An Australian celebrity lifestyle influencer is hosting some of the world’s most notorious conspiracy theorists on his podcast

Pete Evans
Pete Evans with protesters on February 20, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. They demonstrated against proposals for mandatory vaccination against COVID-19.

  • Pete Evans is a celebrity chef in Australia who claims to promote wellness on his podcast.
  • On the podcast he interviews notorious conspiracy theorists who spread medical misinformation.
  • Podcasts like Evans’ often evade the scrutiny that social media accounts are subject to.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In an edition of his podcast, “Evolve,” last November, Australian celebrity chef and lifestyle influencer Pete Evans introduced his latest guest, “biophysicist” and researcher Andreas Kalcker.

On the show, Kalcker claimed to possess a “100% effective solution” to the coronavirus, chlorine dioxide. He claimed that shadowy forces controlled by the International Monetary Fund were seeking to suppress the substance.

Their goal, he said, was to enrich themselves and perpetuate the “plandemic,” a term for the coronavirus pandemic popularized by conspiracy theorists.

Evans listened respectfully, not pushing back on any of Kalcker’s claims as they became increasingly outlandish.

He did not tell listeners that the substance his guest was promoting, chlorine dioxide, is a toxic bleach blamed for several deaths, that Kalcker has no medical credentials, or that the research he cited is at best disputed.

The episode was an example of how conspiracy theorists have found safe haven in podcasts even as other platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have forced them out.

His podcast is listed as one of Apple’s most popular on nutrition. It used to be available on Spotify but was removed in January.

Many listeners were likely drawn to Evans’ show because they knew him as judge of cooking show “My Kitchen Rules.”

Besides information on diet and wellness tips, listeners are also introduced to medical misinformation, conspiracy theories, and bogus cures.

Evans did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Insider, nor did Apple.

Acast, a podcast platform that hosts Evans’ show, said they would be removing it from the platform in April.

On podcasts, misinformation flourishes

The spread of misinformation on social media platforms received renewed attention as the pandemic swept the globe.

Public health authorities have battled to rebut misinformation about lockdown measures, the source of the virus, the effectiveness of masks, and the vaccines’ safety developed to suppress it. Sites like Facebook have banned content containing false claims about the vaccines.

Less remarked-on is the role of podcasts, where guests and hosts on hugely popular shows spread misinformation about the coronavirus unchallenged.

Sean Creevy is the director of Kinzen, a company that helps clients monitor and combat disinformation. He said that podcasts allow guests to establish a particularly close bond with followers.

“What makes podcasting so unique is that it’s incredibly intimate. That person’s voice comes right through into our earbud. And so it’s easy as listeners to let our guard down. Also, there isn’t as much research on the problem of misinformation in podcasts, and so as a citizenry, we are probably less aware of the threat compared with the big platforms,” he said.

Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, used his Apple-hosted podcast, “War Room,” to spread false claims about the coronavirus and stir fears of election fraud.

Joe Rogan has hosted Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist and Infowars frontman banned from social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook for inciting violence.

Insider reported in January that Rogan also hosted the owner of a clinic that sells stem cell treatments for conditions where there is no evidence it is effective.

Joe Rogan Alex Jones

It’s an area where little research has been done, so the problem’s extent is unknown.

The Associated Press found several popular podcasts on major platforms spreading misinformation about the presidential election in January.

The pandemic has seen strange connections between wellness influencers with established media profiles, like Evans, and right-wing movements. Hostility to scientific and medical elites is their common cause.

Ariel Bogle, who monitors disinformation at Australia’s ASPI Cyber Policy think tank, said that several influencers like Evans had started to embrace more controversial forms of medical misinformation.

“Many of the accounts that sell forms of wellness necessarily have some level of skepticism or mistrust of the medical establishment (justified or not), as they must offer an alternative,” Bogle said.

“For some, there does seem to have been a veer into more clearly conspiratorial content during the pandemic, whether it be QAnon, conspiracies about vaccination etc.”

She said that, to an extent, podcasts are less of a problem than other types of information because they are less shareable.

“Audio can’t really spread or be amplified in quite the same way that visual media can be on a platform like Facebook, for example. It’s not quite so replicable and easily and quickly consumed,” she said.

Nonetheless, she added, being associated with prestigious brands like Apple or Spotify confers an air of legitimacy.

This can attract a mainstream audience that isn’t available to accounts on fringe platforms where conspiracy theorists congregate, such as Parler.

