now its model is being applied to Perth, its fourth-largest city.

#australia, #contact-tracing-public-health, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #perth-australia, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #quarantines

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DesignCrowd raises $10 million AUD to grow its DIY platform, BrandCrowd

DesignCrowd announced today it has raised $10 million AUD (about $7.6 billion USD) in pre-IPO funding. The capital will be used on hiring and product development, with the goal of accelerating the growth of BrandCrowd, its DIY platform.

The new funding comes as DesignCrowd gets ready for a potential initial public offering on the Australian Securities Exchange. The round’s investors include Perennial Value Management, Alium Capital, Ellerston Capital, Regal Funds Managemetn and CVC, along with returning backers Starfish Ventures and AirTree Ventures. DesignCrowd has now raised more than $22 million AUD in total.

Founded in 2007 and based in Sydney, Australia, DesignCrowd built its reputation as a design crowdsourcing platform, allowing users to get proposals from designers around the world. BrandCrowd was launched to complement DesignCrowd’s crowdsourcing/marketplace model, expanding its potential user base and differentiating it from other sites people use to find designers, like 99designs and Fiverr.

While there are other DIY logo makers aimed at entrepreneurs and small brands, including tools from Design Hill, Canva and Tailor Brands, BrandCrowd had an advantage from the start because it already has access to more than 800,000 designers through DesignCrowd, allowing the company to find the best logo designers from around the world for its library, said co-founder and chief executive officer Alec Lynch. BrandCrowd prefers to buy designs upfront before publishing them, since all logos are exclusive to the platform (users can pay an extra fee to remove logos from its library).

BrandCrowd customers pay a one-off fee to download a logo and can sign up for monthly or annual subscriptions. Many use both platforms, Lynch said.

“For example, if a small business wants to start by getting a custom logo design from a designer on DesignCrowd, we then allow them to use that logo in our DIY design tools on BrandCrowd to make everything else they might need, from business card designs to Instagram posts and email signature,” said Lynch. “They can even make modifications to their logo on BrandCrowd using our logo editor tool.”

DesignCrowd’s net revenues in 2020 grew 54% year-over-year, due primarily to BrandCrowd. The company says BrandCrowd saw over five million sign-ups over the past 12 months, with more than half of its revenue from the United States.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company experienced some headwinds in March and April 2020, Lynch said, but then global demand for online design rebounded and began increasing.

“Our hypothesis is that the pandemic led to more people starting new businesses in the second half of 2020 and more people needing design for those businesses, which was helpful for us,” he added. “In addition to this small ‘boom’ in small businesses starting, we think the pandemic has probably accelerated an existing trend of businesses sourcing design online rather than offline.”

#australia, #brandcrowd, #branding, #design, #designcrowd, #designers, #diy, #fundings-exits, #logos, #startups, #tc

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Cody Simpson, Pop Star, Wants to Be Cody Simpson, Olympian

Cody Simpson has been a singer, a dancer, an actor and an author. Now, with support from Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe, he is resurrecting a childhood swimming dream.

#australia, #music, #olympic-games-2024, #phelps-michael, #simpson-cody, #swimming

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The Australian Open will allow up to 30,000 spectators a day.

Such numbers would make the tennis tournament a sports rarity during the pandemic, though attendance would still be down by about half from a normal year.

#australia, #australian-open-tennis, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #internal-essential, #quarantines, #tennis

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20 Wines Under $20: Postcards From Around the World

In a pandemic era, when traveling is largely out of the question, these wines, good values all, can take you on a trip around the globe.

#argentina, #australia, #austria, #california, #chile, #france, #grapes, #greece, #italy, #portugal, #wines

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Australia Day: A Day of Celebration or Mourning?

For many, it’s a chance to kick back at beaches and barbecues. But for protesters who took to the streets on Tuesday, it’s a mark of the country’s shameful treatment of Indigenous people: Invasion Day.

#australia, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #holidays-and-special-occasions, #indigenous-australians

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Israel Extradites Teacher Accused of Abuse in Australia, Reports Say

Malka Leifer, who fled to Israel, faces 74 counts of sexual abuse related to her tenure as a principal at a Jewish girls’ school in Melbourne.

#australia, #child-abuse-and-neglect, #deportation, #extradition, #israel, #leifer-malka, #melbourne-australia, #principals-school, #sex-crimes

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Asia’s ‘El Chapo’ Is Arrested in Amsterdam

Tse Chi Lop, said to be the leader of a multibillion-dollar drug syndicate, was arrested in Amsterdam and faces extradition to Australia.

#amsterdam-netherlands, #australia, #drug-abuse-and-traffic, #interpol-international-criminal-police-organization, #methamphetamines

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Ahead of the Australian Open, 2 Wild Weeks of Practice

The organizers of the Australian Open promised local residents that the tournament would not set off a coronavirus outbreak. Making good on that promise is very complex.

#australia, #australian-open-tennis, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #melbourne-australia, #quarantines, #tennis-australia-ltd

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Google: We’ll shut down Australian search before we pay news sites

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, criticized the Australian proposal.

