Australia watchdog tips tough rules to curb power of Google, Facebook

Updated 11 February 2019
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Australia watchdog tips tough rules to curb power of Google, Facebook

  • The ACCC could also recommend that platforms provide a “quality” badge alongside content produced by recognized news media as a counter to disinformation

SYDNEY: The head of Australia’s competition watchdog warned Monday that tough new regulation of tech giants like Google and Facebook was needed to protect the future of independent journalism.
Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), said the market power wielded by Google and Facebook has had a devastating impact on Australian news media.
While the number of journalists employed by Australian newspapers fell 20 percent from 2014 to 2017 as print advertising revenues dwindled, Sims said, Google and Facebook between them captured nearly 70 percent of all online advertising spend.
“This shift in advertising revenue online, and to digital platforms, has reduced the ability of media businesses to fund news and journalism,” Sims said in remarks prepared for delivery to Sydney’s International Institute of Communications.
“We cannot simply leave the production of news and journalism to market forces,” added Sims, whose agency has been carrying out a lengthy probe of the impact of digital platforms on the news industry in Australia.
While the platforms capture the vast majority of advertising revenue, they do not create any original news, Sims said.
“Rather they select, curate, evaluate, rank and arrange news stories produced by third parties,” he said, noting that this market power increased the “risk of filter bubbles and unreliable news on digital platforms.”
“Holding such critical positions in both the media and advertising markets results in special responsibilities,” he said.
The ACCC launched its inquiry into the power of digital platforms a year ago, and is accepting final submissions from industry players until the end of this week, before issuing its final report in June.
But Sims signalled on Monday that the final recommendations would include calls for broad new regulations on the digital behemoths and the opaque algorithms they use in disseminating news and advertising.
“Virtually no media regulation applies to digital platforms and this contributes to regulatory disparity between media sectors that would appear to provide the digital platforms with an unfair advantage,” he said.
A media regulator, he said, should have the power to compel platforms to reveal how news is ranked in search results, including whether advertiser-funded content is ranked higher than paid content, or if original news content is outranked by copycat stories and so-called clickbait.
The ACCC could also recommend that platforms provide a “quality” badge alongside content produced by recognized news media as a counter to disinformation.
Finally, Sims suggested a series of proposals to support local and independent journalism, including tax offsets for people who subscribe to news media which meet a set of quality standards.


REVIEW: Second season of Sacred Games mirrors the ills of today's India

Updated 17 August 2019
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REVIEW: Second season of Sacred Games mirrors the ills of today's India

CHENNAI: The first season of “Sacred Games” last year was a hit, and the second edition, which began streaming on Netflix on Aug. 15, may be even more so.

The eight episodes explore some of India's most pressing current issues such as a nuclear threat, terrorism and inter-religious animosity dating back to the country's 1947 partition. It. It also addresses how religious men can indulge in the most unholy of acts, including helping corrupt politicians.

Some of the greatest films have had conflict and war as their backdrop: “Gone with the Wind,” “Casablanca,” “Ben-Hur” and “Garam Hawa,” to mention a few. The second season of “Sacred Games” also unfolds in such a scenario, with terrorism and inter-communal disharmony having a rippling effect on the nation.

Directed by Anurag Kashyap (“Gangs of Wasseypur,” “Black Friday”) and Neeraj Ghaywan (“Masaan,” which premiered at Cannes in 2015), the web series, based on Vikram Chandra's 2006 novel, unfolds with Ganesh Gaitonde (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui) escaping from prison and finding himself in Mombasa. He has been carted there by an agent of India's

Research and Analysis Wing, Kusum Devi Yadav (Amruta Subhash), who forces him to help find Shahid Khan (Ranvir Shorey), the mastermind behind bomb blasts and terror attacks.

In Mumbai, police inspector Sartaj (Saif Ali Khan) has just two weeks to save the city from a nuclear attack, which Gaitonde had warned him about. Both men love Mumbai and do not want it to be destroyed. But religious extremist Khanna Guruji (Pankaj Tripathi) and his chief disciple Batya Ableman (Kalki Koechlin) believe that only such a catastrophic destruction can help cleanse society and bring a cleaner, saner new order.

A narrative of deceit, betrayal, love and longing, the second season has a plodding start, but picks up steam from the fourth episode, with Sartaj and his men racing against time to find a nuclear time bomb that could wipe out Mumbai. Crude dialogue and a constant doomsday atmosphere could have been avoided, but riveting performances by the lead pair – Khan and Siddiqui (though he is getting typecast in this kind of role) – and nail-biting thrills make this Netflix original dramatically captivating.