The challenge of moderation

While social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook use automated techniques to track problematic keywords and block networks of “bot” accounts, policing content on podcasts is harder.

“The biggest barrier is the cost of transcribing the audio from a podcast into text format, which can then be more easily searched,” he explained. “These costs are not insignificant, and when a platform has to consider transcribing millions of podcasts, those costs quickly become extraordinarily high.”

He suggested that one option is targeting podcasts that had been repeatedly flagged and monitoring those closely.

Another difficulty is drawing the line between content that contains dangerous falsehoods and that which is controversial and, to some, highly offensive but a legitimate expression of freedom of speech.

Evans continues to host conspiracy theorists

As Evans has embraced medical misinformation and conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic, his mainstream reputation has been damaged. He was barred from Facebook in December, Instagram in January, and his podcast removed from Spotify the same month.

But despite losing his social media accounts, he continues to use his podcast to court a new audience among fans of conspiracy theories and supporters of populist political movements.

Among the guests in January was Gareth Icke, an anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown activist from the UK. Icke’s father is the notorious conspiracy theorist David Icke, who believes that a cabal of lizard-men control the world.

Evans has ambitions to take his political activity beyond his podcast. In February, he announced that he was considering a Senate run representing The Great Australian Party, led by the anti-vaccination MP Rod Culleton.

Bogle, the disinformation analyst, said of Evans: “He says outrageous things, gets covered for them, and his status grows – which he profits from.”

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The US needs learn from Australia how to regulate Google

Google Sundar Pichai Joe Biden
Google has backed the President-elect’s immigration plans

  • The Australian government has shown that people want big, bold action against the tech companies.
  • With the stroke of a pen, the Biden administration can bring competition to the search engine market.
  • Opening up Google’s web index is how the United States can catch up in the international race to regulate Google.
  • Zack Maril is the founder of the Knuckleheads’ Club, an organization dedicated to opening up Google’s web index.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It was unthinkable even just a few months ago, but Google and Facebook have decisively lost their fight with the Australian government over its proposed News Media Bargaining Code. The Australian government is getting exactly what it wanted, and this won’t be lost on governments and regulators around the world.

People want their governments to go after tech companies, and this is most clear in America. The backlash against the tech companies over the past five years has washed away the last of the aura of invincibility they once so deftly wore.

Right now, the Biden Administration has an opportunity to give the people what they want. They have the chance to take the lead in the international race to regulate Google and jump leagues ahead of every other government. Just out of sight politically, there’s a hidden heart to Google, something that sits at the center of everything they do, something which classical economics demands be regulated without delay.

A different kind of index fund

The key to understanding and regulating Google is that Google has an immense advantage when it comes to “web crawling.” Web crawling is where Google’s strength flows from and the more you look into it, the more it clarifies the dynamics of the entire tech industry.

Web crawling is the industrial process where search engine operators go out and collect all the information about all the websites on the internet that they can. When you search for something on Google, Google isn’t going out and visiting every website looking for your query, they are looking in their saved cache of copies of all the websites they collected information from while crawling the web.

In order to quickly provide the answers to your search queries, search engine operators like Google and Bing have hundreds of thousands of computers engaging in web crawling day and night. These web crawling computers are browsing the internet and saving a copy of everything they can find. When you search for something on a search engine, the search engine looks in that saved index of all the websites the computers found while they crawled the web.

The better this index, the better the quality of search results that a search engine can provide. A search engine can only provide you links to web pages that it knows about and the more web pages a search engine knows about – and the sooner it knows about them – the more competitive advantage that search engine has over all the other search engines.

Google gets this advantage because it costs websites money when they are crawled by search engines. Naturally, website operators only want to be crawled by search engines that will send them lots of traffic and many website operators will limit who is allowed to crawl their websites to only the major search engines like Google, Bing, and a handful of others.

Website operators have to pay for web servers to serve the extra traffic from the crawlers. It’s an open secret within the industry that some of the major websites spend millions of dollars a year to pay for servers to serve traffic for just Google’s crawlers alone. This makes economic sense because Google will send them enough traffic that they can monetize, thus more than making up for the cost of being crawled.

But other search engines, especially new entrants to the search engine market, are locked out by this dynamic. Without access to many of the most important websites in the world, the quality of the search results that the search engine can provide suffers. Without the ability to provide high quality search results, the search engine has little hope of attracting many users. And without a large number of users, many website operators will limit that search engine’s access to their websites or block them entirely by default. This dynamic is a big reason why it is so hard to compete with Google.

