Open Letter On Google’s Attack on Journalists in Europe

This is an open letter regarding Google’s serious and abiding rejection of the law in Europe requiring payments for Google’s use of news clips.  If you’re interested in being a signatory, details are here.

Google once again above the law?

This Thursday, October 24, should have been an important date in the history of the internet. With new European copyright protections entering into legal force in France, the press should for the first time be receiving fair compensation for the news content that it produces and is then spread on Google, Facebook and other major platforms.

As journalists we have fought long for this protection. Because quality news costs money to produce. Because the existing situation, in which Google enjoys most of the advertising revenue generated by the news that it rakes in without any payment, is untenable and has plunged the media into a crisis that is deepening each year.

The European Parliament voted for the copyright directive in March. The French parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of enacting this copyright protection into French law in July, and this move is soon to be followed by parliaments in other EU states.
Yet the law risks being stripped of all meaning before it even comes into force.Slamming the door on any negotiation, Google has cynically offered the media a choice between two bad deals.

On the one hand, the media are asked to sign a blank cheque to Google renouncing any payment for the use of their news. This would mean accepting the slow death that is emptying newsrooms in Europe as it has already done in the United States.

On the other hand, media may refuse to do so, holding out for fair payment. But Google promises them a formidable form of retaliation: reducing the visibility of their news content to a bare minimum. No photos or text would appear when users search for their news. Just a snippet of a headline, no more.

That would be suicide for the press. Because before landing on any news site, most users are guided by the world’s dominant search engine: Google. Other search engines are just not big enough. News editors know this: they simply do not have the financial means to survive the resulting plunge in internet traffic.

Google is making a ridicule of the law. It is exploiting the subtleties of national law so as to thwart its spirit. Just as it has done with national fiscal laws so as to avoid paying its fair share of taxes on a global scale.It is a fresh insult to national and European sovereignty. Google wants to demonstrate the powerlessness of public authorities to regulate platforms, and force the media to bend to its will and accept a principle of receiving no payment for its news content.

Google prefers to paint itself as being magnanimous, boasting of the financing it proposes for innovative media projects, a diversion that amounts to crumbs from the table of a group that enjoys annual revenues of $140 billion.

Now that disinformation campaigns are infecting the internet and social networks, and independent journalism is under attack in several countries within the European Union, surrendering would be a catastrophe.

We call on the public decision-makers to fight back. They must strengthen the copyright laws to prevent Google from hijacking them, and roll out a battery of measures to stop Google from abusing its overwhelming dominance in the global search-engine market.

On our side, we are calling for public support and we will lead this fight because at stake is the survival of a diverse and independent media, and the strength of our democracy.

As Predicted, Google Refuses to Comply with EU Copyright Directive #ThisIsWhatMonopolyLooksLike

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Journalist enemy #1

The first time I met with the French Minister of Culture, we met at their offices at the historic Palais-Royal complex which is also home to the Comédie-Française, the oldest active theater group in the world (founded in 1630).  The French take their culture very seriously.  One would do well to remember that in your dealings with them.

But of course, Google doesn’t give a rip about France, culture, French culture or the French Minister of Culture.  And as predicted, Google are refusing to comply with the new European Copyright Directive as transposed into French law.  (Once passed by the European Parliament, the Directive must be implemented at the nation state level–Google has no time for the nation state, either.  The law goes into effect in France on October 24.)

Having suffered a spectacular loss in the European Parliament, the American multinational Internet company is now going to bring Silicon Valley justice to France.

Agence France-Presse reports:

Google said Wednesday it will not pay European media outlets for using their articles, pictures and videos in its searches in France, in a move that will undercut a new EU copyright law.

The tech giant said it would only display content in its search engine results and on Google News from media groups who had given their permission for it to be used for free.

The announcement, which will result in free content gaining higher visibility, comes after France became the first EU country to adopt the bloc’s wide-ranging copyright reform in July….Google had warned after the European Parliament vote that the change would “lead to legal uncertainty and will hurt Europe’s creative and digital economies.”

Of course what Google meant was that Google will do everything Google can to hurt Europe’s digital and creative communities because they’re pissed.  Make no mistake, it’s not Google’s compliance with the law that is producing harm in France, it is Google’s refusal to comply that does so.

French President Macron made the country’s position clear:

“A company, even a very large company, cannot get away with it when it decides to operate in France,” the French president insisted, during a visit to mark the centenary of the La Montagne newspaper in the city of Clermont-Ferrand in central France.

“We are going to start implementing the law,” he said.

According to Emmanuel Legrand’s excellent newsletter, Google is refusing to pay French news publishers for free-riding on their expensive news when delivered in Google’s massive monopoly on news aka search results:

French minister of culture Franck Riester was particularly incensed by Google’s decision. “I met with the head of Google News [Richard Gingras] this morning at the Ministry of Culture,” said Riester to journalists on the day Google made its decision public. “I sent him a very strong message about the need to build win-win partnerships with publishers and news agencies and journalists. The answer he gave me a few minutes later was stonewalling. This is unacceptable.”

Apparently this philistine from Silicon Valley not only has no respect for the law or the democratic process, he also has no respect for French culture.  Be clear on this–the French law was passed in the European Parliament over Google’s unprecedented astroturf lobbying campaign AND it was passed at the national parliament IN FRANCE.  The people were heard TWICE.

And if Mr. Gingras wasn’t insulting enough to Europeans and the French people from his cozy option-packed Silicon Valley enclave, he sure doesn’t know how to handle himself with the French minister of culture.  Here’s a hot tip–the Peter Pan thing is not a good look outside the Googleplex paedocracy.

