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Google and YouTube Fight Australia’s Plans to Make Them Pay for News

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  • 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.

Source: The Verge

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. 

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (CNN) (Reuters)

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Says Trump Ban Was the “Right Decision” But Sets “Dangerous” Precedent

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  • While defending Twitter’s decision to permanently ban President Donald Trump, CEO Jack Dorsey noted the “dangerous” precedent such a move set.
  • “Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation,” Dorsey said in a lengthy Twitter thread on Wednesday. “They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning.”
  • Dorsey’s message came the same day Twitter fully reinstated Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-Co.) account, hours after locking it for violating Twitter rules. A Twitter spokesperson later described the lock as an “incorrect enforcement action.”

Dorsey Describes Trump Ban as a Double-Edged Sword

In a lengthy Twitter thread published Wednesday, CEO Jack Dorsey defended his platform’s decision to permanently ban President Donald Trump, while also noting the “dangerous” precedent such a unilateral move sets.

Twitter made the decision to ban Trump on Jan. 8, two days after pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol complex in an assault that left multiple dead.

“I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban [Trump] from Twitter, or how we got here,” Dorsey said in the first of 13 tweets. 

Nonetheless, Dorsey described Trump’s ban as “the right decision for Twitter.”

“Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all,” he added.

“That said, having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications,” Dorsey continued.

“[It] sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”

Dorsey described most bans as a failure of Twitter to “promote healthy conversation,” though he noted that exceptions to such a mindset also exist. Among other failures, Dorsey said extreme actions like a ban can “fragment public conversation,” divide people, and limit “clarification, redemption, and learning.”

Dorsey: Trump Bans Were Not Coordinated

Dorsey continued his thread by addressing claims and criticism that Trump’s ban on Twitter violated free speech.

“A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same,” he said.

Indeed, multiple legal experts have stated that Trump’s ban on social media does not amount to First Amendment violations, as the First Amendment only addresses government censorship. 

“If folks do not agree with our rules and enforcement, they can simply go to another internet service,” Dorsey added. However, Dorsey noted that such a concept has been challenged over the past week. 

Trump has now been banned or suspended from a number of platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. On Wednesday, Snapchat announced plans to terminate Trump’s account in the “interest of public safety.” Previously, Snapchat had only suspended his account, but as of Jan. 20, it will be permanently banned. 

Addressing criticism of the swift bans handed down by these platforms in the wake of the Capitol attack, Dorsey said he doesn’t believe Trump’s bans on social media were coordinated.

“More likely: companies came to their own conclusions or were emboldened by the actions of others,” he said.

Twitter Reverses Course of Locking Rep. Lauren Boebert’s Account

Dorsey’s thread regarding the fragile nature of regulating users’ privileges on the platform seemed to play out earlier the same day.

On Wednesday, newly-elected Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.) posted a screenshot to Instagram showing that her Twitter account had been locked for six days. The screenshot stated that she had violated Twitter’s rules and would be unable to tweet, retweet, or like until her account was unlocked. 

Hours later, Twitter reversed course and fully reinstated her account. 

“In this instance, our teams took the incorrect enforcement action. The Tweet in question is now labeled in accordance with our Civic Integrity Policy. The Tweet will not be required to be removed and the account will not be temporarily locked,” a spokesperson for the platform told Insider.

It is unknown what tweet caused that initial ban, as Twitter refused to say. 

The latest tweet from Boebert’s account to be tagged with a fact check warning is from Sunday. In that tweet, she baselessly and falsely accuses the DNC of rigging the 2020 Election, a claim that largely inspired the Capitol attacks. 

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (CNN) (Associated Press)

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Uber and Lyft Drivers Sue To Overturn California’s Prop 22

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  • A group of Uber and Lyft drivers filed a lawsuit Tuesday against California’s controversial Prop 22, a ballot measure that was approved by nearly 59% of state voters in the 2020 election. 
  • While Prop 22 does promise drivers wage guarantees and health insurance stipends, it also eliminated some protections as well as benefits like sick pay and workers’ compensation.
  • In their lawsuit, the drivers argue that Prop 22 “illegally” prevents them from being able to access the state’s workers’ compensation program. 

What’s in the Lawsuit?

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, a group of Uber and Lyft drivers asked California’s Supreme Court to overturn the state’s controversial Prop 22 ballot measure.