How to fix Google’s monopoly

I’ve been researching this dynamic for over two years now and the evidence keeps piling up that the government needs to step in and open up Google’s index of the web.The New York Times recently published an article detailing how this dynamic plays out, with many search engine operators going on the record that they struggle to compete with Google because of the limits website operators put in place as well as the high costs associated with doing the crawling.

Over the past several decades, the economics of web crawling have become clear enough that we can call it out for what it is: web crawling is a natural monopoly. What this means is that it’s overall more economically efficient to have one firm engaging in web crawling than to have multiple firms all redoing the same amount of work to try and recreate that same index Google has already assembled. All we need to do is apply the well understood principles of regulating natural monopolies that we have been developing for over a century now.

The Biden Administration can jump start a new age in the digital era by ending Google’s unnatural hold on this natural monopoly and opening up Google’s web index to its competitors. With the stroke of a pen, the government can unleash innovations that have been held back for decades just because executives at Google didn’t think it would earn Google enough profits.

What we need now, and what the American people want, is leadership in the fight to take back control of our lives from tech companies. Web crawling is the most under-regulated but major aspect of the technology industry and regulating web crawling is the opportunity just waiting for the Biden administration to seize on.

To start, the administration could direct the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to look into whether Google ever acted anti-competitively in regards to its or another search engine’s web index. Next up, the Biden administration could study and publish a plan for opening up Google’s web index to its competitors. To tie it all together, the Biden administration could work with Congress to pass whatever laws might be needed to give them the tools they need to open up Google’s web index.

Opening up Google’s web index is still just out of sight politically, but not for long if I have anything to say about it. Through my founding of the Knuckleheads’ Club – an organization dedicated to advancing regulation of Google’s web crawling advantageI was able to work with Congress to get this issue highlighted in the Big Tech antitrust report published last year. I’ve been in contact with governments across the world since then and have been excited at the progress already being made on this front. Australia has shown that you can win by going big and me and my colleagues are excited to see who will go after Google next.

Opening up Google’s web index is about the closest thing to a silver bullet that I’ve ever come across in politics. Opening up Google’s web index is how the Biden Administration can cement American’s position as a leader in technological innovation. This would be a bold and highly effective move that would have immense positive economic impact for decades to come.

Opening up Google’s web index is how the United States can catch up in the international race to regulate Google.

Zack Maril is the founder of the Knuckleheads’ Club, an organization dedicated to opening up Google’s web index and bringing back the open web. He is an expert in understanding and regulating Google, with his work having been featured in The New York Times and cited by Congress. He lives and works in Washington DC.

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How tech-based design solutions can help stop the spread of COVID-19, according to an architect

elevator button coronavirus
In some quarantine hotels, staff help guests by pressing the elevator buttons.

  • Mengbi Li is a lecturer in built environment architecture at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia. 
  • She says the design or redesign of existing infrastructure can help people overcome COVID health challenges.
  • One redesign option is to make high-touch public spaces, like elevator buttons and toilets, motion-sensitive and touch-free.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The coronavirus has been escaping with distressing frequency from quarantine hotels, threatening serious outbreaks. To make things worse, multiple variants of the virus, possibly more infectious and deadly, have recently been detected. This accentuates the need for robust hotel quarantine, especially in countries like Australia that have controlled community transmission.

While the hotel quarantine system has received wide attention, relatively few people have had the opportunity to experience and observe it first hand. Even fewer have been able to compare with other regions handling similar challenges. I happen to have needed to travel overseas and thus experienced quarantine in several places over the past months.

Based on my experience as an academic in architecture, I share some thoughts and observations here on how the design or redesign of buildings, infrastructure, and cities can help people overcome the health challenges created by COVID-19.

Our buildings and cities were not designed to handle such extraordinary situations as this pandemic. One consequence is their design has often made the need to touch surfaces unavoidable.

Take elevators, for example

Some of the most frequently touched surfaces in buildings are the buttons in lifts. In some buildings in China, plastic wrap is used to cover the buttons and a sticker showing the time and date of last disinfection is attached nearby. Other buildings provide tissues for people to use as disposable finger covers.

In quarantine hotels, this procedure is even more carefully managed. Staff help guests by pressing the button. This small touch area needs frequent cleaning, which calls for extra human resources.

At Baiyunshan airport in Guangzhou, I used an elevator with touch-free buttons. The keypad had infrared sensors installed next to the usual button. With just a wave of their finger over the touch-free button, users can select their destination.

