Former Facebook boss says regional publications lose out in new media deal


Regional and independent new outlets are the big loser in the federal government’s revised media code, according to the former chief executive of Facebook Australia.

Earlier this week, social media giant Facebook agreed to walk-back its block on Australian news content after the government agreed to make amendments to the proposed media bargaining laws.

The new laws have passed through both houses of Parliament following a period of intense negotiation between the Australian government and Facebook bosses, including founder Mark Zuckerburg.

Under the new legislation, Facebook will have to pay media outlets for access to their content or be forced into arbitration.

However, the former chief executive of Facebook Australia and New Zealand is warning that the code is not good news for regional media outlets.

Stephen Scheeler helped transform Facebook’s Australian arm from a quirky Silicon Valley success story to a media titan between 2013 and 2017.

He believed there was both good and bad news within the new deal, which will see Australian media companies’ Facebook profiles reinstated.

Mr Scheeler said the big news outlets were the big winners, and that regional and smaller independent publishers may end up being a casualty of the revised code.

“I don’t think it’s good for grassroots journalism, it’s not good for rural parts of Australia,” Mr Scheeler said.

Under the revised code conditions, Facebook will be given the power to determine who is considered a news publisher, according to Mr Scheeler.

“That was a change that was made at the request of Facebook by the government,” he said.

“If I was in regional Australia, I would be definitely talking to my MP or to the powers that be locally to say, ‘Well, what about us? Why weren’t we more more looked after in this process?'”

The latest amendment to the code has been met with lukewarm enthusiasm by regional publishers.

In western Victoria, the Hamilton Spectator has produced its newspaper for 160 years.

The newspaper’s editor, Tara Fry, said she was concerned about the power being handed to the social media titan.

“The idea that Facebook can determine who is and isn’t a newspaper is crazy,” she said.

“Prior to today, we were on the same playing field as our nearest competitor in print media.

But the government does not believe smaller media businesses will be left behind.

“We do expect there to be arrangements with small and regional publishers as well as the larger ones, albeit through a more efficient mode of engagement through a default offer,” Communications Minister, Paul Fletcher said.

Ms Fry said it was hard enough for independent newspapers to battle larger media outlets as it is.

“To think that one of our nearest competitors just up the road could get paid for their content while we couldn’t, it’s just a bit of a kick in the guts for us,” she said.

“The newspaper world in the last 12 months has been particularly hard so for us to pull through that has been incredible.

“But to think that once again, the bigger companies could be winning on all this, just kick us while we’re down — that’s how it feels.”

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Facebook Settles Lawsuit for $650 Million – Jewish Business News


Facebook Settles Lawsuit for $650 Million

The company was sued over its use of facial recognition tech, among other things.

It will cost Facebook $650 Million to settle a civil suit brought over allegations of invasion of privacy. This is the largest settlement ever for a lawsuit of this kind. So Mark Zuckerberg will probably have to break open his piggy bank now and may even have to eat in for a few months to cover the costs.

So what was the brouhaha? Well in 2015 a group of people brought suit against Facebook over its use of facial recognition technology. This is also known as biometrics. And the suit also dealt with geolocation.

Everybody is worried these days about their privacy getting violated by big tech. The complaints over companies like Google and Facebook compiling data on all of your internet searches and personal habits to sell and use for targeted advertising led to new laws around the world.

You may have noticed that websites now ask for your permission to use cookies. Cookies are a type of program which websites use to keep track of their visitors. Some people describe them as a type of spyware. Browsers usually allows people to disable all cookies. But then you cannot use the good kind which let your browser remember all of your passwords so that you do not need to login every time that you use Netflix or Hulu.

Apps usually need to track your location. This is certainly true for travel apps like Waze and any weather apps which tell you the temperature wherever you are. This is why apps ask for permission to track you. Some allow you to grant this permission only when the app is in use. Others ask for permission first before they access files on your phone like pictures or contact lists.

So today we are all more aware of these things. We know that we are being monitored and have more control over the when and where. But that was not always the case. The outrage against companies like Facebook was that they were doing these things for years without asking for consent or even letting people know that they were doing it.

The settlement was approved by San Francisco U.S. District Court Judge James Donato. Nearly 1.6 million Facebook users who had filed the class action suit in Illinois will be receiving a part of the money. But after lawyers’ fees, that may come out to only about $200 a piece.

