Deprivation Binge

Roundup: Tech Giants v Aus Government, Sam Frost, Foxtel, Today show


Business of Media

Paul Fletcher says tech titans ‘falling short of community expectations’

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has pledged to “lean into” reforms that would put the legal onus on the tech giants for defamatory material published on their platforms, as he accused the digital behemoths of “falling short of community expectations”, report News Corp’s James Madden and Greg Brown.

Fletcher told The Australian there was growing support for stricter, government regulations on the digital platforms, as flagged by Scott Morrison’s pledge last week to crack down on the tech ­titans.

The High Court in September ruled publishers could be liable for defamatory posts posted by commentators on their social media pages – even ones they do not know are there – with the decision opening the way for a complaint against major media organisations from former Northern Territory youth detainee Dylan Voller.

Fletcher said in the Voller case, the High Court didn’t look at the question of whether Facebook itself was liable “as a consequence of the fact that the plaintiff in the case wasn’t seeking to sue Facebook, but was seeking to sue various other media outlets”.

But he also confirmed the government was considering defining social media companies as publishers, opening them up to the same defamation laws faced by media companies.

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Australia urges US to follow its lead in regulating social media giants

Australia has intervened in the global push to regulate tech giants, writing to the US Senate to urge it to follow the nation’s lead to make social media companies deliver safer products, report The Sydney Morning Herald’s Lisa Visentin and Caitlin Fitzsimmons.

In a letter to the chairs of the Senate hearings this week, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the issues the US committees were grappling with “are ones of truly global impact”, adding that Australia’s “leading regulatory approach” had been internationally recognised.

The letter included an offer for Inman Grant to give evidence to the committees on Australia’s actions, noting that the World Economic Forum in June had recommended that other nations should consider forming a body specific to online safety, “such as Australia’s eSafety Commissioner”.

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Nine newspapers also ran an extract from Paul Fletcher’s new book: Governing in the age of the internet.

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How Barnaby Joyce sent the ‘fear of God’ through Big Tech

Barnaby Joyce phoned the Prime Minister on Thursday morning and demanded that the government act to impose accountability on the US social media corporations, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher.

The government already had work under way to try to advance the accountability agenda, but Joyce insisted it move faster and, if need be, unilaterally.

Joyce also wrote an opinion piece for Friday’s issue of the Herald and Age: “Twitter, it is not the trolls that inspire the devastating mental health issues. The trolls don’t have a voice unless you give them one, and you do!” And: “The public has reasonable grounds to ask that these companies, supporting the lifestyles of billionaires, do not make their money by dropping character bricks on the heads of innocent private individuals.”

Joyce tells me that he wants the Commonwealth unilaterally to legislate to make Twitter, Facebook and the rest held liable for any defamatory material published on any of their platforms available in Australia. His ministerial colleague, Attorney-General Michaelia Cash, had already written to the states to consider this area of law, but Joyce is pushing her to act faster and unilaterally if necessary. He wants legislation passed before Parliament is prorogued for the election due by May next year.

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Tech giants beef up controls as misinformation fury sparks calls for tougher regulation

The Australian lobby group for tech giants including Google, Facebook and Twitter has moved to strengthen a voluntary code aimed at reducing misinformation online as fresh global calls mount for tougher regulation of internet platforms, reports SMH‘s Zoe Samios.

Tech industry association DIGI will establish an independent board to police a voluntary code for misinformation and disinformation it launched in February at the request of the government. DIGI members Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft and viral video site TikTok have all signed up to the code, which requires tech companies to tell users what measures they have in place to stop the spread of misinformation on their services and provide annual ‘transparency’ reports detailing their efforts.

“When we launched the code in February, DIGI made a public commitment to introduce independent oversight in order to strengthen its governance, which we’ve been developing over the last few months,” DIGI chief executive Sunita Bose said.

The moves to strengthen the voluntary code come amid fresh fury from politicians in both Australia and the United States over the tech giants’ failure to police false information on their platforms and other issues, such as targeting vulnerable users with problematic advertising.

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Seven to push ratings success as it lays out plan for 2022

Seven will celebrate its return to ratings success after two years struggling to connect with audiences and outline its plan to capitalise on audience growth in its annual upfront event on Tuesday, reports AFR‘s Miranda Ward.

The event, which is used to sell the company as the best place for a company’s ads, is traditionally used to announce the following year’s TV offering and Seven will use the moment to lay out its $30 million to $40 million investment in content, including returning shows, new formats and how an old favourite may be resurrected.

“Whilst Seven had a challenging start to the year, Seven will talk to the momentum they have driven across the year,” said Publicis Media Exchange managing director Anthony Ellis.

“Even without the boost that the Olympics gives to audience, Seven have been able to increase their share of linear viewing demographics, which means that their content strategy is having an impact on their competitors. This has been an impressive achievement, so no doubt they will have this up in lights.”

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News Brands

Foxtel to introduce Flash streaming news service and hi-tech Sky Glass TV

Australia’s subscription television viewers will soon have access to enriched content and technology, with this month’s launch of the Foxtel Group’s news streaming service Flash following the company’s announcement of a global partnership to roll out smart TVs, reports News Corp’s Sophie Elsworth.

The Foxtel Group’s one-stop shop for news streaming, Flash will feature more than 20 local and global live news services and is the first of its kind in Australia.

Flash will be the third streaming service launched by the Foxtel Group in as many years – following on from sports platform Kayo, and entertainment service Binge – and will be led by former editor-in-chief Kate De Brito.

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Foxtel to launch smart TVs in new global deal

News Corp-controlled Foxtel is planning to sell smart TV devices to customers in coming years under a new global agreement announced with Comcast-owned Sky that could eventually mark the end of the traditional set-top box, reports SMH’s Zoe Samios.

Foxtel is the first global syndication partner for Sky Glass, which is a smart television that will feature 4K TV. It is expected to be made available in late 2023.

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Freelancers lobby the Guardian Australia for pay rise

Scores of freelance journalists who contribute to the Guardian Australia have signed a petition seeking a “fair” rate of pay, amid claims the news website’s remuneration scale sits below the industry standard, reports News Corp’s James Madden.

The online petition begins:…


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