- Last month, Australia rolled out a draft rule that would require Google and Facebook to pay news outlets for their content.
- Regulators claimed the move would help news organizations that were struggling due to falling ad revenue after an inquiry found that for every $100 spent in online advertising, nearly half went to Google and almost a quarter went to Facebook.
- Google used its homepage in Australia to lobby people against the proposal in a popup that linked to an open letter. The letter claimed the rule would hurt Google and YouTube, put their free services at risk, and could lead to personal data being given to news organizations.
- In a blog post also published Monday, YouTube made similar arguments and also claimed the move would hurt small creators.
- Australia’s consumer protection agency disputed the claims and accused Google of spreading “misinformation” in its letter.
Google Lobbies Against Proposed Rule
Google published an open letter Monday alerting users about a proposed law in Australia that would require Google and Facebook to pay news media outlets for news content.
Millions of Australians who visited their local Google homepage received a popup alert which warned that Google’s search engine was at risk of being hurt by a new regulation. That alert linked then links Google users to the company’s letter.
The letter references a draft regulation called the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, which was first rolled out last month. Regulators argued that the new rule was needed to level the playing field for news media organizations, which have for years argued that Facebook and Google should pay them for displaying their content.
In Australia in particular, many news outlets were struggling to stay afloat even before the pandemic because ad revenues have fallen. According to estimates from the Australian Newsroom Mapping Project, since January 2019, over 200 newsrooms have reduced service, closed temporarily, or shut down permanently.
In 2019, a government-lead inquiry that found both Google and Facebook were taking a disproportionate share of ad revenue despite the fact that a lot of their ad content came from news media organizations.
According to The Guardian, the inquiry found that for every $100 spent in online advertising, nearly half of that, or $47, went to Google alone. Facebook took in nearly a quarter at $24, and just $29 went to the rest.
Both Google and Facebook have expressed concerns and opposition to the draft legislation, but Google has taken a much more hardline response.
Google’s Open Letter
In the letter published Monday, Google argued that the proposed regulation “would force us to provide you with a dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube, could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, and would put the free services you use at risk in Australia.”
The letter goes on to claim that the rule would give news companies an “unfair advantage” because they would be “given information that would help them artificially inflate their ranking over everyone else.”
“The proposed changes are not fair and they mean that Google Search results and YouTube will be worse for you,” it stated.
Google also said that the rule would require it to tell news businesses how they can access data about how users utilize their products, and argued, “There’s no way of knowing if any data handed over would be protected, or how it might be used by news media businesses.”
The company additionally claimed in the letter that it already partners with Australian news media, pays them “millions of dollars,” and sends them “billions of free clicks every year.”
“The law is set up to give big media companies special treatment and to encourage them to make enormous and unreasonable demands that would put our free services at risk,” it added.
YouTube’s Blog Post
YouTube also condemned the rule in a blog post published Monday, where the company reiterated many of the same points Google had brought up about preferential treatment and data sharing, broadly claiming it would “have negative consequences for the YouTube Community.”
“There are several areas that deeply concern us about this proposed law because it prioritises the traditional news industry over smaller creators of content and the platforms where they find an audience,” the blog post continued. “We are particularly concerned that it provides unfair advantages to large news businesses over anyone else online, including the very creators that make YouTube, YouTube.”
The post then goes on to make the same argument Google made about giving publishers information that could inflate their ratings, which it claimed meant that creators “could receive fewer views and earn less.”
YouTube also argued the law will “create an uneven playing field when it comes to who makes money on YouTube.”
“Through this law, big news businesses can demand large amounts of money above and beyond what they earn on the platform, leaving fewer funds to invest in you, our creators, and the programmes to help you develop your audience in Australia and around the globe,” it added.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Responds
In a statement responding to Google’s open letter Monday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) accused the company of spreading “misinformation” in its letter.
“Google will not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and YouTube, unless it chooses to do so,” it said. “Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so.”
Rather, the statement explained, the draft regulation would simply “allow Australian news businesses to negotiate for fair payment for their journalists’ work that is included on Google services” and “address a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and Google and Facebook.”
The ACCC’s statement concluded by noting that the agency will continue to consult on the draft with interested parties, including Google, until the consultation period ends on Aug. 28.
Schools Across the U.S. Cancel Classes Friday Over Unverified TikTok Threat
Officials in multiple states said they haven’t found any credible threats but are taking additional precautions out of an abundance of safety.
Schools in no fewer than 10 states either canceled classes or increased their police presence on Friday after a series of TikToks warned of imminent shooting and bombs threats.
Despite that, officials said they found little evidence to suggest the threats are credible. It’s possible no real threat was actually ever made as it’s unclear if the supposed threats originated on TikTok, another social media platform, or elsewhere.
“We handle even rumored threats with utmost seriousness, which is why we’re working with law enforcement to look into warnings about potential violence at schools even though we have not found evidence of such threats originating or spreading via TikTok,” TikTok’s Communications team tweeted Thursday afternoon.
Still, given the uptick of school shootings in the U.S. in recent years, many school districts across the country decided to respond to the rumors. According to The Verge, some districts in California, Minnesota, Missouri, and Texas shut down Friday.