But understand this–as I predicted, Google has no intention of complying with the Copyright Directive and will dump as much money as it takes in legal fees, PR campaigns, fake news and astroturf until it has exhausted all possible claims, trials, appeals, lobbying, the works.  Why?

Because THEY LOST AND THEY ARE PISSED.  What you are about to see play out is what happens when the richest and most powerful media company in commercial history strikes back.  What happens when the Silicon Valley company with control over the world’s newspapers says a people should know when they’re conquered.  No blow is too low.  And I keep saying, there’s only one thing they understand which is not fines.  You can’t get fines big enough to hurt them.

What gets their attention is anything that affects their behavior–and that means injunctions or prison.  They have no appreciation for anything we do to create music, movies, news, photographs, illustrations or any other work of authorship.  For them, it’s there for the taking.

In a prescient 2008 book review (entitled “Google the Destroyer“) of Nicholas Carr’s The Google Enigma, antitrust scholar Jim DeLong gives an elegant explanation of Google’s thuggish behavior:

Carr’s Google Enigma made a familiar business strategy point: companies that provide one component of a system love to commoditize the other components, the complements to their own products, because that leaves more of the value of the total stack available for the commoditizer….Carr noted that Google is unusual because of the large number of products and services that can be complements to the search function, including basic production of content and its distribution, along with anything else that can be used to gather eyeballs for advertising. Google’s incentives to reduce the costs of complements so as to harvest more eyeballs to view advertising are immense….This point is indeed true, and so is an additional point. In most circumstances, the commoditizer’s goal is restrained by knowledge that enough money must be left in the system to support the creation of the complements….

Google is in a different position. Its major complements already exist, and it need not worry in the short term about continuing the flow. For content, we have decades of music and movies that can be digitized and then distributed, with advertising attached. A wealth of other works await digitizing – [news,] books, maps, visual arts, and so on. If these run out, Google and other Internet companies have hit on the concept of user-generated content and social networks, in which the users are sold to each other, with yet more advertising attached.

So, on the whole, Google can continue to do well even if leaves providers of is complements gasping like fish on a beach.

What you’re seeing in France is the onset of gasping.

@jennifer.blakely: My Time at Google and After

The #MeToo Movement has been the beginning of a sea change for women, exposing the double standard between women and men in the workplace oftentimes resulting in abuse toward women. I was moved to tears by the walkout of 20,000 Google employees after the New York Times published an article detailing how the company protects its “elite men.” I lived through it first hand and I believe a company’s culture, its behavioral patterns, start at the top. Rarely do we hear about what happens to women after they are forced out of their jobs but I can tell you what happened to me.

Read the post on Medium

@kellymakena: New bill would ban autoplay videos and endless scrolling

Snapstreaks, YouTube autoplay, and endless scrolling are all coming under fire from a new bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), targeting the tech industry’s “addictive” design.

Hawley’s Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act, or the SMART Act, would ban these features that work to keep users on platforms longer, along with others, like Snapstreaks, that incentivize the continued use of these products. If approved, the Federal Trade Commission and Health and Human Services could create similar rules that would expire after three years unless Congress codified them into law.

“Big tech has embraced a business model of addiction,” Hawley said. “Too much of the ‘innovation’ in this space is designed not to create better products, but to capture more attention by using psychological tricks that make it difficult to look away.”

Read the post on The Verge

[Editor Charlie sez:  Remember “Nicotine is not Addictive” Senator Wyden?  Here’s your chance to reprise your role in the consumer protection movie.]

Wyden Tobacco

 

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Zuck, is that you?

@akarl_smith: After years of big spending, tech’s political machine turns to high gear

[Editor Charlie sez:  Practically the same lineup that attacked Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood for trying to make Google come clean about violating the Controlled Substances Act in breach of both their NonProsecution Agreement and their shareholder lawsuit settlement.]

“I’ve never seen pushback in such a fashion before,” Terry Schilling, executive director of the American Principles Project, told NBC News.

NBC News reports that:

‘Every one of those think tanks and advocacy groups is backed by Google, Facebook or both:

TechFreedom, a tech-focused Washington nonprofit…the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a tech-focused civil liberties nonprofit…Engine Advocacy, an organization that advocates for policies that help startups…the Computer & Communications Industry Association [the main trade association for Big Tech]…Those concerns were echoed by a litany of conservative and libertarian-leaning think tanks. Libertarian think tank R Street…the Competitive Enterprise Institute, another conservative think tank, the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, and Americans for Prosperity lambasted the proposal too, calling it “the latest potential disaster” that “would blow up the internet.”‘

Read the post on NBC News

EFF Shill

julie samuels 2

PK Google Shills

@DarrenLoucaides: HOW THE EU’S FAR RIGHT WILL BOOST GOOGLE, FACEBOOK, AND AMAZON

[Editor Charlie sez:  Spoiler alert!  The answer is “Yes”!]

With right-wing populists expected to make big gains overall in the European elections, further legislation to rein in Silicon Valley could struggle to pass. In recent months, EU leaders have discussed imposing new digital taxes on the revenues of Big Tech companies; those efforts might not find support among Europe’s new parliamentarians. And the EU’s incipient antitrust crackdown against Big Tech—which now involves probes of Amazon and Google—could face stumbling blocks. Could Big Tech find itself depending on the votes of far-right, populist politicians to defend its corner?

Read the post on Wired

Facebook and the Enemy Within: T-Bone Burnett’s Keynote at SXSW 2019

As usual, Henry gives an extremely relevant and literate dissertation on the loss of humanity imposed on us by Big Brother’s youngest sibling, Mark Zuckerberg–the boy who wouldn’t grow up, but who instead created an app for Room 101.

Please listen to T Bone when you have a quiet hour to yourself.