Google says to block search engine in Australia if forced to pay for news

Mel Silva, left, the managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, appears via a video link during a Senate inquiry into a mandatory code of conduct proposed by the government at Parliament House in Canberra on Jan. 22, 2021. (AAP Image via AP)
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Updated 22 January 2021

Google says to block search engine in Australia if forced to pay for news

  • Google’s threat escalates a battle with publishers such as News Corp. that is being closely watched around the world

SYDNEY: Alphabet’s Google said on Friday it would block its search engine in Australia if the government proceeds with a new code that would force it and Facebook to pay media companies for the right to use their content.
Google’s threat escalates a battle with publishers such as News Corp. that is being closely watched around the world. The search giant had warned that its 19 million Australian users would face degraded search and YouTube experiences if the new code were enforced.
Australia is on course to pass laws that would make tech giants negotiate payments with local publishers and broadcasters for content included in search results or news feeds. If they cannot strike a deal, a government-appointed arbitrator will decide the price.
“Coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk if this version of the Code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” Mel Silva, managing director for Australia and New Zealand, told a senate committee.
Silva made no mention of YouTube in prepared remarks, as the video service is expected to be exempted under revisions to the code last month.
Google’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who said the country makes its rules for “things you can do in Australia.”
“People who want to work with that in Australia, you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats,” Morrison told reporters.
At the inquiry, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims, who has overseen the new rules, said he could not predict what the tech giants would do but said “there’s always brinkmanship in serious negotiations.”
“They talk of commercial deals where they’re in full control of the deal,” he said. “In my view that’s not a commercial deal.”
Google has called the code overly broad and said that without revisions, offering even a limited search tool would be too risky. The company does not disclose sales from Australia, but search ads are its biggest contributor to revenue and profit globally.
The United States government this week asked Australia to scrap the proposed laws, which have broad political support, and suggested Australia should pursue a voluntary code instead.
Australia announced the legislation last month after an investigation found Google and social media giant Facebook held too much market power in the media industry, a situation it said posed a potential threat to a well-functioning democracy.
Google’s threat to limit its services in Australia came just hours after the Internet giant reached a content-payment deal with some French news publishers as part of three-year, $1.3-billion push to support publishers.
Google’s testimony “is part of a pattern of threatening behavior that is chilling for anyone who values our democracy,” said Peter Lewis, director of the Australia Institute’s Center for Responsible Technology.


Daily Mail owner snaps up New Scientist magazine for $97.8 million

Updated 03 March 2021

Daily Mail owner snaps up New Scientist magazine for $97.8 million

  • The purchase comes soon after the British firm agreed to sell its EdTech business, Hobsons

The owner of Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper acquired science and technology magazine New Scientist for $97.80 million in cash, as it looks to build out its subscriptions and digital offerings.
Daily Mail and General Trust said on Wednesday its consumer media division bought the publication from a consortium of investors led by New Scientist owner Bernard Gray.
“New Scientist is a world-renowned publication loved by its readers ... We are very much looking forward to supporting their exciting plans to grow as the go-to publication for anyone interested in the scientific world around us,” DMGT Chairman Jonathan Harmsworth said.
The purchase comes soon after the British firm agreed to sell its EdTech business, Hobsons, in an effort to narrow its focus on a handful of businesses.
New Scientist, founded in 1956, is expected to post an operating profit of about 7 million pounds in 2021, with revenue likely to exceed 20 million pounds, DMGT said.
The publication has a weekly circulation of about 120,000, of which just over half are based in the UK, and gets about 75 percent of its revenue from subscriptions.


Kayleigh McEnany signs on as Fox News contributor

Updated 02 March 2021

Kayleigh McEnany signs on as Fox News contributor

  • McEnany, former President Donald Trump’s final press secretary, didn’t speak about her new role
  • While at the White House, McEnany frequently appeared on Fox News programs for interviews

NEW YORK: As widely anticipated, Fox News said Tuesday that it had signed former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany as a contributor to offer commentary on various network programs.
McEnany, former President Donald Trump’s final press secretary, didn’t speak about her new role during an interview with Fox’s Harris Faulkner that aired Tuesday.
It was reported in January that McEnany had disclosed to the US Office of Government Ethics while still in office that she would work for Fox after leaving the White House. Fox said at the time that it had been in discussions with McEnany but had paused them.
Before working for Trump, McEnany was a commentator at CNN.
While at the White House, McEnany frequently appeared on Fox News programs for interviews.
She said Tuesday that her biggest regret at the White House was not being able to hold a briefing outlining all the accomplishments of the Trump administration.
“But after Jan. 6, it just was not tenable,” she said.
She said that “everyone in the administration was horrified” by the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, led by a mob of Trump supporters, but she insisted that it did not represent the former president’s backers.
Asked if she believed Trump bore any responsibility for the riot, she said, “No, I don’t.”
Trump was impeached by the House on a charge of incitement of insurrection over the insurrection but acquitted by the House. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell voted to acquit Trump, citing the fact that the former president was out of office by the time the Senate trial began, but McConnell said Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the riot.


OSN celebrates International Women’s Day with all-female line-up

Updated 02 March 2021

OSN celebrates International Women’s Day with all-female line-up

  • New channel offers tailored content ‘to engage with women of the region’

DUBAI: In celebration of International Women’s Day, entertainment network OSN is planning to launch its first-ever content lineup dedicated to women in the region.

