Mideast media ‘need united front’ against Facebook, Google

Mideast media ‘need united front’ against Facebook, Google
The US newspaper industry on July 10, 2017 warned of a “duopoly” in online news by Google and Facebook, and called for legislation that would relax antitrust rules allowing collective negotiations with the Internet giants.The News Media Alliance said that because Google and Facebook dominate online news traffic digital advertising, “publishers are forced to surrender their content and play by their rules on how news and information is displayed, prioritized and monetized.”(AFP)
Updated 11 July 2017

Mideast media ‘need united front’ against Facebook, Google

Mideast media ‘need united front’ against Facebook, Google

LONDON: Middle East media need to present a united front against Google and Facebook due to the allegedly unfair advantage enjoyed by the social-media giants, something that could kill off local media within years, it has been claimed.

A private meeting of industry executives in April, held at the Top CEO conference in Jeddah, raised the issue of how big social-media companies are apparently offering advertising at much cheaper rates in the Middle East.

Julien Hawari, co-CEO of conference organizer and publisher Mediaquest Corp., said that a number of recommendations were drawn up, principally the need for more government regulation and taxation on social-media giants.

The next step is to publish a white paper of the recommendations, and form a united front with a wider range of media outlets, he said. 

“We are allowing the local ecosystem to be completely destroyed by Google and Facebook,” Hawari told Arab News. 

“They are selling (advertising) well below the price they should be selling at. This is one of the problems.

“The way things are going, in a few years’ time … there will be no more local media that have influence, have impact.”

Hawari said that the average price for local publishers to break even with digital media products was roughly $10 per 1,000 advertisement impressions, known in the industry as “CPM.”

“Google and Facebook are able to sell their advertisement inventory sometimes at prices that are $1, $2 or $3 a CPM. And the only reason they are able to sell at such cheap prices is that they have very little infrastructure in the region … Basically, they are selling the last marginal unit, which is the cheapest.”

“Today, Google and Facebook are dumping their inventory in the region at prices that do not allow local competition to emerge,” he added, pointing out that there is no specific legislation to prevent this. 

Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hawari said there was no call to ban the digital media giants, but rather to make the market fairer through regulation and taxation. 

“The playing field needs to be leveled in such a way that it is really competitive to everybody,” he said. 

“You cannot allow one player to distort and completely destroy the market … The only way you are going to achieve results (is through) regulation and taxation.”

The news comes, as it emerged that media outlets in the US are seeking permission from Congress for the right to negotiate jointly with Google and Facebook, which dominate online advertising and online news traffic.

The News Media Alliance, which represents nearly 2,000 news organizations, said that because of those two companies’ dominance, news publishers are forced to “surrender their content and play by their rules on how news and information is displayed, prioritized and monetized.”

“These rules have commoditized the news and given rise to fake news, which often cannot be differentiated from real news,” the alliance said in a press release on Monday.

The news industry has been hit with declining print readership and a loss of advertising revenue as it has moved online.

The outlets want stronger protections for intellectual property, support for subscription models and a bigger share of the online advertising market. Google and Facebook combined will account for 60 percent of the US digital advertising market this year, according to the research firm eMarketer.

The news alliance says it would need an exemption from antitrust law to negotiate as a group. But getting Congress to pass an exemption is likely to be difficult.

Campbell Brown, global head of news media partnerships at Facebook, said in a statement to Arab News: “We’re committed to helping quality journalism thrive on Facebook. We’re making progress through our work with news publishers and have more work to do.”

A Google spokesperson said: “We want to help news publishers succeed as they transition to digital. In recent years, we’ve built numerous specialized products and technologies, developed specifically to help distribute, fund, and support newspapers. This is a priority and we remain deeply committed to helping publishers with both their challenges, and their opportunities.”

Austyn Allison, the editor of Campaign Middle East, a Dubai-based magazine covering the advertising industry, said that the power wielded by big social media companies was becoming an issue globally. 

“I think there’s a problem with Google and Facebook getting too powerful everywhere. And I really don’t know that there’s much of a way to stop them,” he told Arab News.

This had led to an “if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em approach,” he added.

“That’s what a lot of sites like Stepfeed, Lovin’ Dubai and other new entrants are doing. They are playing to the Facebook and Google models to promote their distribution.

“But that can end up with news sites becoming very click-baity, and erring toward sensational but low-quality news.

“On the other hand, quality, established media outlets are losing out … the more quality news brands work together, the better. There is strength in numbers on the Internet, and at the moment Google and Facebook have those numbers on their side. If traditional outlets can accept that they are no longer rivals with one another but with the duopoly, then we might see the balance start to shift.”

— With input from AP

Hong Kong censorship debate grows as Internet firm says can block ‘illegal acts’

Hong Kong censorship debate grows as Internet firm says can block ‘illegal acts’
Updated 15 January 2021

Hong Kong censorship debate grows as Internet firm says can block ‘illegal acts’

Hong Kong censorship debate grows as Internet firm says can block ‘illegal acts’
HONG KONG: The company which approves Internet domains in Hong Kong said it will now reject any sites that could incite “illegal acts,” raising new concerns about freedoms after Beijing’s imposition of a national security law on the Chinese-ruled city last year.
Holders of .hk domains were advised of the policy change late on Thursday, sources told Reuters, hours after Internet service provider Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) said it had blocked access to HKChronicles, a website offering information about anti-government protests.
The moves came just days after the arrest of over 50 pro-democracy activists, and sources have told Reuters that China is planning a further crackdown.
HKBN said it had blocked the website, which also publishes personal information on Hong Kong police officers, in compliance with the national security law, the first such censorship in the city of its kind.
Anti-government protests in 2019 relied heavily on social media channels like Telegram which allowed protesters to organize anonymously. Many sites also sprung up in support of the protest movement, though a number shut after the passage of the security law.
In the emails, the Hong Kong Domain Name Registration Company (HKDNR) alerted holders of .hk domains to the new “acceptable use” policy by its parent, Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation Limited (HKIRC), which goes into effect on Jan. 28, according to copies shared by recipients with Reuters.
It said it could reject applications for new .hk sites that it believes could incite criminal acts, abuse privacy or provide false or misleading information.
It was not immediately clear whether the policy will apply to existing .hk websites. The HKIRC, the HKDNR and the Hong Kong government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The rollout of the acceptable use policy is quite worrying,” said one website operator who declined to be identified, citing fear of repercussions.
“Things like providing false or misleading information, who are they to decide? Are these preventive measures for future false news regulations?“
The moves are fueling worries that a censorship mechanism similar to China’s “Great Firewall” is being put in place in Hong Kong.
While the Internet in mainland China is heavily censored and access to many foreign platforms like news sites is blocked, residents in Hong Kong have so far enjoyed greater freedoms under the “one country, two systems” framework that it was promised when Britain handed it back to China in 1997.
China Mobile and PCCW, the other major Internet providers in Hong Kong, did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.
Wong Ho Wah, who is running for Hong Kong’s legislature to representing the information technology sector, said he was deeply worried that Hong Kongers’ freedom to access information on the Internet was starting to be affected.
“The government has the responsibility to explain the justification and the rationale of the action,” he said, referring to the blocking of HKChronicles’ website.