Judge Donato called it, “a major win for consumers in the hotly contested area of digital privacy.”

In a statement Facebook said, “We are pleased to have reached a settlement so we can move past this matter, which is in the best interest of our community and our shareholders.”


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Schumpeter – Apple’s duel with Facebook is a new form of big-tech rivalry | Business


LAST WEEKEND Mark Murrell, the founder of Get Maine Lobster, bought an Oculus virtual-reality (VR) headset. It is a plaything, but he quickly thought of business. “I can’t wait until everybody has one,” he says. “If only I could have an ad in one of those.” His business is delivering lobsters, at an average $190 a box, to homes across America. In his fantasy VR world, he would take customers via their headsets out on boats to see the catches, or give them cooking lessons—all while gently nudging them to place orders. Since his business started in 2009, its primary means of reaching new customers has been through ads on Facebook. It is not lost on him that Oculus is also owned by the social-media giant. “I was like ‘wow, watch out!’,” he says.

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As one of the biggest online-advertising platforms, Facebook understands the hidden depths of the digital world like a lobster fisherman knows the topography of the sea floor. But Mark Zuckerberg does not set the rules in all the places where his company lurks. The most lucrative hunting grounds are those controlled by Apple, maker of the iPhone, whose users last year spent on average almost five times as much per person buying stuff on its iOS operating system as those on devices using Android, its (Google-owned) rival. Apple has said that this spring it will upgrade iOS to toughen restrictions on the way advertising platforms access data, including by requiring apps to ask users for permission to track them across apps and websites owned by other firms. Those that rely on Apple’s individual-device identifiers for data-tracking will be affected. Facebook, the tracker-in-chief, has most to lose.

Apple justifies its actions as part of a commitment to protect its users’ privacy. Facebook says it is resisting on behalf of millions of its small and medium-sized business clients that rely on its data-hunting algorithms to reach customers. On the surface it looks like a typical territorial dispute of privacy versus access. Mr Murrell’s Oculus fantasies provide a glimpse of why it goes much deeper than that.

The giants’ efforts to portray their positions as high-minded and altruistic are self-serving. But each has a point. Apple’s boss, Tim Cook, is right, in his thinly veiled attacks on Facebook, to lament the way polarisation and disinformation keep people glued to their screens to enable sites to exploit more data. Mr Zuckerberg is right to deride Mr Cook’s assertion that advertising does not need personalised data because it survived for decades without them. That system was skewed in favour of big companies with pots of money to spend on adverts. Smaller firms’ ability to reach customers with cheap online ads is one of the great novelties of the digital age. Get Maine Lobster, which pays Facebook about $45 for every crustacean-craver it lands, thrives because of it.

More privacy will hurt but not kill the personalised-ad model. Some Apple users, preferring targeted ads to random ones, will opt to allow data-tracking. Google, which has split loyalties because of its own online-ad juggernaut, may make its Android platform privacy-lite. That would create a bifurcated web: on the one side, a privacy-focused, gentrified iOS system; on the other, a freer-for-all Android one. Ad-supported social-media sites, from Facebook to Snapchat and TikTok, will compete to develop technologies, such as artificial intelligence, to combine personalisation with more privacy. Ultimately, they could even pay people to track their data (though Apple’s rules currently forbid this). Omdia, a media consultancy, says the iOS upgrade will cause iOS in-app advertising revenue to drop by almost a fifth this year. But it expects it to rebound by 2024.

Facebook’s insinuations about the dark motives behind Apple’s iOS upgrade are probably overstated. Even though services are a fast-growing source of Apple’s revenue, attempting to rig the market in favour of its App Store and mine it for better advertising data would make a mockery of its privacy campaign, which it sees as paramount for attracting customers. More likely, Apple is changing the rules in favour of more privacy because it can. It controls its integrated stack of hardware and software. Facebook does not. That gives Apple the freedom to assert its power.

But it is also a demonstration of paranoia. Facebook has growing ambitions to become a direct competitor to Apple. One way would be for Facebook to combine its namesake social network with its Instagram photo-sharing app and WhatsApp messenger into a “super-app” akin to Tencent’s WeChat in China, melding social media, messaging, e-commerce, gaming and payments. That would give it more freedom to offer personalised ads, since Apple cannot control data-tracking within the Facebook family of apps.