Enlarge / Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, criticized the Australian proposal. (credit: Oliver Berg/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Google says it would have “no real choice” but to shut down its search engine in Australia if Australia passes a new law requiring Google to pay news sites to link to their articles. This would “set an untenable precedent for our business and the digital economy,” said Google’s Mel Silva in Friday testimony before the Australian Senate.

News organizations around the world have been struggling financially over the last decade or two. Many have blamed Internet companies like Google and Facebook that—in their view—have diverted advertising revenue that once went to news organizations. Some in the news industry argue that Google benefits from including news stories in its search results and should compensate news sites for the privilege of doing so.

So last year the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission proposed a new mandatory arbitration process designed to correct a supposed power imbalance between tech giants and Australian news sites. Under the new framework, news sites can demand that tech platforms (initially Google and Facebook) pay them for linking to their stories. Google and Facebook are required to negotiate “in good faith” toward a payment agreement.

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#australia, #google, #policy

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Google threatens to close its search engine in Australia as it lobbies against digital news code

Google has threatened to close its search engine in Australia — as it dials up its lobbying against draft legislation that is intended to force it to pay news publishers for reuse of their content.

Facebook would also be subject to the law. And has previously said it would ban news from being shared on its products owing if the law was brought in, as well as claiming it’s reduced its investment in the country as a result of the legislative threat.

“The principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to Search. Coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk if this version of the Code were to become law it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” Google warned today.

Last August the tech giant took another pot-shot at the proposal, warning that the quality of its products in the country could suffer and might stop being free if the government proceeded with a push to make the tech giants share ad revenue with media businesses.

Since last summer Google appears to have changed lobbying tack — apparently giving up its attempt to derail the law entirely in favor of trying to reshape it to minimize the financial impact.

Its latest bit of lobbying is focused on trying to eject the most harmful elements (as it sees it) of the draft legislation — while also pushing its News Showcase program, which it hastily spun up last year, as an alternative model for payments to publishers that it would prefer becomes the vehicle for remittances under the Code.

The draft legislation for Australia’s digital news Code which is currently before the parliament includes a controversial requirement that tech giants, Google and Facebook, pay publishers for linking to their content — not merely for displaying snippets of text.

Yet Google has warned Australia that making it pay for “links and snippets” would break how the Internet works.

In a statement to the Senate Economics Committee today, its VP for Australia and New Zealand, Mel Silva, said: “This provision in the Code would set an untenable precedent for our business, and the digital economy. It’s not compatible with how search engines work, or how the internet works, and this is not just Google’s view — it has been cited in many of the submissions received by this Inquiry.

“The principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to Search. Coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk if this version of the Code were to become law it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia.”

Google is certainly not alone in crying foul over a proposal to require payments for links.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, has warned that the draft legislation “risks breaching a fundamental principle of the web by requiring payment for linking between certain content online”, among other alarmed submissions to the committee.

In written testimony he goes on:

“Before search engines were effective on the web, following links from one page to another was the only way of finding material. Search engines make that process far more effective, but they can only do so by using the link structure of the web as their principal input. So links are fundamental to the web.

“As I understand it, the proposed code seeks to require selected digital platforms to have to negotiate and possibly pay to make links to news content from a particular group of news providers.

“Requiring a charge for a link on the web blocks an important aspect of the value of web content. To my knowledge, there is no current example of legally requiring payments for links to other content. The ability to link freely — meaning without limitations regarding the content of the linked site and without monetary fees — is fundamental to how the web operates, how it has flourished till present, and how it will continue to grow in decades to come.”

However it’s notable that Berners-Lee’s submission does not mention snippets. Not once. It’s all about links.

Meanwhile Google has just reached an agreement with publishers in France — which they say covers payment for snippets of content.

In the EU, the tech giant is subject to an already reformed copyright directive that extended a neighbouring right for news content to cover reuse of snippets of text. Although the directive does not cover links or “very short extracts”.

In France, Google says it’s only paying for content “beyond links and very short extracts”. But it hasn’t said anything about snippets in that context.

French publishers argue the EU law clearly does cover the not-so-short text snippets that Google typically shows in its News aggregator — pointing out that the directive states the exception should not be interpreted in a way that impacts the effectiveness of neighboring rights. So Google looks like it would have a big French fight on its hands if it tried to deny payments for snippets.

But there’s still everything to play for in Australia. Hence, down under, Google is trying to conflate what are really two separate and distinct issues (payment for links vs payment for snippets) — in the hopes of reducing the financial impact vs what’s already baked into EU law. (Although it’s only been actively enforced in France so far, which is ahead of other EU countries in transposing the directive into national law).

In Australia, Google is also heavily pushing for the Code to “designate News Showcase” (aka the program it launched once the legal writing was on the wall about paying publishers) — lobbying for that to be the vehicle whereby it can reach “commercial agreements to pay Australian news publishers for value”.

