Google makes billions from news sites in 2018, study finds

This file illustration picture shows the US multinational technology and Internet-related services company Google logo displayed on a tablet in Paris on February 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 11 June 2019
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Google makes billions from news sites in 2018, study finds

  • Many media companies and artists backed the EU move aimed at getting revenue from web platforms

WASHINGTON: Google took in some $4.7 billion in revenue in 2018 from “crawling and scraping” news websites without paying publishers, according to an industry-sponsored study released Monday which was disputed by the tech giant and media analysts.
The study by the News Media Alliance underscores industry arguments about Google and other online giants harming traditional news organizations by dominating the Internet news ecosystem and ad revenues generated through it.
According to the study, Google has increasingly monetized news content as it works to keep consumers in its ecosystem, and that news searches helps the Internet giant gather data from its users to help tailor its other products.
The report is expected to be presented this week to a congressional hearing on antitrust abuses by Big Tech firms and to support legislation that would allow news organizations exemptions from antitrust to negotiate digital revenues.
Google disputed the findings of the study, as did some media analysts.
“These back of the envelope calculations are inaccurate as a number of experts are pointing out,” a Google spokesperson said.
“The overwhelming number of news queries do not show ads. The study ignores the value Google provides. Every month Google News and Google Search drive over 10 billion clicks to publishers’ websites, which drive subscriptions and significant ad revenue.”
Other analysts also voiced skepticism about the methods and conclusions of the study by the media group previously known as the Newspaper Association of America.
Jeff Jarvis, a City University of New York journalism professor, called the study flawed, in part because it relies on “snippets” in search results.
“Snippets in search are NOT content,” Jarvis said on Twitter. “They are links TO the publishers. Google does not monetize Google News. When it makes money on news it’s by serving ads ON publishers’ sites.”
Temple University professor Aron Pilhofer said the study fails to consider how Google drives users to news websites where publishers can generate revenue.
“Even if you accept the methodology (which I do not), I think it’s fair to also account for all the traffic Google is pushing to publisher sites, wouldn’t it? This is just silly,” Pilhofer tweeted.
The study comes months after the European Union adopted a hotly contested copyright law that could require Google and other online giants to pay publishers for news content in search results.
Many media companies and artists backed the EU move aimed at getting revenue from web platforms. But the law was strongly opposed by Internet freedom activists and by Silicon Valley on concerns it could chill the sharing of information.


US Congress leaders demand probe into Al Jazeera’s status

Updated 25 June 2019
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US Congress leaders demand probe into Al Jazeera’s status

  • Legitimate questions are raised about whether the news outlet should register as a foreign agent

CHICAGO: Six Republican leaders of the House and Senate called for the expulsion of the Qatari-owned satellite television news network Al Jazeera accusing it of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Six GOP US senators including Charles Grassley of Iowa, Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida are demanding an investigation into why Al Jazeera is permitted to operate on American territory while two major Chinese government-controlled news agencies, Xinhua News Agency and China Global Television Network, are required to register under FARA.

The senators and representatives are calling for the Department of Justice to open hearings into Al Jazeera’s work in the US, accusing the government-owned Arabic and English-language news outlet of being an “agent” of the government of Qatar, which has been criticized as a safe haven and sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood and other religious extremist groups. Qatar is also accused of being an ally of Iran.

“News articles have reported activities in which Al Jazeera Media Network (Al Jazeera) is engaged that raise legitimate questions about whether it should register as a foreign agent,” the letter addressed to US Attorney General William Barr argues.

“Al Jazeera is a global organization spanning dozens of countries, including the United States, and reaches hundreds of millions of people worldwide. In 2016, its offshoot, Al Jazeera America, closed. However, Al Jazeera expanded its digital presence via Al Jazeera Plus (AJ+), its online news channel which is headquartered in the United States.”

HIGHLIGHT

The senators and representatives are calling for the Department of Justice to open hearings into Al Jazeera’s work in the US, accusing it of being an ‘agent’ of the government of Qatar.

The letter, dated June 18, 2019, argues that Al Jazeera, founded in 1996, is owned and operated by members of the Qatari royal family.

“Al Jazeera’s videos on YouTube are stamped with the disclaimer, ‘Al Jazeera is funded in whole or in part by the Qatari government.’ Thus, Al Jazeera is not only a foreign principal, but it is also owned by a foreign principal – the government of Qatar,” the Congressional and Senate leaders claim.

“Several members of the ruling family of Qatar have held senior positions at Al Jazeera: Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al-Thani, a member of the ruling family of Qatar, is the chairman of Al Jazeera; Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani is the CEO of Qatar Media Corporation and a board member of Al Jazeera;  Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al-Thani served as the director general of Al Jazeera from 2011 until June 2013.

“Given that members of the ruling family are in charge of managing the media network, it is more likely than not that the government can and will assert editorial control over media content.”

All of the signatories of the letter are outspoken critics of the Palestinian cause, and champions of Israel, and are among the largest recipients of campaign contributions from Israel’s American-based lobbying umbrella network, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). AIPAC, whose network donates hundreds of millions to the election campaigns of thousands of elected officials from senators all the way down to local legislators, is also not registered under FARA.

The letter comes as Qatari officials are launching a “charm offensive” to woo the administration of President Donald Trump. Trump is expected to meet in July with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani at the White House.

Critics, predominantly pro-Israel, have argued that Al Jazeera exploits its Arabic and English-language dual roles, embracing extremist and often anti-Semitic rhetoric in its Arabic broadcasts while softening language in its English online platforms.

In response to the criticism, Al Jazeera announced it was suspending two of its reporters for accusing Israel of being “the biggest winner from the Holocaust.”

Since its foundation, Al Jazeera has drifted further and further to the extreme. After its launch, it was banned from being broadcast or carried by many American-based cable TV systems that routinely carry news broadcasts from most other foreign countries including Israel. That changed after September 11, 2001, and Al Jazeera began to spend millions on opening offices in 12 American cities including in New York City in 2013.

Al Jazeera responded in a statement released to several US news outlets that it “is not owned by Qatar” and that “its reporting is not directed or controlled by the Qatari government nor does it reflect any government viewpoint.”