Subtracting ads

Another way would be to start a new hardware craze that overtakes the iPhone. Overshadowed by Mr Zuckerberg’s prickly attacks on Apple are revelations of what he calls his dream, “since I was a kid”, to build a new computing platform. Following a tradition that started with mainframes, then PCs, then browser-based computing, then mobile phones, he hopes to develop “immersive computing”, based on virtual and augmented reality. Oculus is a start, especially for gaming. Augmented-reality glasses are in the future. This year Facebook plans to launch “smart glasses” in partnership with Luxottica, which makes Ray-Bans. If they do not suffer the fate of ungainly Google Glass, they could start an arms race. Reportedly, Apple is working on a VR headset and glasses. Samsung, a South Korean smartphone-maker, may be working on augmented eyewear, too. And VR is not the only potential breakthrough. Smart speakers and cars are other contenders.

Whatever comes next, even Facebook acknowledges that privacy will need to be an important component. Many people, like lobsters, crave their nooks and crannies. The more so knowing that, thanks to firms like Facebook, merchants have become ever better at luring them into their pots.

This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline “Headsets at dawn”

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SBS News is back on Facebook, but here’s how to follow us on other platforms


SBS News app: Download our app from Apple’s App Store or Google Play and subscribe to the alerts.

SBS News newsletters: Get the latest delivered to your email inbox by subscribing here

Apple News: Follow the SBS News channel here on an Apple device.

Twitter: Follow us at twitter.com/SBSNews

Instagram: Follow us at instagram.com/sbsnews_au

YouTube: Subscribe at youtube.com/c/sbsnews

TikTok: Follow us at tiktok.com/@sbsnews_au

Reddit: Join us at reddit.com/r/sbsnewsau

SBS also publishes news in 68 languages online and on radio. Find your language at sbs.com.au/language and specific health information about COVID-19 at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

You can also still find stories from Dateline, Insight, The Feed and NITV on their websites and various social media platforms. 



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Victoria eases coronavirus restrictions, Facebook ends news blackout – as it happened | Australia news


Victims of southeast Queensland’s 2011 floods have finally secured a partial payout after the state government and a dam operator agreed to pay $440m for their roles in the disaster, AAP reports.

The Queensland government and state-owned dam operator SunWater have settled a class action claim by about 6,700 victims whose properties went under during a biblical rain event a decade ago.

But while victims are happy about Friday’s settlement, there is fury too for a third party found responsible for exacerbating the disaster.

Seqwater, another state-owned dam operator, is appealing the NSW Supreme Court’s decision in 2019 that all three parties failed the people of Brisbane and Ipswich and must pay compensation.

Back in 2019, Justice Robert Beech-Jones found flood engineers in control of Wivenhoe and Somerset dams did not manage them properly and did not follow operating procedures they, themselves, had helped write.

Their delayed actions worsened downstream flooding, he found.

In all, about 23,000 homes and businesses went under after huge water releases were made to make sure the dams did not fail.

Former Ipswich councillor Paul Tully’s home flooded to the roof in January, 2011. He and other class-action participants now face another long wait for the outcome of Seqwater’s appeal, which won’t even begin until May.

And there’s a lot hanging in the balance. If Seqwater loses, flood victims are estimated to be in line for another $440m in compensation, on top of Friday’s settlement.

“I would describe today as bitter sweet. Half of this claim is sorted but we need the other half,” Tully told AAP on Friday.

“This is now going to drag on through the NSW Court of Appeal, and if Seqwater loses there, it could drag on again for another couple of years in the high court.

“It’s hard to believe that 10 years later we are still waiting. It takes a toll. Not a week goes by that you don’t think of some photos, or a book, or something you want to put your hands on, and then you realise you lost it in the flood,” Tully said.

The floods case was heard in a NSW court because it was initiated before class actions were allowed in Queensland in 2017.






A car is stranded in flood waters on the Warrego Highway west of Brisbane, Australia on 12 January 2011. Photograph: Dave Hunt/EPA

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News returns to Facebook in Australia after media code passes parliament



Facebook has reversed its ban on news content in Australia after the government’s new media bargaining code, which forces social media giants to compensate news publishers, passed parliament on Thursday. 