Another mode free of physical screens features numbers displayed in a front-projected holographic display. A sensor detects the movement of pressing a button in the air to activate the lift.

This technology is not out of our reach. In response to the pandemic, authorities in Melbourne and Sydney have trialed touch-free buttons using infrared technology at pedestrian crossings.

One concern about touch-free buttons is the challenge they present to the visually impaired. Currently, a push-button is placed next to the infrared sensor. An alternative for people who need assistance would be to use gesture or voice commands. Other concerns include reliability and vandal-proofing.

Another sensitive touch spot is the toilet. The airport toilets I visited in Australia, China, and Singapore are equipped with touch-free features to activate the flush, tap, soap dispenser, and hand dryer. However, the doors and locks cannot function without touch. Touch-free sensors or foot pedals would probably help.

Alternatively, new materials or coatings like antimicrobial polymers could be applied in areas where touch is unavoidable. Of course, care must be taken to ensure the antiviral potency is both reliable and people-friendly.

Design solutions don’t have to be high-tech

Interestingly, touch-free public spaces do not always rely on advanced materials or sophisticated technology. In a Melbourne quarantine hotel, I noticed several bollards with foot pedals being used as hand sanitizer dispensers. These are designed to function mechanically and require no power connections.

Instead of a simple stainless steel bollard, this dispenser could be further reimagined as an artistic sculpture integrating the building’s signage at the entrance. Elsewhere, this design could be incorporated into litter bins along the streets.

Usually, for architectural design, circulation patterns are analysed to see how people reach each space and establish the relationships between different areas. For safety purposes, exits are checked to ensure people can evacuate in a timely way. To prepare for future pandemics, these studies could add analysis of touch points in both pandemic and non-pandemic periods.

The shared challenge posed by the pandemic has prompted some innovative ideas. For example, physical reminders to keep a social distance have variously involved using carpet tiles, mowed or trimmed landscape patterns, furniture arrangements, temporary structures, and pavements or stickers.

Other solutions involve applying modular construction from well-equipped containers to create emergency hospitals or mobile testing stations.

From touch-free public spaces to designing for social distance and modular construction, there are still many ways the design or redesign of our buildings and cities can help to protect the public. Good design is particularly important to protect those in high-risk environments, such as workers and senior citizens in health care and aged care.

As necessity is the mother of invention, there is nothing like a period of stress to stimulate creativity, industry, and innovation.

The Conversation
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This is what Facebook looks like in Australia after the social media giant pulled all news content

facebook mark zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaving The Merrion Hotel in Dublin after a meeting with politicians to discuss regulation of social media and harmful content in April 2019.

  • Facebook is blocking Australian users from seeing, sharing, and interacting with news on the site.
  • Moreover, all Facebook users worldwide aren’t able to see news shared by Australian news outlets.
  • Facebook now looks remarkably different for Australian users.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

On Wednesday, Facebook removed critical functionality for its Australian users: the ability to see, share, and interact with news content on the social media platform.

The abrupt change, Facebook said, was due to a recently proposed law in Australia

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content. It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia,” a blog post from Facebook said. “With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”

The reality of the change – for Facebook users in Australia, and for users around the world attempting to view or post news from Australian publications – is stark. 

The Facebook page for Australia’s most widely read newspaper, The Herald Sun, is completely wiped of content:

Facebook news in Australia

Similarly, if a Facebook user in Australia attempts to view any news organization, the content is blocked – whether that news is from an Australian publication or something else.

BBC News reporter Frances Mao highlighted an example from her own publication:

Moreover, whether you’re in Australia or anywhere else in the world, Facebook is blocking all users from sharing or interacting with news content from Australian publications.

When I attempted to share news from The Herald Sun on my personal Facebook page, the pop-up message below blocked me from posting:

Facebook news block in Australia

The move to block all Australian news content is considered the “nuclear option” in Facebook’s ongoing battle with the Australian government over proposed “News Media Bargaining Code” legislation. 

If passed, the legislation would require tech giants like Facebook and Google to pay news publishers for their content. Just hours before Facebook announced its plans for Australia, Google announced a landmark partnership with News Corp, which is owned by Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch, to pay “significant” sums for news content.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that Facebook’s “actions to unfriend” the country were “as arrogant as they were disappointing,” in a post on Facebook.

Beyond blocking news pages, Australian Facebook users began discovering a variety of non-news Facebook pages that were blocked – from essential health service pages to food banks. 

Facebook is reinstating some of those pages, but pointed blame at Australia’s proposed legislation for the error. “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,” a Facebook spokesperson told Insider. “However, we will reverse any Pages that are inadvertently impacted.”

