Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Media—Daily Mail Honcho: Google and Facebook Are Information Monopolies

Or are they a duopoly?
From the Daily Mail, June 23:

Google and Facebook behave like 'monopolies' and distribute news using a secret 'black box' algorithm that can change overnight, newspaper executive reveals
  • Peter Wright says news industry has 'no idea' how Facebook and Google work
  • Says Google and Facebook 'behave in the way market dominant companies do'
  • MailOnline saw traffic from Google fall by 50% last June after algorithm change 
  • Also says upturn in BAME applicants for Mail's trainee scheme is 'encouraging'
A newspaper executive today criticised Google and Facebook for changing search algorithms without telling publishers and warned how they now have 'all the power' in online news and advertising.
Peter Wright, editor emeritus at DMG Media, MailOnline's parent company, said the news industry has 'no idea how they work' and they 'behave in the way that market dominant companies do', accusing them of 'monopoly behaviour'.

He slammed Google after MailOnline saw its daily traffic from the search engine fall by 50 per cent last June following an algorithm change 'without any warning'.

Giving evidence to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee via videolink, Mr Wright said: 'Google and Facebook in our view are market dominant companies and they behave in the way that market dominant companies do.

And it also has an effect on our journalism. Google and Facebook both distribute our content via algorithm. Those algorithms are what is known in the digital world as a 'black box' - they are secret, you have no idea how they work. But we can see and measure the results.

'Over recent years there have been a number of occasions when both Google and Facebook have changed their algorithms overnight without any warning which not only has a dramatic effect on our businesses but it also means that people searching for news are suddenly not finding our news.
'This happened to us with MailOnline in June last year and over the space of three days, our search visibility, which is the measure of how often your content is appearing against a basket of search terms, dropped by 50 per cent, and it was particularly marked against some particular terms. One of them for instance was 'Brexit'.

'Now, why they do this, we don't know, we protested, we got an explanation which made no sense at all. Eventually three months later, equally without warning, it was restored.
'But this is monopoly behaviour. You can't do this if you're in a business relationship with someone where there's any semblance of equality of power.'....

That certainly sounds like the GOOG is making editorial decisions which is fine but in the U.S. should mean they have forsaken any claim to section 230 protections.
And just two weeks ago Google made what could be a huge strategic error which makes that very case.
More on that later this summer.