The drivers behind the lawsuit, along with Service Employees International Union, allege that Prop 22 “illegally” bars them from being able to participate in the state’s workers’ compensation program. 

Additionally, they argue that the measure violates California’s constitution by“stripping” the state legislature of its ability to protect who unionize. 

“Every day, rideshare drivers like me struggle to make ends meet because companies like Uber and Lyft prioritize corporate profits over our wellbeing,” Plaintiff Saori Okawa said in a statement. 

Conversely, Uber driver and Prop 22 activist Jim Pyatt denounced the lawsuit, saying,“Voters across the political spectrum spoke loud and clear, passing Prop 22 in a landslide. Meritless lawsuits that seek to undermine the clear democratic will of the people do not stand up to scrutiny in the courts.”

California ballot measures have been occasionally repealed in the past; however, most of the time, they’ve only been repealed following subsequent ballot measures. If this lawsuit fails, such an initiative would likely be the last option for overturning Prop 22.

What is Prop 22?

Prop 22, which was approved by 59% of state voters in the 2020 Election, exempts app-based transportation and delivery companies from having to classify their drivers as employees. Rather, those drivers are listed as “independent contractors,” also known as gig workers. 

Notably, Prop 22 was supported by major industry players like DoorDash, Uber, Lyft, and Instacart, which launched a massive $200 million lobbying and advertising campaign.

While those companies did promise wage guarantees and health insurance stipends for drivers, Prop 22 also eliminated a number of protections and benefits drivers would have seen under an “employee” status, including sick pay and workers’ compensation. 

Because of that, many opponents have argued that the measure incentivizes companies to lay off their employees in favor of cheaper labor options.

Last week, it was reported that grocery stores like Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions began laying off their delivery workers in favor of switching to ”third-party logistics providers.” According to Albertson’s, unionized delivery workers were not included in the layoffs. 

In recent coverage from KPBS, one San Diego Vons delivery worker detailed a situation in which he and delivery workers were called into a meeting with management. 

“I thought they were going to give us a bonus or a raise or something like that,” he said. 

Ultimately, that employee was told he would be losing his job in late February, even though he had been with the company for two-and-a-half years. 

“I didn’t want to tell them,” the employee said of his parents, one of whom is disabled. “I’m the breadwinner for the family.”

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Washington Post) (CNN)

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Daniel Silva Blames Cory La Barrie for His Own Death in New Legal Filing

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  • Popular Tattoo artist Daniel Silva said the death of YouTuber Cory La Barrie was due to La Barrie’s “own negligence,” in response to a wrongful death lawsuit from his family.
  • La Barrie died last May after Silva lost control of the sports car they were in, crashing into a street sign and tree. 
  • La Barrie’s family has accused Silva of negligence, saying his excessive speeding caused the crash. They also claim he was under the influence, though he was never formally charged with a DUI. 
  • According to TMZ, Silva filed documents saying La Barrie “assumed the risk of death when he jumped into Daniel’s car that fateful night back in May.”

Corey La Barrie’s Death

Popular tattoo artist Daniel Silva has blamed YouTuber Corey La Barrie for his own death in response to a wrongful death lawsuit from La Barrie’s family, according to TMZ.

The tabloid says he filed legal documents saying, “the car crash that led to Corey’s death was due to his own negligence, and he assumed the risk of death when he jumped into Daniel’s car that fateful night back in May.”

La Barrie died on May 10, his 25th birthday, after Silva was speeding and lost control of the sports car they were in, crashing into a street sign and tree.

Police say Silva tried to leave the scene but was stopped by witnesses. He was later arrested and charged with murder. Silva eventually reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead no contest to vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

In August, Silva was sentenced to 364 days in jail, with credit for 216 days served because of California sentencing guidelines, even though it had only been 108 days since the crash at the time.

He also earned five years of probation, 250 hours of community service, and a suspended prison sentence of four years, which would be imposed if he violates the terms of his probation.

Wrongful Death Suit

Silva still faces the family’s lawsuit, which they filed the same month their son died.

In it, La Barrie’s family has accused Silva of negligence, saying his excessive speeding caused the crash. They also claim he was driving under the influence.

It’s worth noting that people close to Silva have disputed that claim and he was never charged with a DUI. However, the first police statement about the crash labeled it aDUI Fatal Traffic Collision.” Witnesses have said the two were partying earlier that night, though

See what others are saying: (TMZ) (USA Today) (Variety)

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