Got a tip? Contact Business Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@businessinsider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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Why Facebook blocked all news content in Australia – and why Google didn’t

Sundar Pichai Mark Zuckerberg
  • Australia wants to pass a bill forcing Facebook and Google to pay news publishers for their content.
  • In response, Facebook banned news content in the country, while Google made deals with publishers.
  • But the situation is much more complicated. Here’s what you need to know.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Facebook made huge waves on Wednesday by blocking all news content for its Australian users and all content from Australian news publishers for users worldwide. 

Facebook said it made the move to avoid having to comply with Australia’s recently proposed News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, which if passed would require companies like Facebook and Google to pay media publishers for the right to include their news content on social media platforms and search engines.

Google, however, decided that its best option would be to preemptively negotiate deals with publishers, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and major Australian media conglomerates Nine Entertainment and Seven West Media.

Australian lawmakers have portrayed the proposed law as an effort to curb the tech giants’ power over digital advertising (a major cause of news publishers’ declining revenues over the past two decades). Facebook argued that the law misunderstands its relationship with publishers. 

But the situation is more complicated than an attempt to level the digital media playing field – and it could have consequences around the world.

Here’s what you need to know about the battle between Australia, Facebook, and Google over who pays for news online.

How did we get here?

News publishers have long had a bone to pick with companies like Facebook and Google, blaming them for eating away at ad revenues (and as a result, journalism jobs), while also exercising massive control over publishers through algorithms and benefitting from showing their users news content without paying its creators.

The companies have responded in recent years with various initiatives to fund journalism and boost news content on their platforms, such as Facebook’s Journalism Project and News tab, and Google’s News Initiative and News Showcase, but the impact has been modest and the industry continues to struggle.

Increasingly, regulators have sought to force Facebook and Google to pay publishers to use their content, and Australia has been at the forefront, along with the EU and countries including France, Germany, and Spain.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the country’s top antitrust regulator, has been working toward the law at the center of this week’s controversy for around three years amid Australia’s broader push to crack down on big tech.

What would Australia’s proposed law do?

The law as currently proposed would require companies like Facebook and Google to pay Australian publishers directly for news content that’s displayed or linked to on their sites, as well as give publishers 28 days’ notice before changing their algorithms.

Specifically, it would require them to individually negotiate content prices with publishers within three months, or be forced into an arbitration process where a government-appointed panel will pick between the publisher and tech giants’ proposals.

Is it likely to pass?

Yes. The lower chamber of Australia’s parliament approved the proposed legislation this week, and it’s now headed to the Senate, where it’s expected to pass into law, though discussions between the companies and the government are still ongoing.

Who would be the likely winners and losers?

As the Syndey Morning Herald reported, smaller publishers are not eligible for payments under the proposed law, so large publishers like News Corp may end up benefitting the most. (News Corp has urged the Australian government to pass the law).

Reporter Casey Newton also pointed out that the law also doesn’t require publishers to spend any new revenue on reporters or newsgathering efforts, meaning it could go to executives or investors.

Facebook’s and Google’s competitors could also gain an edge if their market share is diminished – Microsoft President Brad Smith endorsed the law last week.

As a result, the law could inadvertently further entrench Facebook’s and Google’s dominance, though it’s unclear what the ultimate impact would be on news publishers or the broader media ecosystem.

What was Facebook’s response? 

Facebook said in a blog post that the law “fundamentally misunderstands” its relationship with publishers – which it argued benefits publishers more. Facebook said news content is “less than 4% of the content people see” and that it brought in around $315 million for Australian publishers in 2020.

With less to lose, in its view, Facebook pulled the plug.

On Wednesday (Thursday in Australia), Facebook blocked Australian publishers from sharing or posting content from their pages, blocked Australian users from viewing any news content at all (even from international publishers), and blocked all users worldwide from viewing content from Australian publishers.

Some non-news pages also got caught up in Facebook’s dragnet by mistake.

What was Google’s response?

Alphabet subsidiary Google, which arguably has a more even exchange of value with news publishers, has fought aggressively against the proposed law. In January, the company came under fire for hiding some Australian news sites from its search results.

Google this week has been working on massive deals with top Australian media companies Seven West, Nine Entertainment, and even News Corp, which the company has repeatedly sparred with, and has been expanding its News Showcase in the region.