Of course a commercial negotiation process is preferable (and familiar) to the tech giant vs being bound by the Code’s proposed “final offer arbitration model” — which Google attacks as having “biased criteria”, and claims subjects it to “unmanageable financial and operational risk”.

“If this is replaced with standard commercial arbitration based on comparable deals, this would incentivise good faith negotiations and ensure we’re held accountable by robust dispute resolution,” Silva also argues.

A third provision the tech giant is really keen gets removed from the current draft requires it to give publishers notification ahead of changes to its algorithms which could affect how their content is discovered.

“The algorithm notification provision could be adjusted to require only reasonable notice about significant actionable changes to Google’s algorithm, to make sure publishers are able to respond to changes that affect them,” it suggests on that.

It’s certainly interesting to consider how, over a few years, Google’s position has moved from ‘we’ll never pay for news’ — pre- any relevant legislation — to ‘please let us pay for licensing news through our proprietary licensing program’ once the EU had passed a directive now being very actively enforced in France (with the help of competition law) and also with Australia moving toward inking a similar law.

Turns out legislation can be a real tech giant mind-changer.

Of course the idea of making anyone pay to link to content online is obviously a terrible idea — and should be dropped.

But if that bit of the draft is a negotiating tactic by Australians lawmakers to get Google to accept that it will have to pay publishers something then it appears to be winning one.

And while Google’s threat to close down its search engine might sound ‘full on’, as Silva suggests, when you consider how many alternative search engines exist it’s hardly the threat it once was.

Especially as plenty of alternative search engines are a lot less abusive toward users’ privacy.

#australia, #google, #legislation, #media, #news, #policy, #search-engines

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Margaret Court to Get a Top Australian Honor, Drawing Outrage

Margaret Court, an Australian record breaker known for her homophobic comments, is set to receive one of the nation’s highest public service awards.

#australia, #awards-decorations-and-honors, #court-margaret, #homosexuality-and-bisexuality, #same-sex-marriage-civil-unions-and-domestic-partnerships, #tennis

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Gordon Hookey and Gary Simmons: A Shared Language of Struggle

The Australian painter Gordon Hookey and the Los Angeles artist Gary Simmons found they had many things in common. Sports is just one of them.

#art, #australia, #black-people, #content-type-personal-profile, #fort-gansevoort-manhattan-ny, #hookey-gordon, #indigenous-australians, #manhattan-nyc, #race-and-ethnicity, #sacred-nation-scared-nation-exhibit, #simmons-gary

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An Australia With No Google? The Bitter Fight Behind a Drastic Threat

The big tech platforms are facing a challenge unlike any other as Australia moves to make them pay for news.

#australia, #computers-and-the-internet, #facebook-inc, #google-inc, #law-and-legislation, #news-and-news-media, #politics-and-government, #social-media

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Saying Goodbye to Melbourne’s Weird and Wonderful Taxidermy

Donald J. Trump is not the only one departing

#australia, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #melbourne-australia, #museums, #otters-animals

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Locked Up in a Hotel for a Year, Then a Sudden Taste of Freedom

Asylum seekers detained in Australian hotels, deprived of sunlight and sometimes fresh air, had no idea how long their ordeal would last. For some, it’s now over.

#accor-sa, #asylum-right-of, #australia, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #immigration-and-emigration, #immigration-detention, #manus-island-papua-new-guinea, #nauru

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India Celebrates as Cricket Team Humbles Australia on Its Own Turf

The sport is an unmatched national passion, and the turnaround victory was a welcome release at a time of Covid-19 and economic hardship.

#australia, #brisbane-australia, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #cricket-game, #india, #indian-premier-league

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Rash of Coronavirus Cases Poses Early Challenge for the Australian Open

With several positive tests among people arriving from abroad, and a strict quarantine, the Australian Open is not going the way organizers expected it would.

#andrews-daniel-1972, #australia, #australian-open-tennis, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #djokovic-novak, #melbourne-australia, #quarantines, #tennis, #tennis-australia-ltd, #victoria-australia

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With Positive Tests, the Rules Change for Some Players in Australia

After three people on two charter flights tested positive for the coronavirus, 47 players will not be allowed to practice for two weeks.

#airlines-and-airplanes, #australia, #australian-open-tennis, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #melbourne-australia, #quarantines, #tennis, #tennis-australia-ltd

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From the Capitol to Australian Skies, Misinformation Finds Supporters

Australia’s ruling party defends its own, even when colleagues spread misinformation about the Capitol siege and the coronavirus. Why?

#australia, #morrison-scott-1968, #politics-and-government, #rumors-and-misinformation, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #trump-donald-j

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Australia’s States Are Feuding Like Siblings. What Else to Do but Laugh?

Australians are facing a messy patchwork of border restrictions that lock out both the coronavirus and fellow citizens. A new ad offers a biting, if humorous, commentary on the state of affairs.

#australia, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #morrison-scott-1968, #roads-and-traffic, #travel-and-vacations

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