All posts by JenThorpe

Facebook to Reverse News Ban on Australian News



ABC News reported Facebook will walk back its block on Australian users sharing news on its site after the government agreed to make amendments to the proposed media bargaining laws that would force major tech giants to pay news outlets for their content.

This decision is a result of negotiations between the Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. ABC News quoted Treasurer Josh Frydenberg as saying, “Mark Zuckerberg said to me today [restoring pages] will occur in coming days.”

Facebook updated its post on its Facebook Journalism Project (that was originally about the company’s decision to restrict the availability of Australian news on Facebook) with this:

“After further discussions with the Australian government, we have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers. We’re restoring news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days. Going forward, the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation. It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world, and we’ll continue to invest in news globally and resist efforts by media conglomerates to advance regulatory frameworks that do not take account of the true value exchange between publishers and platforms like Facebook.”

Personally, I am skeptical of Facebook’s claim that it has always been their intention to support journalism in Australia. If it cared about supporting news publishers it would not have banned Australian News. That decision caused collateral damage as it also resulted in blocking Australian and local news to Fiji, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.

Facebook’s decision also enabled anti-vaccine misinformation to spread widely since real Australian news organizations were unable to respond to and correct the misinformation in those posts. This happened at the very beginning of Australia’s vaccine rollout. In short, Facebook’s attempt to avoid paying for news may have resulted in vaccine hesitancy among some Australians.


Clubhouse Chats have been Breached and Streamed Online



A Clubhouse user was able to find a way to share Clubhouse chats outside of the iOS app. According to Bloomberg, Clubhouse “permanently banned” that user, and has installed new “safeguards”. It is unclear what those safeguards are, or how effective they will be, given what is known about Clubhouse.

Stanford Internet Observatory reported that Agora, a Shanghai-based startup, with U.S. headquarters in Silicon Valley, created a platform for other software companies to build upon. Clubhouse is one of the apps using Agora’s platform. According to the Stanford Internet Observatory, “If an app operates on Agora’s infrastructure, the end-user might have no idea.” In short, Agora hosts Clubhouse’s traffic.

Stanford Internet Observatory’s analysts observed Clubhouse’s web traffic using publicly available network analysis tools, such as Wireshark. Their analysis revealed that outgoing web traffic is directed to servers operated by Agora. Joining a channel generates a packet directed to Agora’s back-end infrastructure.

The packet contains metadata about each user, including their unique Clubhouse ID number and the room ID they are joining. That metadata is sent over the internet in plaintext (not encrypted), meaning that any third-party with access to a user’s network traffic can access it. In this manner, an eavesdropper might learn whether two users are talking to each other, for instance, by detecting whether those users are joining the same channel.

Stanford Internet Observatory made it clear why Agora’s hosting of Clubhouse matters:

Because Agora is based jointly in the U.S. and China, it is subject to People’s Republic of China (PRC) cybersecurity law. In a filing to the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission, the company acknowledged that it would be required to “provide assistance and support in accordance with [PRC] law,” including protecting national security and criminal investigations. If the Chinese government determined that an audio message jeopardized national security, Agora would be legally required to assist the government in locating and storing it.

Chief Executive Officer of Internet 2.0, Robert Potter, posted an interesting thread about the Clubhouse situation on Twitter. He points out that it was not a “hack”. “A user set up a way to remotely share his login with the rest of the world. The real problem was that folks thought these conversations were ever private.”

In that thread. Robert Potter tweeted: “The end result of this whole clubhouse experience is that folks have put a lot of data online without considering the privacy implications. I’d strongly recommend people to build more encryption fenced communities for these sorts of conversations in the future.”

The more I learn about Clubhouse the more I think it is a bad idea. I am aware that there are people who enjoy checking out the newest apps, especially if there is a social aspect to them. In my opinion, joining this Clubhouse comes at too high a cost to people’s privacy.


ABC News App Gains Popularity After Facebook Removed News



Australia’s ABC News App has become extremely popular with Australians, who can no longer access local and country-wide news on Facebook. The app is a resource that connects users with news content created by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It is available on the App Store and Google Play.

As you may have heard, Facebook blocked all Australian news content from Australian news publishers. Facebook chose this drastic measure in an effort to avoid complying with legislation called the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which would require platforms like Facebook to pay news organizations for their content.

Facebook got overzealous in deciding what to remove, and blocked Australian government accounts, state health departments, weather information, and even Facebook’s own Facebook page. Other collateral damage included blocking emergency services, public officials, food banks and charities. It is my understanding that some of that has been restored.

Financial Times’ Uma Patel tweeted: “ABC has used facebook’s ban to prompt visitors to download its app… it became the most downloaded app in Australia… although the next four are all owned by Facebook and the sixth is a company fb tried to buy.”

I think this is a good sign! Australians who have grown accustomed to scrolling through news on Facebook on their phone can replace that with ABC’s News App. I’m hoping that this inspires more news organizations to create their own news apps. The result could influence people to spend less time on Facebook.

There is another good reason for news organizations to make their own apps (or to advertise their existing ones). Facebook is likely to engage in the same shenanigans it imposed on its Australian users when other countries create legislation that is similar to Australia’s ACCC. When that happens, people will immediately be able to use their favorite news app to get their news.


News Corp and Google Agree to Global Partnership on News



News Corp announced today that it has agreed to an historic multi-year partnership with Google to provide trusted journalism from its news sites around the world in return for significant payments by Google. The long-term deal involves payment for premium content for Google News Showcase.

Among the News Corp publications joining Google News Showcase will be The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch, and the New York Post; in the UK: The Times and The Sunday Times, and the Sun; and in Australia a range of news platforms including The Australian, news.com.au, Sky News, and multiple metropolitan and local titles.