The OSN Woman content will be launched on March 8 and will be available as a standalone channel through any OSN box, as we well as on-demand and on the OSN streaming app.

“OSN Woman was born from the desire to provide women of the region with a tailored content offering. This is the start of a new chapter for OSN, as we launch new content offering that caters to the needs of women of the region and engages with them in a truly relevant way,” Rolla Karam, interim chief content officer at OSN, told Arab News.

Rolla Karam, interim chief content officer at OSN

Fashion, health, parenting, relationships and reality topics will feature in the new channel.

The content, which has been chosen by female programming specialists at OSN, includes “Framing Britney Spears,” “A Perfect 14,” which explores the world of plus size modeling; and “Public Figure,” which looks at the psychological effect of social media use on influencers.

The campaign to promote OSN Woman is also created by an all-women team led by director Danielle Arden and Nayla Chacra, regional executive content producer at production company Prodigious.

“This is the outcome of serious efforts led by talented women at OSN, who invested all their knowledge and understanding of the region in coming up with this unique line-up,” said Karam.


Twitter labels to combat COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

Updated 02 March 2021

Twitter labels to combat COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

  • 2,400 accounts suspended, 11.5m challenged since platform launched new measures

DUBAI: Social networking giant Twitter is ramping up efforts to remove harmful and misleading information circulating online about coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines.

As the vaccine roll out gains speed, conversations about inoculation have been increasing on social media platforms.

And to help combat false claims and scaremongering about vaccines, Twitter has been applying labels to tweets that may contain misleading information about the COVID-19 jabs.

Labels will appear next to suspect content and may link to either the curated content tab, the official public health information, or the Twitter rules page.

Initially, Twitter’s team will apply labels to misleading content. Those assessments will be used to then inform the platform’s automated tools to identify and label similar content.

In addition to labels, Twitter will be introducing a strike system that will determine when further enforcement is necessary.

Repeated violations of the COVID-19 policy will be enforced on the basis of the number of strikes an account has accrued for infringing Twitter’s policies. Two and three strikes will result in a 12-hour account lock, four strikes a seven-day lock, and permanent suspension for five or more.

Twitter’s help center said that content could be labeled or removed if it advanced a claim of fact expressed in definitive terms, was demonstrably false or misleading based on widely available authoritative sources, or was likely to impact public safety or cause serious harm.

In December, Twitter shared updates on its work to protect the public conversation surrounding the virus outbreak. Since introducing its COVID-19 guidance, the platform has permanently suspended 2,400 accounts and challenged 11.5 million accounts worldwide.

The company has also launched a dedicated COVID-19 search prompt feature. When the term COVID-19 is searched on the platform, credible and authoritative content appears at the top of the search results. This has now been expanded to more than 80 countries and is currently available in 29 languages.

In some countries, the prompts also include an additional button that links to information specific to the COVID-19 vaccine.


Myanmar authorities charge Associated Press journalist

Updated 03 March 2021

Myanmar authorities charge Associated Press journalist

  • Six members of the press charged by Myanmarese authorities with violating a public order law and could face imprisonment up to three years
  • AP vice president for international news says 'independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution'

YANGON, Myanmar: Six members of the media, including Associated Press [AP] journalist Thein Zaw were charged on Tuesday of violating a public order law that could see them imprisoned up to three years, said a lawyer.
Myanmarese authorities charged AP’s Zaw and five media persons following their arrest while covering protests against the February 1 military coup in Myanmar that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The group includes journalists for Myanmar Now, Myanmar Photo Agency, 7Day News, Zee Kwet online news and a freelancer.
Zaw’s lawyer Tin Zar Oo said the six have been charged under a law that punishes anyone who causes fear among the public, knowingly spreads false news, or agitates directly or indirectly for a criminal offense against a government employee.
The law was amended by the junta last month to broaden its scope and increase the maximum prison term from two years.
Detained on Saturday morning in the country’s largest city, Yangon, Zaw, 32, was reported to be held in Insein Prison that’s notorious for housing political prisoners under previous military regimes.
According to the lawyer, Thein Zaw was remanded into custody by a court and can be held until March 12 without another hearing or further action, meanwhile AP has called for Zaw’s immediate release.
“Independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution,” Ian Phillips, AP vice president for international news, said after the arrest. “AP decries in the strongest terms the arbitrary detention of Thein Zaw.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists joined that call.
“Myanmar authorities must release all journalists being held behind bars and stop threatening and harassing reporters for merely doing their jobs of covering anti-coup street protests,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Myanmar must not return to the past dark ages where military rulers jailed journalists to stifle and censor news reporting.”
Zaw was arrested as police charged toward protesters gathered at an intersection in Yangon, the demonstrators’ meeting point.
This past weekend the authorities escalated their crackdown carrying out mass arrests and using lethal force. The UN Human Rights offices said it believes at least 18 people were shot dead Sunday in several cities when security forces opened fire on demonstrators.
The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy after five decades of military rule.
In December 2017, two Reuters’ journalists were arrested while working on a story about Myanmar’s Rohingya minority. They were accused of illegally possessing official documents, although they argued that they were framed because of official opposition to their reporting.
Although their case attracted international attention, they were convicted the following year and were sentenced to seven years behind bars. They were freed in 2019 in a mass presidential pardon.