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Scott Ertz Facebook bans all news in Australia to prove they are serious
(2021-02-21)
Facebook bans all news in Australia to prove they are serious When talking about the disasterous publishing law in Australia, we tend to focus on the impact on Google. However, the other major player in this battle has been Facebook. Last Summer, when the country first published its draft for comment, Facebook was possibly the loudest opponent. The company said that, if the draft were made law, it would force the company to shut down sharing of local and international news on both Facebook and Instagram. This week, the company pulled the trigger, shutting down all news sharing in Australia.

The shutdown happened before the proposed law has become law, and is clearly intended to retaliatory or persuasive. The smart money suggests that Facebook wants the Australian people, and particularly the government, to see what the platform looks like without the ability to share news stories. The move seems to have backfired a little bit, though, as the response from users was surprisingly positive. Ozzy Man posted saying,

My personal newsfeed has become wall to wall gold given satire publications are still up.

People seemed to be enjoying the change of pace. This is, unless you were a news source on Facebook who got caught up in the block. Several pages commented on posts from those who were saved saying that their content, which was not news, was getting blocked as well. In the collection of publications that got banned on Facebook was Facebook. Their own page was not available on their own platform. Classic.

Of course, those who were most annoyed by what was happening were in the government. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison took to Facebook to complain about Facebook's move, saying,

Facebook's actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing. I am in regular contact with the leaders of other nations on these issues.

These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them. They may be changing the world, but that doesn't mean they run it.

We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code. Just as we weren't intimidated when Amazon threatened to leave the country and when Australia drew other nations together to combat the publishing of terrorist content on social media platforms.

I encourage Facebook to constructively work with the Australian Government, as Google recently demonstrated in good faith.

The responses to his post are mixed, showing that there might be support for this move simply because it allows people to see content from their friends and family "rather than half truths."
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Scott Ertz Comcast delays nationwide data cap expansion into sometime in 2022
(2021-02-21)
Comcast delays nationwide data cap expansion into sometime in 2022 Last year, Comcast announced new data caps would be rolling out to all of their customers. Previously, only certain markets were saddled by the data cap policy, and that policy had been suspended because of the lockdowns. The rollout was intended to begin, with the return for existing customers, starting in March. However, that date was slightly delayed, as the lockdowns continue in many areas. This week, the extension was made longer for some, heading into 2022.

The company announced via blog that they would delay the expansion of the 1.2TB data caps in the Northeast until at least 2022. The company said,

We are delaying implementation of our new data plan in our Northeast markets until 2022. We recognize that our data plan was new for our customers in the Northeast, and while only a very small percentage of customers need additional data, we are providing them with more time to become familiar with the new plan.

The announcement is certainly welcome news for those in the Northeast, however, it is clearly not welcomed to Comcast themselves. This move was forced upon them because of terrible public optics. There are already issues with lower income families not being able to use home schooling tools because of a lack of internet, and Comcast is focusing on charging more for regular usage. This extension of the data cap implementation, in combination with offering public hotspots for students, they are trying to fix that perception.

Of corse, this does not address a number of other concerns. First, when will existing data caps return to areas that had it previously? When in 2022 will the data caps be implemented? Does Comcast realize that decisions like this that continue to place it as one of the most hated brands in America? Some of these we'll get answers to, others we never will.
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Scott Ertz Epic vs Apple expands to Europe, drags in Valve as unwilling witness
(2021-02-20)
Epic vs Apple expands to Europe, drags in Valve as unwilling witness Since the Epic Games versus Apple battle began, I think we all knew that it was going to balloon out of control. Both companies have a vested interest in the outcome of the case. Apple's whole business model is dependent upon taking a large cut from app and game developers and publishers. Epic Games, on the other hand, maintains a smaller profit margin on its digital goods, and the Apple Tax prevented them from offering in-app purchases before the big move. This week, the lawsuit is growing in size and scope.

This week, Epic Games officially filed a suit in the European Union, similar to its existing suits, covering Apple's monopolistic approach to managing apps on iOS. This new target means that there are active suits in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and the European Union. The suits all allege that, while Apple has every right to decide which apps it allows in its App Store, it does not have the right to prevent users from installing other app store alternatives.