The Facebook pages of media publishers, including SBS News, were reinstated early on Friday morning after being blacked out for a week when the social media giant abruptly blocked Australian users from posting or sharing article links.

Users navigating to news pages during the ban found generic grey bars where custom cover photos used to sit, and the message “no posts yet” in place of news content and shared stories.

The ban was widely criticised across the world, with warnings the absence of news would allow misinformation to flourish.

But on Wednesday evening, Facebook announced it had agreed to restore news pages in the coming days after striking a deal with the federal government to amend the legislation. 

“Absolutely critically, the code maintains its key measures, namely it is a mandatory code,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters. 

“Secondly, it is based on two-way value exchange, and third, it involves a final-offer arbitration mechanism.”

More to come

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Australian news sites reappear on Facebook after Government agrees to amend media bargaining laws



Australian news is back on Facebook after the social media giant agreed to reverse a block on Australian content.

Facebook pages for news outlets including the ABC, Herald Sun, Seven Network and Sydney Morning Herald were restored in the early hours of Friday morning.

The move came a week after Australians were blocked from accessing news in their Facebook feeds or sharing news content.

Facebook said the move was in response to the Federal Government’s proposed media bargaining laws.

A number of non-news pages were initially swept up in the ban, including community organisations, charities and the Bureau of Meteorology.

The code is structured so that if Facebook and Google do not sign commercial deals with traditional media outlets the Treasurer can “designate” them, and force them to pay for access to news content.

Facebook agreed to reverse the ban after the Government said it would make amendments to the laws, including giving Facebook more time to strike deals.

More to come.

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Facebook picks a side and bans Myanmar’s military from their platforms


Facebook has announced that it has removed all remaining Myanmar military and military-controlled pages from its sites.

It has also blocked advertising from military-linked businesses, depriving them of their largest communication platform.

The ban also includes Instagram.

The decision follows a coup on February 1st, where the military removed elected leaders from power and jailed others, causing nationwide protests that lead to multiple deaths.

Facebook said they took the measures because of “exceptionally severe human rights abuses and the clear risk of future military-initiated violence in Myanmar.”

The ban covers the air force, the navy, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Border Affairs, Facebook Policy Communications Manager Amy Sawitta Lefevre said.

“Events since the February 1 coup, including deadly violence, have precipitated a need for this ban. We believe the risks of allowing the Tatmadaw on Facebook and Instagram are too great,” Facebook said in the statement.

“We’re continuing to treat the situation in Myanmar as an emergency and we remain focused on the safety of our community, and the people of Myanmar more broadly,” they added.

Facebook attempted to curb the military’s content on their platform earlier in the month by limiting their content reach and banning their main Facebook page.

NetBlocks said the military retaliated to the announcement made on Thursday, by blocking access to Facebook around the country.

Internet Blackouts

Residents in Myanmar have been experiencing overnight internet blackouts for 11 consecutive nights, leaving residents unable to communicate with each other or update people overseas.

Calls for civil disobedience in Myanmar have been prominent on social media and despite the internet being reinstated during the day, many residents still struggle to access platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

People across the world are calling for social media and the internet to be restored for the citizens in Myanmar so people can communicate and express their political views, access important information and run their businesses.

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Facebook admits snap Australian news ban ‘erred on over-enforcement’ as media code passes parliament


Facebook has admitted it “erred on the side of over-enforcement” when it abruptly moved to block publishers and users in Australia from sharing or viewing news content, but defended its initial opposition to the government’s media bargaining code.

It comes as amended legislation for the world-first code clears federal parliament.

The government’s bill received the final tick of approval on Thursday when parliament’s lower house agreed to changes, which were made after negotiations with Facebook.

Facebook’s ban last week saw some non-news pages including domestic violence support services, government health bodies and emergency services briefly blocked. 

In a blog post titled ‘The Real Story of What Happened With News on Facebook in Australia’ on Wednesday night (AEDT), the tech giant said the snap decision to block news sharing “wasn’t taken lightly”.

“But when it came, we had to take action quickly because it was legally necessary to do so before the new law came into force, and so we erred on the side of over-enforcement,” Nick Clegg, a former UK deputy prime minister who is now Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs and communications, wrote in the post.

