Assisted by the Morrison Government and the ACCC, News Corp is fighting Facebook and Google. David Donovan and Michelle Pini explain the latest internet wars.
FOR RUPERT MURDOCH, at this late stage of his illustrious career, there must be few pleasures left. (And probably even fewer for Jerry Hall, though that is merely idle speculation.)
Starting off from inheriting only a few million in the 1950s, as well as his own small Adelaide tabloid newspaper, Rupert has gone on to big things, dominating the news industry around the world and steering it ever closer to absolute catastrophe.
Nevertheless, despite his great achievements, his mind has always been true to his modest beginnings and remained small and insular.
And, so it is with his campaign against Facebook and Google, which, with the assistance of his Liberal Party underlings, may in Australia soon reach a climax. (Sorry Jerry.)
While the carnival clowns in News Corp and Nine Fairfax have been stirring up lynch mobs against Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, there have been other things going on. Things that will affect you and, most definitely, things that will affect small online publishers like Independent Australia. Things that have been brought about because a 90-year-old rich-kid runs this country tighter than Benito in 1939.
The first thing to understand is that Rupert doesn't like the internet. He likes more tangible things, like paper, ink and the entrails of his foes. He also doesn't really understand the internet, but knows what he doesn't like most: aggregators.
Murdoch has been railing against these so-called aggregators, by which he means social media platforms and search engines, both personally and through his vast and sinister media conglomerate, for at least a decade.
His argument is they are “stealing” News Corp content by posting links. Well, not just links, but also headlines and snippets (the first sentence or two). The whole thing would be rather funny – look at the silly old duffer getting angry about people sharing his stories – except Rupert is not just any old duffer. The mad old despot runs the place.
Now, it goes without saying that if you think your content is being stolen by someone posting the headline and a sentence or two, you mustn't really think much of the rest of your content. But that's News Corp, which is not about news but rather about shaping views.
What's changed lately is that the ACCC produced a report advising the Federal Government to create a weird scheme where certain publishers would be able to effectively charge Google and Facebook – and only them – a fee for posting snippets.
Now, the ACCC mightn't be corrupt. It might just be incompetent. It did, after all, approve the media ownership laws which set the groundwork for Nine’s takeover of Fairfax, reducing an already limited media industry into an even less diverse duopoly.
And in super double-quick time (surprise, surprise!) the Morrison Government has used this latest ACCC kitty litter lining of a report to move to legislate for even more money for the big media players. Because fighting with China is not enough conflict for the geniuses running this dumbocracy.
But stuff Google and Facebook, says Morrison and his gang of dollar store Batman villains, if Rupert wants something, no matter how obviously idiotic, odious or borderline corrupt, Rupert will bloody well get it. His media monopoly is the only thing keeping the Coalition in power, after all.
Now Facebook is looking at retaliating to this threat. It has foreshadowed the most obvious response: to remove news from its feeds. Google is likely to do the same, since news is only a tiny percentage of total internet searches. And who will this mostly harm? Any guesses?
Not so much the big established publications, such as those in the News Corp stable, who rely less on sharing and searches and more on brand loyalty and penetration, and also sell physical newsprint that will be unaffected by any boycott. No, it will be small indie media like Independent Australia.
Of course, IA is likely eligible to apply for the scheme, but as if we are in a position to piss off behemoths like Google and Facebook. And quite obviously, we wouldn't be in a position to make a cent from such a scheme if Google and Facebook ban sharing news.
Facebook is already in negotiations with News Corp, the results of which can only further sideline independent media in favour of huge multinational players.
Where Google is concerned, Google Ads compensates websites for advertisements – a function that News Corp also utilises – but this in no way makes up for the traffic that would be lost if news is removed from its search engine.
Irrespective of how you look at it, the Murdoch media is working with the Morrison Government to achieve its goal of controlling the narrative and manipulating the way people can find news and information. A job which they already fulfil with aplomb, but which will be that much easier without pesky Google searches and Facebook sharing platforms unearthing more and more alternative views.
Whichever way it goes, Rupert Murdoch gets what he wants. Either a new stream of revenue from Facebook and Google, or a potentially crippling blow to his emerging online news rivals.
Come to think of it, maybe the old coot does understand the internet? More likely his staff do.
So much for freedom of information.
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You can follow, on Twitter, IA founder and director Dave Donovan @davrosz and managing editor Michelle Pini @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.
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