If you’re encountering more and more subscription paywalls as you try to read the news around the web, you now have a lot in common with Big Tech, facing worldwide pressure to pay for its use of media sites’ material.
This FT scoop reveals EU politicians overseeing new digital regulation in Europe want to force payment for news, echoing a similar move in Australia and strengthening the hand of publishers against Google and Facebook. In the US, senator Amy Klobuchar has said she plans to reintroduce legislation to let newspapers collectively bargain with the dominant platforms over payments.
MEPs working on two landmark draft European digital regulations, the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), told the FT the laws could be amended as they pass through the EU parliament to include aspects of the Australian reforms. These include the option of binding arbitration for licensing agreements.
Both Facebook and Google have tried to mitigate potential action with initiatives that have generated some revenues for publishers, namely the Google News Showcase and the Facebook News tab. Google also agreed to start paying French publishers for news last month.
But both have bridled at a draft law in Australia, with Google threatening to leave the country and Facebook warning it will stop users Down Under from sharing news if the legislation is passed in its current form.
Jamie Smyth in Sydney reports most analysts predict “G-exit” would deliver a significant economic hit in the short-term, although not as dramatic as the A$53bn in annual economic benefits that Google claims it generates for businesses and consumers in Australia.
Google and Facebook may have hoped to curtail the global push for payments by publishers by taking a stand in Australia, but the kerfuffle only seems to have attracted more support from lawmakers around the world.
The Internet of (Five) Things
1. Investors hammer Amazon for union-bashing
A group of more than 70 investors with some $20bn in shares has written to Amazon to urge it to stop interfering with efforts by its workers to unionise ahead of a pivotal vote in Alabama. Mail-in balloting began this week among more than 5,800 employees in Bessemer, a suburb of Birmingham, marking the first attempt by US-based Amazon workers to vote for union representation.
2. Reddit raises $250m for $6bn valuation
The newly trendy online discussion forum at the centre of the recent US retail trading mania has raised $250m from private investors as it courts advertising by big brands. The late-stage fundraising gives Reddit a valuation of $6bn excluding the cash infusion, double its last funding-round valuation in early 2019.
#techFT brings you news, comment and analysis on the big companies, technologies and issues shaping this fastest moving of sectors from specialists based around the world. Click here to get #techFT in your inbox.
3. Bitcoin powered by Musk and Reddit
Alphaville has found early clues to Tesla’s decision to buy $1.5bn worth of bitcoin — in a subreddit discussion forum about the cryptocurrency. Our analysis of Tesla’s bet says that experts in corporate treasury management think the move makes almost no sense.
4. UK contact-tracing app prevents 600,000 Covid cases
The once-maligned NHS contact-tracing app has prevented the transmission of hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 cases, researchers at the Alan Turing Institute and Oxford university have estimated. The app has sent 1.7m notifications to its more than 21m users telling people to isolate so far. Of those, the researchers calculate about 600,000 cases were averted in England and Wales by the end of December.
5. Irish data regulator under fire for ‘abacus’ software
The Irish data protection authority, the lead regulator overseeing big tech companies’ compliance with General Data Protection Regulation, has come under fire from privacy activists who argue its IT systems are ill-equipped for the task. One former employee described the current situation as akin to “trying to run your payroll system with an abacus”.
Tech tools — Alexander app
Alexander is a mobile app and digital storytelling platform that fuses audio, writing, and film formats to intriguing effect, writes Saskia Solomon. It was created by Cameron Lamb, an Australian film producer, which helps explains why the $3.99-a-month service is crammed with stars of the screen. David Tennant, Bill Nighy, Vanessa Kirby, Dan Stevens and Helena Bonham Carter are among the many names to have lent their voices to the project. Ranging from 50 seconds to three minutes in length, the films “set the tone” for the narrated long reads, which are an hour long.