“In doing so, some content was blocked inadvertently. Much of this was, thankfully, reversed quickly.”

Sir Nick said while the decision may have appeared to come out of the blue, that wasn’t the case.

“We’ve been in discussions with the Australian government for three years trying to explain why this proposed law, unamended, was unworkable,” he said.

Sir Nick said that while it was “understandable” that some news publishers “see Facebook as a potential source of money to make up for their losses”, it would not have been fair to be able to demand a “blank cheque”.

“Facebook would have been forced to pay potentially unlimited amounts of money to multinational media conglomerates under an arbitration system that deliberately misdescribes the relationship between publishers and Facebook – without even so much as a guarantee that it is used to pay for journalism, let alone support smaller publishers.”

He argued it was “like forcing carmakers to fund radio stations because people might listen to them in the car, and letting the stations set the price”.

SBS News

Meanwhile, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims is confident the heavily amended code will still curtail the immense market power of digital platforms.

“Google and Facebook need media but they don’t need any particular company and that (previously) meant media companies couldn’t do commercial deals with Facebook or Google,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.

“The purpose of the code is to give them the potential for arbitration, which helps their bargaining position, and therefore helps them reach fair commercial deals.”

Both Google and Facebook signed deals with major Australian news companies before the negotiating rules were enshrined in law.

So far, large media organisations including News Corp and Nine have been the main beneficiaries of deals struck.

“In any situation like this you would expect deals to be done with the bigger players first and then work down the list,” Mr Sims said.

“Given this is supporting journalism, it’s naturally going to see more money going to those who’ve got the most journalists but I don’t see any reason why anybody should doubt that all journalism will benefit.”

Mr Sims expects the online giants to seal deals with smaller players in time.

“I just don’t see why Google and Facebook would leave them out,” he said.

“I couldn’t see why you wouldn’t do deals with them, given it’s not going to cost you that much compared to what it’s going to cost for those that employ the vast bulk of journalists.”

With AAP.

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Facebook to reinstate Aussie news after government amends code


Facebook will reinstate Australian news on its platform after the Morrison government agreed to further amend its mandatory media bargaining code.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed the last-minute legislative changes this afternoon after days of negotiations with the social media giant.

“These amendments will provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the code is intended to operate and strengthen the framework for ensuring news media businesses are fairly remunerated,” he said.

“The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days.”

The amendments will give parties more time to broker agreements before they are forced to enter binding arbitration.

The changes also clarify the government’s role in considering commercial deals struck between parties, and give digital platforms one month’s notice before they are formally designated under the code.

Facebook said it was pleased to have reached an agreement with the government after discussions with the treasurer and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher.

“After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognise the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them,” the company said.

“As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days.”

It comes after Facebook removed all news from its Australian pages last Thursday, with some key government agencies – including SA Health and the Bureau of Meteorology – caught up in the news ban.

Facebook has since reinstated the pages that were “inadvertently” impacted, and said the mix up occurred because the “law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content”. 

Earlier today, key crossbench senator Jacquie Lambie tore strips off Labor and the Greens for supporting the code.

Lambie says the code, which will require digital platforms to pay for linking to Australian news, will make media organisations even more dependent on the success of Google and Facebook.

Lambie argues the money generated will simply shift from one set of corporate titans to another.

“Shareholders of News Corp and Nine will be delighted that their dividend is about to be fattened up on the back of shareholders in Facebook and Google,” she told parliament.

Lambie said businesses wanting to advertise online would end up bearing the cost of tech giants paying for news.

“This is a bipartisan shakedown delivered by a consensus of absolute stupidity.”

And she savaged a Greens proposal to ensure money that flowed from the code was spent on journalism.

She said taxes were the best way of pumping money into journalism but argued the money shouldn’t go to media companies but journalism itself.

“If we want more money for journalism, let’s tax companies making heaps of money and put that money into supporting journalism, put it directly into journalism,” Lambie said.

“If we want Google and Facebook to pay more tax, let’s make them pay more tax.”

The bargaining code is expected to pass the Senate this week with support from Labor and the Greens, who will seek some minor amendments.

Lambie said both parties should be embarrassed about supporting the legislation.

-With AAP

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