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‘We will be proceeding with the Code’: As Facebook bans Australian news, the government says it won’t back down on new media laws

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

  • The Australian government says it won’t back down on its proposed news media bargaining code.
  • Communications Minister Paul Fletcher told ABC News Breakfast “we will be proceeding with the code.”
  • The laws, if passed, could compel Facebook and Google to pay Australian news outlets for the journalism they produce.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

The Australian federal government says it won’t back down on legislation that could force Facebook to pay for news content shared on the platform after the social media juggernaut banned Australian users from sharing news links on Thursday morning.

In a seismic development for the local media, Facebook said it will restrict Australian news organisations from sharing links to their journalism.

Local users are now barred from accessing international news links through the social media platform, while overseas users will also be unable to view content posted to Facebook by Australian publishers.

The decision to ban Australian reporting from Facebook comes in response to the news media bargaining code, which could compel the platform and search engine giant Google to pay news outlets for the Australian journalism they display.

The Australian federal government says the legislation addresses a power imbalance between local publishers and online giants, which now control a huge proportion of the multi-billion dollar digital ad market.

Google has pre-empted the legislation by signing individual commercial deals with a number of Australian news organisations, including Nine, the owner of Business Insider Australia.

But Facebook says the proposed rules are unworkable.

The legislation “left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia,” said William Easton, Facebook’s managing director for Australia & New Zealand.

“With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”

Australian news organisations, many of which reach large local audiences through Facebook, are reeling at the development.

The removal of Australian news from Facebook has also raised fears that misinformation and dubious reports could fill the gap left by local outlets.

However, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher today said the government had no intentions of withdrawing its legislation, which yesterday passed in the Lower House.

“Firstly, we will be proceeding with the code,” Fletcher told ABC News Breakfast.

“We want Google and Facebook to stay in Australia but we have been very clear that if you do business in Australia, you need to comply with the laws passed by the elected parliament of this nation.”

Fletcher said the legislation addresses important competition and media policy issues that are “an important part of our democratic process.

“It may not seem so important in Silicon Valley but it is very important to the Australian Government and Australian people.”

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg struck a somewhat ore conciliatory tone, confirming he had a “constructive” discussion with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg early Thursday morning in which the multi-billionaire raised “a few remaining issues” with the legislation.

 

“We agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward,” Frydenberg said.

The proposed legislation will now head to the Senate, where it is expected to pass into law.

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Google is reportedly close to a $30 million annual deal with Australian media titan Nine Entertainment

Sundar Pichai
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai

  • Google has signed a $30 million deal licensing deal with Australia’s Nine Entertainment. 
  • As part of the deal, users can access paywalled content for free via the Google News app.
  • The agreement follows a tense few months of wrangling between Google execs and Aussie lawmakers.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Google has reportedly struck a $30 million deal with Australian broadcaster Nine Entertainment amid growing political pressure to rebalance the relationship between tech platforms and legacy media outlets.

Nine has not officially confirmed the deal, although it was reported by its own Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. The company’s other print titles include The Age and the Australian Financial Review. 

Under the terms of the deal, Google is understood to have agreed to pay Nine a little over $30 million annually for the next five years, and will provide Google users with free access to select content from Nine’s newspapers, TV, and radio networks across different products. 

Are you a current or former Googler with more to share? You can contact this reporter securely using the encrypted messaging app Signal (+447801985586) or email (mcoulter@businessinsider.com). Reach out using a nonwork device. 

The agreement comes just days after the tech giant announced a similar deal with Nine’s domestic rival Seven West Media, and comes amid months of wrangling with government officials over its relationship with the media. 

Australian lawmakers are set to debate proposals that would give news publishers the opportunity to “bargain individually or collectively” with Facebook and Google, and charge them a set rate to display their content in their search engine and news feeds. 

With the threat of this regulation looming, Google has set about making publishers counter-offers in the form of Google Showcase. This is a new, dedicated news feature whereby Google News users can access paid-for content for free, with the tech giant covering the price difference.

Google’s recent deals with Nine and Seven West Media give it greater control over the terms, compared with the forced arbitration proposed by Australia.

Google executive Mel Silva warned that the latter route might result in the firm shutting down its search engine locally altogether

As Google continues to brand the legislation unworkable, it is actively luring publishers onto its Showcase platform.

The firm has thus far inked Showcase deals with more than 450 publications – the Financial Times, Le Monde, and Reuters among them – across 12 countries, including the UK, Germany, and Brazil.  The firm plans to spend $1 billion in total bringing on new partners globally. 

Insider approached Google and Nine Entertainment for comment. 

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