Seemingly in an attempt to prove that it is the evil giant that Epic Games makes it out to be, Apple has attempted to pull in a company that is currently not involved in the case: Valve. Part of Apple's defense has revolved around the market relevance of "competing platforms on which Fortnite is distributed and monetized." As part of that, Apple has issued a demand that Valve turn over a ton of data about sales. The demand of Valve was for them to

identify, from 2015 to the present, every version and all digital content or items for each of these games on Steam, then (b) provide exhaustive information about all of them, including...

In that collection of things was sales dates, prices, and price changes for 436 games that appear in both stores, gross revenue for each game and each version of the game, and all of Valve's revenue related to these games. Valve points out that there is a problem with this request: they are not a public company and, as such, are not required to maintain these types of reports or data. In response to the request, Valve said,

Valve does not in the ordinary course of business keep the information Apple seeks for a simple reason: Valve doesn't need it.

The company has said that it has put together various reports, but until they receive a demand fro mthe court, they will not turn it all over. The data that has been turned over, according to Apple, is so redacted that it is completely useless.
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Scott Ertz As Maryland taxes digital ads, tech groups sue to block action
(2021-02-20)
As Maryland taxes digital ads, tech groups sue to block action Last week, we learned that Maryland was about to tax digital ads. The state senator who sponsored the bill said that the companies that run online ads don't contribute, and this bill would force them to. It was clear that this attempt was going to be closely watched, both by other states who might be interested in similar legislation, and by tech companies about to be affected by it.

This week, expectation became reality, as a collection of business groups came together to sue the state of Maryland looking to halt the implementation of the new tax. The group, in its suit, called the law "deeply flawed" and "illegal in myriad ways." It also claims that the new tax would "harm Marylanders and small businesses and reduce the overall quality of Internet content." One of the groups acting as plaintiff, the Internet Association, said in a statement,

This is a case of legislative overreach, punishing an industry that supports over one hundred thousand jobs in Maryland and contributes tens of billions of dollars to its economy each year. Internet services and companies are proud to play a role in creating opportunities for Maryland's small businesses and citizens.

This argument is similar to the ones that were brought about when internet sales taxes were issued early on. Online retailers who also had physical retail locations claimed that their businesses would be harmed, because only they would be required to collect taxes. As such, consumers would be harmed because they would lose choice in locations to purchase. Today, we know that was a false argument, because there has never been more choice in online retail, despite sales tax.

In a similar way, this new tax on digital advertising is unlikely to affect consumers. Instead, its most likely outcome will be a small decrease in ad buying up front. There is a small chance that Maryland could see ad buy blocks, but it's not realistic for big companies like wireless carriers, food and drink companies, etc., to skip an entire state.
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Scott Ertz Google's publishing battle in Australia has led to global attention
(2021-02-13)
Google's publishing battle in Australia has led to global attention Last month, we learned that Australia wants to charge Google for news. The country's proposition stands in stark contrast to what Google recently agreed to pay in France. In France, Google will pay for access to republish some or all of a news article in its Google News app. In Australia, the proposition is to charge Google to LINK to a news article, including in Search.

If that idea sounds insane to you, you're absolutely right. Even Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, said that it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the web. With that, you're already in good company with the man who created the technology in question. But, it seems that Berners-Lee, and therefore you, is slowly finding himself in the minority.

Obviously, Australia is standing up in defense of its position. The country said that it doesn't back down to threats, following Google saying they would shut down Search in the country if the law is passed. Australia thinks they are calling a bluff, but Google is famous for following through on these statements. As such, fiery rhetoric like we don't back down will not likely work in their favor.

The real surprise, however, has been the global attention on the story. While you might expect the tech companies to support Google, one in particular is a major surprise - Microsoft. The company says it supports the move. It's possible that they do not quite understand the repercussions, because Bing Search would almost certainly be required to pay for linking to news articles, as well. The reason Microsoft is supporting the bill is that they are hoping that Google will pull out of the country, and Bing can come in and fill the gap.

Google has fired back at Microsoft, calling the plan unworkable. They have said,

The issue isn't whether companies pay to support quality content; the issue is how. The law would unfairly require unknown payments for simply showing links to news businesses, while giving, to a favoured few, special previews of search ranking.

The real reason why the two main search companies are fighting so hard on this is that Australia will set a precedent for the rest of the world. Other countries, including the US, are eyeing this case to decide whether or not to implement similar. Google sees these laws as the end of their business model, while Microsoft sees it as a way to swoop in and steal market share. Microsoft is good at waiting out competitors while they self destruct and filling the space they leave behind.
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