The art of turning good news into a train wreck

This is an on-the-one-hand-but-on-the-other-hand commentary.

On the one hand, legislation forcing ‘big tech’ to pay for the news they appropriate from New Zealand media is welcome. On the other hand, fence-sitting for the past two years robbed the Ardern Government of an opportunity to give the move true international impact.

The government has had a soft approach to the social media platforms and search engines (save for the Christchurch Call on harmful content) because it relies heavily on them for direct contact with the electorate. The Prime Minister has 1.9 million Facebook followers and 1.7 million on Instagram. She may wish to suggest her 800,000 Twitter followers follow her elsewhere as Elon Musk turns it into a swamp.

The government could – and should – have collaborated with its Australian counterpart at the beginning of last year to pass identical legislation on both sides of the Tasman forcing ‘big tech’ to negotiate deals or face compulsory arbitration. Such a united front would have sent a stronger message to Meta, Alphabet et al than this country could do alone. It would also reinforce a determination to take an international approach to regulating those who believe they are laws unto themselves. Continue reading “The art of turning good news into a train wreck”

It’s those geeks with gifts again

Beware of geeks bearing gifts.

I gave that warning in a column seven years ago and repeated it here last November. I’ll say it again: Beware of geeks bearing gifts.

I make no apologies for sounding like a cracked record.

On the face of it, New Zealand media companies appear to be trotting along nicely in their bid to get some money for the content that Google and Facebook have been freely appropriating.

The Commerce Commission has issued a draft determination allowing members of the News Publishers Association to bargain collectively with Meta and Google on payment for content. The NPA is a mix of metropolitan and regional newspaper publishers but in this initiative it is minus NZME, which has already brokered deals with both Google and Facebook. NZME’s agreement with the latter is not payment for content but support for NZME’s “subscriber growth and retention”.

Call it ‘content’, call it ‘retention’, no matter. They’re paying up one way or another. All’s good.

But is it? Continue reading “It’s those geeks with gifts again”

Beware of Geeks bearing gifts (again)

Donald Trump and Mark Zuckerberg share an unfortunate character trait: An inability to accept the truth.

The former U.S. president’s response to being confronted by unpalatable reality is to fabricate large and elaborate lies. Facebook’s founder indulges in cynical diversion.

The scale and depth of Trump’s deceptions over the 2020 election was well-canvassed at the weekend in a two-hour special by CNN’s Jake Tapper titled Trumping Democracy: An American Coup.

Zuckerberg indulged in a massive rebranding exercise to divert attention from the revelations to both the U.S. Congress and British Parliament by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen that screamed out the need for regulation. The corporate Facebook has transmogrified into Meta, short for Metaverse – a vast expanse that threatens to take the world beyond post-truth to post-reality.

His abiding denial of truth, however, lies in diverting attention from Facebook’s appropriation without payment of media content for commercial gain. The company only faces up to that reality when it is forced to do so by governments (such as Australia) whose patience with the social media giant has run out.

Such setbacks have not diminished Facebook’s preferred narrative and last week the diversion tactic reared its head here in New Zealand with an announcement by Meta of “a four-part investment to help New Zealand’s news industry to thrive in a changing digital world”. Continue reading “Beware of Geeks bearing gifts (again)”