Reuters reported that the companies will develop a subscription platform, share advertising revenue through Google’s ad technology services, build out audio journalism and develop video journalism by YouTube.

According to Reuters, this deal comes after years of public feuding between Murdoch and Google, most recently in Australia, where Google has threatened to shut down its search engine to avoid “unworkable” content laws.

The New York Times reported: Google’s rush to pay up in Australia shows how regulation in a relatively small country – or just the threat of it – can sharply alter the behavior of a global tech behemoth that grew with impunity back home in the United States. The New York Times noted that “journalism seems to have fewer friends in the halls of power” in the United States.

Google’s decision to pay news publishers is a good idea. In my opinion, it makes sense for Google to pay news publishers for their content. Both sides benefit from this situation. According to Reuters, Microsoft Corp. has publicly endorsed the proposed Australian law and recently urged the U.S. government to copy it.

The decisions made by Google and Microsoft stands in sharp contrast to Facebook’s decision to block Australian news from its platform. It seems to me that Australians have the opportunity to get their news from Google – and spend less time on Facebook.


Facebook Blocks News in Australia to Avoid Paying News Publishers



Facebook has retaliated against the people of Australia by removing all content from Australian news publishers off of its platform. This is Facebook’s latest temper tantrum about an Australian law that would require Facebook (and Google) to pay news organizations for their content.

The law Facebook is angry about is called the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC). It is a mandatory code that would cover issues like the sharing of data, ranking news content online and the sharing of revenue generated from the news. The law will be enforced through penalties and sanctions and will include a binding dispute resolution process.

Facebook posted the following on their Newsroom blog:

…Unfortunately, this means people and news organizations in Australia are now restricted from posting news links and sharing or viewing Australian and international news content on Facebook. Globally, posting and sharing news links from Australian publishers is also restricted. To do this, we are using a combination of technologies to restrict news content and we will have processes to review any content that was inadvertently removed…

In June of 2020, Facebook whined that it and Google were being “singled out” unfairly by this law. Facebook stated: “If there were no news content available on Facebook in Australia, we are confident that the impact on Facebook’s community metrics and revenues in Australia would not be significant.”

It seems to me that if Facebook believes that Facebook’s revenue would not significantly change by removing Australian news – it means Facebook can easily afford to pay for it.

NBC News reported that as of today, Australian users and publishers would not be able to post news content to its social network after the Australian government threatened to force it to pay news publishers. According to NBC News, Australian publishers will be restricted from sharing or posting content to their company pages. News publishers outside of Australia can still post articles, but Australians will not be able to view them.

According to NBC News, Google has decided that it will pay news publishers for their content. Google will remunerate French newspapers based on contributions to political and general information, daily volume of publications and monthly internet audience.


Emojipedia Announced New Emojis in iOS 14.5



Emojipedia reported that 217 new emojis are coming on iOS. They include a heart on fire, an exhaling face, and gender options for people with beards. The new emojis in this release include couples with a mix of skin tones. A total of 200 of the 217 new emojis are there to permit this more inclusive set of couples to be chosen from the emoji keyboard.

Three new smileys are included in the release: Exhaling face, Face with Spiral Eyes, and Face in Clouds. Two heart emojis have been added. Heart on Fire is a red heart with flames. Mending Heart is a red heart with bandages on it.

The most interesting addition to the new emojis is a set that includes people with beards. Emojipedia points out that most emojis provide an option for a gender inclusive default, or a specific gender can be chosen to show an emoji as a woman or a man.

The only one that did not have that option was the emoji for “Person: Beard”. It shows a man with a beard, and there are a variety of skin tones to choose from. The new set of emojis lets people specify that they want the “man with a beard” emoji or the “woman with a beard” emoji. Personally, I think this is fantastic because the new emoji options can be used to represent people who are nonbinary or transgender in a positive, inclusive, way.

There is a change to the syringe emoji, which previously looked like a syringe that had some blood dripping out of it. It will be replaced by a syringe that lacks the blood. The purpose is to enable people to use the new syringe emoji to describe COVID-19 vaccinations.

Emojipedia points out that the emoji designs are subject to change prior to the final release.


North Dakota Lawmakers Reject Bill Pushed by Epic Games



The battle between Epic Games and Apple continues, this time in North Dakota. According to CNBC, the North Dakota legislature voted on a bill that – if passed – would require companies that make more than $10 million per year through app stores to be required to offer alternative payment processors for purchases through the app store, allowing developers to avoid Apple or Google’s cut. The bill would only apply to companies based in North Dakota.

Epic Games headquarters is in Cary, North Carolina. As such, I don’t see how this North Dakota bill would do them any good – even if it was passed into law.

The New York Times reported that in January of 2021, a lobbyist approached North Dakota state senator Kyle Davidson, who is a Republican.

Mr. Davidson said he had been given the draft legislation by Lacee Bjork Anderson, a lobbyist with Odney Public Affairs in Bismark. Ms. Anderson said in an interview that she had been hired by Epic Games, the maker of the popular game Fortnite and the plaintiff in lawsuits against Apple and Google over their app policies. She said she was also being paid by the Coalition for App Fairness, a group of firms, including Epic, Spotify, and Match Group, that has protested app commissions and is leading the push for app-store bills.

CNBC reported that the North Dakota Senate voted 36-11 against the bill. That means the legislation did not pass. If the North Dakota Senate has passed the bill, it would have then gone to the North Dakota House to be debated and voted on. The outcome of the Senate vote means the bill will not go to the House. CNBC describes the vote as “a victory for Apple”.

This isn’t the end between Epic Games and Apple. Apple Insider reported that there is a court date set on May 3, 2021, in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California. The court will hear the case of Epic Games v. Apple, Inc. It is a bench trial, not a jury trial. In short, the battle between Epic Games and Apple is not over yet!