“Based on law enforcement interviews, Little Falls Community Schools was specifically identified in a TikTok post related to this threat,” one school district in Minnesota said in a letter Thursday. “In conversations with local law enforcement, the origins of this threat remain unknown. Therefore, school throughout the district is canceled tomorrow, Friday, December 17.”
In Gilroy, California, one high school that closed its doors Friday said it would reschedule final exams that were expected to take place the same day to January.
According to the Associated Press, several other districts in Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania stationed more police officers at their schools Friday.
Viral Misinformation or Legitimate Warnings?
As The Verge notes, “The reports of threats on TikTok may be self-perpetuating.”
For example, many of the videos online may have been created in response to initial warnings as more people hopped onto the trend. Amid school cancellations, videos have continued to sprout up — many awash with both rumors and factual information.
“I’m scared off my ass, what do I do???” one TikTok user said in a now-deleted video, according to People.
“The post is vague and not directed at a specific school, and is circulating around school districts across the country,” Chicago Public Schools said in a letter, though it did not identify any specific post. “Please do not re-share any suspicious or concerning posts on social media.”
According to Dr. Amy Klinger, the director of programs for the nonprofit Educator’s School Safety Network, “This is not 2021 phenomenon.”
Instead, she told The Today Show that her network has been tracking school shooting threats since 2013, and she noted that in recent years, they’ve become more prominent on social media.
“It’s not just somebody in a classroom of 15 people hearing someone make a threat,” she said. “It’s 15,000 people on social media, because it gets passed around and it becomes larger and larger and larger.”
Jake Paul Says He “Can’t Get Cancelled” as a Boxer
The controversial YouTuber opened up about what it has been like to go from online fame to professional boxing.
The New Yorker Profiles Jake Paul
YouTuber and boxer Jake Paul talked about his career switch, reputation, and cancel culture in a profile published Monday in The New Yorker.
While Paul rose to fame as the Internet’s troublemaker, he now spends most of his time in the ring. He told the outlet that one difference between YouTube and boxing is that his often controversial reputation lends better to his new career.
“One thing that is great about being a fighter is, like, you can’t get cancelled,” Paul said. The profile noted that the sport often rewards and even encourages some degree of bad behavior.
“I’m not a saint,” Paul later continued. “I’m also not a bad guy, but I can very easily play the role.”
Paul also said the other difference between his time online and his time in boxing is the level of work. While he says he trains hard, he confessed that there was something more challenging about making regular YouTube content.
“Being an influencer was almost harder than being a boxer,” he told The New Yorker. “You wake up in the morning and you’re, like, Damn, I have to create fifteen minutes of amazing content, and I have twelve hours of sunlight.”
Jake Paul Vs. Tommy Fury
The New Yorker profile came just after it was announced over the weekend Paul will be fighting boxer Tommy Fury in an 8-round cruiserweight fight on Showtime in December.
“It’s time to kiss ur last name and ur family’s boxing legacy goodbye,” Paul tweeted. “DEC 18th I’m changing this wankers name to Tommy Fumbles and celebrating with Tom Brady.”
Both Paul and Fury are undefeated, according to ESPN. Like Paul, Fury has found fame outside of the sport. He has become a reality TV star in the U.K. after appearing on the hit show “Love Island.”
See what others are saying: (The New Yorker) (Dexerto) (ESPN)
Hackers Hit Twitch Again, This Time Replacing Backgrounds With Image of Jeff Bezos
The hack appears to be a form of trolling, though it’s possible that the infiltrators were able to uncover a security flaw while reviewing Twitch’s newly-leaked source code.
Hackers targeted Twitch for a second time this week, but rather than leaking sensitive information, the infiltrators chose to deface the platform on Friday by swapping multiple background images with a photo of former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
According to those who saw the replaced images firsthand, the hack appears to have mostly — and possibly only — affected game directory headers. Though the incident appears to be nothing more than a surface-level prank, as Amazon owns Twitch, it could potentially signal greater security flaws.
For example, it’s possible the hackers could have used leaked internal security data from earlier this week to discover a network vulnerability and sneak into the platform.
The latest jab at the platforms came after Twitch assured its users it has seen “no indication” that their login credentials were stolen during the first hack. Still, concerns have remained regarding the potential for others to now spot cracks in Twitch’s security systems.
It’s also possible the Bezos hack resulted from what’s known as “cache poisoning,” which, in this case, would refer to a more limited form of hacking that allowed the infiltrators to manipulate similar images all at once. If true, the hackers likely would not have been able to access Twitch’s back end.
The photo changes only lasted several hours before being returned to their previous conditions.
First Twitch Hack
Despite suspicions and concerns, it’s unclear whether the Bezos hack is related to the major leak of Twitch’s internal data that was posted to 4chan on Wednesday.
That leak exposed Twitch’s full source code — including its security tools — as well as data on how much Twitch has individually paid every single streamer on the platform since August 2019.
It also revealed Amazon’s at least partially developed plans for a cloud-based gaming library, codenamed Vapor, which would directly compete with the massively popular library known as Steam.
Even though Twitch has said its login credentials appear to be secure, it announced Thursday that it has reset all stream keys “out of an abundance of caution.” Users are still being urged to change their passwords and update or implement two-factor authentication if they haven’t already.