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American tech giants are now facing sweeping policy changes in two countries regarding their use of content produced by news organizations. According to the Australian government, Facebook and Google have to pay up for the ad revenues they earn from sharing news media. The United States could be next.
Australia passed a law in January that requires companies that profit from ad revenue garnered from news articles to negotiate payment terms with publishers. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) stated that the law addresses “a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and Google and Facebook.”
Facebook responded to the law by temporarily suspending news access to its Australian users, and Google threatened to remove its search engine altogether.
Next on the docket in the fight to keep big tech companies in check is the United States with the introduction of a bill aimed at leveling the playing field for news publications. Remarkably similar to the recently-passed Aussie law, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) was introduced in Congress Friday by Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Ken Buck (R-CO).
The bill is intended to help struggling local news organizations stay in business. The opportunity to build substantial negotiating power by working together could save them from going under as countless other American publications before them. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 86 percent of Americans get news mainly from their smartphone, and more than one third of Americans use Facebook as a regular source of news. To meet the demands of the consumer and stay in business, local networks that once thrived on revenue earned from television, radio, and print have to shift their business models in favor of online revenue.
“The crisis in American journalism has become a real crisis in our democracy and civic life,” Cicilline said. “A strong, diverse, free press is critical for any successful democracy… Access to trustworthy local journalism helps inform the public, hold powerful people accountable, and root out corruption.”
Cicilline has introduced the JCPA in each of the last two Congresses, though it did not gain the traction that some speculate the most recent draft will with a Democrat majority Senate. The antitrust bill will allow small news outlets to work together to negotiate with large online platforms like Google and Facebook within a 48-month safe harbor. The representatives championing the legislation have said that it is narrowly-tailored “to ensure that coordination by news publishers is only in the interest of promoting trust and quality journalism.”
The bill also only allows coordination by news publishers under certain conditions: the agreement must (1) directly relate to the quality, accuracy, attribution or branding, or interoperability of news; (2) benefits the entire industry, rather than just a few publishers, and is non-discriminatory to other news publishers; and (3) is directly related to and reasonably necessary for these negotiations, instead of being used for other purposes.
If Facebook and Google cannot reach negotiations with the participating news organizations, each case must submit to arbitration by Congress.
More and More States are Looking to Provide Universal Broadband
Some states in America now see broadband internet as a universal right and are fighting to give it to all of their residents. And some of these states are now using the recently-passed American Rescue Plan as a way to do it.
In July of 2021, Virginia governor Ralph Northan announced a major plan that will expand broadband access to all Virginia residents by the year 2024. To make this plan a reality, Northam intends to use $700 million in federal funds set aside by the American Rescue Plan, which was passed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to assist citizens and states struggling to make ends meet. In total, more than $4 billion was promised to Virginia so Northam’s plan will just use a portion of the total sum.
Virginia isn’t alone in its quest to give all residents broadband access. Others such as Connecticut and the nation’s most-populated state, California, are promising to find ways to fund broadband for all. Connecticut’s plan is more comprehensive than California’s, with a goal of 2027 set in place. There is a good chance that more states will follow the lead created by these states as the demand for universal broadband becomes stronger and the need becomes more apparent.
In 2020, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia crated a report that found one in five Virginia students lacked high-speed internet or a computer at home. Broadband coverage has always been sparse in rural areas, with many residents unable to even pay for the service. The Coronavirus pandemic only highlighted the need for internet access for all citizens, as most were forced to work from home and all students were required to attend classes online. More and more people and politicians are beginning to speak out, stating that broadband access is a right that all Americans are entitled to.
With the 2022 mid-term elections beginning to loom over the American political landscape, the idea of creating broadband access for all Americans is becoming more and more popular, and will likely be a major debate point for politicians seeking office.
Former President Trump Sues Twitter, Facebook, and More
Former president Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he is suing Twitter, Facebook, Google, and their CEOs Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sundar Pichai, alleging that the social media juggernauts violated Trump’s First Amendment rights when they all banned him from their services. The 45th president has been barred from using Twitter, Facebook, and Google’s Youtube for months now after a mass of his supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6th.
The suits against these tech giants are requesting that Trump be reinstated on all platforms. Currently, his only chance at returning to any of these sites lies with Facebook, which recently said Trump was banned until at least January 2023, although he may be allowed to return after that.
The suits also demand that the court decide section 230 of the Communications Decency Act be ruled unconstitutional. Trump has long railed against section 230, which prohibits technology companies from being held liable by what users on their platforms post.
“We’re not looking to settle,” Trump told reporters at a press conference in front of his gold club in Bedminster, New Jersey. “We don’t know what’s going to happen but we’re not looking to settle,”
Already there are many analysts saying the lawsuits will likely not be held up in a court of law. The claim that Trump’s First Amendment rights were violated will have a hard time passing muster with a judge because Facebook, Twitter, and Google are all private entities and not government institutions, therefore they are free to make choices related to speech that don’t violate constitutional rights. Still, it is one of Trump’s largest moves against Big Tech, a group he has been fighting since before leaving office. Following his ban from the platforms, Trump’s opinion on the companies only lowered and his drive against them increased.
Immediately after announcing the lawsuits, Trump’s political action committees began sending out fundraising emails asking for money to help fund the lawsuits.
China Aggressively Intercepts Didi’s Rising Shares Days After Major IPO
As a part of China’s efforts to improve monitoring of data controlled by tech giants in their vicinity, an investigation has been initiated against Didi Global Inc. (Didi). Exact details surrounding why Didi needed to be looked at in the first place remains unclear, but China did mention that it is being done to identify and prevent threats. National security, data security, and public interest were cited as the main concerns influencing the investigation.
Didi was founded in 2012, but expanded tremendously in 2018 on an international level, and now conducts business in numerous geographical locations throughout the world. Didi was only one out of 34 companies that China’s State Administration for Market Regulation had sent a warning to about anti-competitive behavior being prohibited.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has dictated that Didi is not permitted to enroll new users while the investigative review is active. However, operations are otherwise functioning normally in the 14 countries it serves. Numerous areas were noted by Didi as potentially being in review for violations, including monopoly, unfair and deceptive practices, quality, and legal compliance.
Didi’s shares dropped an astonishing 10% after the investigation against them was announced by China’s cyberspace agency. Didi only started trading in the New York Stock Exchange two days prior to the review becoming effective. A research analyst implied that whether investing in Didi is a good idea or not will depend on the length of the investigation, but that it is too soon to know for sure.
Didi, which is based out of Beijing, pledges to meticulously analyze cybersecurity risks that may apply to their enterprise and to fully cooperate with the governmental oversight currently examining them. This instance of an immediate review by governing authorities regarding technical data regulations is an example of how China is aggressively stepping up their data protection mechanisms.