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Facebook Responds to ‘Counterproductive’ Australian News Content Revenue-Sharing Regulation

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Back in April, when the Australian Government announced its proposed new regulatory reforms that would essentially force both Google and Facebook to share a portion of their revenue with Australian news publishers for use of their news coverage, in different forms, on their respective platforms, we noted that:

“In all likelihood, neither Google nor Facebook will be intending to make a switch in their approaches, and will instead seek to alter their processes in accordance with revised local laws. That could lead to significant changes in the way content is displayed on the digital giants, which, if anything, will only take traffic away from the traditional media players, and provide more instead to less mainstream outlets.”

That, indeed, appears to be what’s going to happen. This week, in its response to the Australian Government’s proposed changes, Facebook has issued a strong rebuke, criticizing the draft laws, the regulators, the Australian Government – basically anyone who’s had anything to do with the proposal.

And Facebook’s right – for example, in his opening statement, Facebook Australia and New Zealand Managing Director Will Easton says:

“Australia is drafting a new regulation that misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to the very news organizations the government is trying to protect. When crafting this new legislation, the commission overseeing the process ignored important facts, most critically the relationship between the news media and social media and which one benefits most from the other.”

This is the absolute crux of the issue at hand – the Australian Government’s proposed regulation is reliant on the fact that Facebook and Google need content from Australian news publishers in order to continue operating as they currently do. Which is not correct. Both Facebook and Google could simply block the URLs of these providers, and they’d still be highly used by Australians. 

What Google did in France, which proposed similar regulations last year, was that it implemented a new system which meant that only news publishers that had explicitly agreed to its terms would be displayed in search resuilts. That’s some pretty lucrative digital real estate to have, so naturally, many publishers agreed. Some didn’t, and they no longer get referral traffic from Google. Most did, negating years of disputes and negotiations.

Google may end up doing the same in Australia – while Facebook, right now at least, is saying that it too is considering eliminating content from Australian news outlets entirely.

Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram. This is not our first choice – it is our last. But it is the only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long-term vibrancy of Australia’s news and media sector.”

Will that lead to people using Facebook and Instagram less? Probably not – it’ll no doubt have some impact on overall engagement. But the ones that will really feel the pinch are the news publishers, the organizations that the regulations are supposed to be helping.

Which is why the proposal, as Facebook notes, is “counterproductive”. 

The proposed law is unprecedented in its reach and seeks to regulate every aspect of how tech companies do business with news publishers. Most perplexing, it would force Facebook to pay news organizations for content that the publishers voluntarily place on our platforms and at a price that ignores the financial value we bring publishers.” 

Easton even has the specific stats to prove his point:

Over the first five months of 2020 we sent 2.3 billion clicks from Facebook’s News Feed back to Australian news websites at no charge – additional traffic worth an estimated $200 million AUD to Australian publishers.”

Easton also notes that Facebook has invested millions into Australian news businesses, and had also been hoping to open up new opportunities with the expansion of Facebook’s dedicated News Tab to Australian users, for which it pays publishers for content.

Now, those plans are on hold, at least for the time being.

“Facebook products and services in Australia that allow family and friends to connect will not be impacted by this decision. Our global commitment to quality news around the world will not change either. And we will continue to work with governments and regulators who rightly hold our feet to the fire. But successful regulation, like the best journalism, will be grounded in and built on facts. In this instance, it is not.”

Facebook’s tough words follow a public campaign from Google which seeks to alert Australian users to other potential impacts of the coming regulatory changes.

Google Australia News Campaign

In essence, both Facebook and Google are saying that the only outcome, if the Australian Government pushes forward with this proposal, will hurt local news publishers, not help them. And while others may seek to play down these responses as scaremongering to protect their own interests, it is grounded fact. As private enterprises, Facebook and Google are under no obligation to display content from any source they don’t choose to.

How you view each stance then will come down to whether you believe that news content is critical to both platforms, or not. The scale of each platform’s operations outside of news material should be evidence enough to indicate that losing such will not be a death blow for either.

But it could be for the publishers – the impetus behind the proposal is that Australian news publishers are losing revenue as their traditional ad streams dry up, with more companies switching to online promotional sources instead of classifieds and print ads. Those losses have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 shutdowns, and with the sector crying out for help, it appears that the Australian Government sees this as a lifeline.

But the blunt basis of the proposal is that Facebook and Google make lots of money, while news publishers don’t. The detail in between seems to have largely been overlooked, including how, exactly, news publishers benefit from these platforms.

Really, there’s no equitable way for Facebook nor Google to approach this. If they negotiate, in any way, that will open the floodgates for every other nation to implement the same, potentially costing them billions each year. Which they just don’t have to pay – and while the Australian Government looks set to push ahead in its game of chicken, hoping that Facebook or Google will pull out, the final outcome could be very bad for the Australian news sector.

It’s a gamble that’s unlikely to pay off as the Government might hope. Now we wait and see if there’s any change in course from the regulators.  

Socialmediatoday.com

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Snapchat Adds 12 Million Users in Q4, Posts Lower Than Expected Revenue Result

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Snapchat Adds 12 Million Users in Q4, Posts Lower Than Expected Revenue Result

Snapchat added 12 million more active users in Q4 2022, and Snapchat+ subscriptions continue to rise, but company revenue missed market estimates, in another mixed result for the private social app.

First off, on users – as noted, Snap added 12 million more actives, taking it to 375 million DAU.

As you can see, North American user growth is still flat, while European users saw a slight uptick. But it’s the ‘Rest of the World’, specifically India, which is driving Snap growth.

Which is helping to boost the overall usage numbers, and expand opportunity. But on the revenue side, it’s not pushing things forward in a significant way.

Snap Q4 2022

As you can see in this chart, Snapchat’s revenue has increased, but a key problem here is that it’s still reliant on the US and Canada for the majority of that spend, with other markets trailing well behind on the revenue front.

Snap Q4 2022

In this chart, you can see that Snap’s Revenue Per User has actually declined year-on-year – so while it is growing, it’s not bringing in revenue at equivalent scale, and it’s even going backwards in some respects.

Which is why its stagnant growth in North America is a problem – though Snap has also seen take-up of its Snapchat+ subscription service increase.

“In Q4, our subscription service Snapchat+ reached over 2.0 million paying subscribers. Snapchat+ offers exclusive, experimental, and pre-release features, and in Q4 we launched new features such as Custom Story Expiration and Custom Notification Sounds, providing subscribers with over 12 exclusive features.”

That’s a handy additional revenue stream, but as with all social media subscription services (including Twitter Blue), take-up is generally limited, and at 2 million subscribers, that’s still only 0.5% of Snapchat’s active user base that’s been willing to pay extra for these add-on elements.

Snap has also faced challenges in rebuilding its ad business, in the wake of Apple’s iOS 14 update, which has impacted data collection, and Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says they still have some way to go on this yet:

“We continue to face significant headwinds as we look to accelerate revenue growth, and we are making progress driving improved return on investment for advertisers and innovating to deepen the engagement of our community.”

Snap has seen improvement in its commerce integrations, which includes digital items for Bitmoji avatars which Snap is eventually looking to translate into real-world item sales as well. Snap also says that it’s facilitated over than 161 million product trials by over 35 million Snapchatters for Walmart, leveraging its Catalog-Powered Shopping Lenses at-scale.

Snapchat AR shopping

Those point to bigger opportunities, but right now, amid the broader economic downturn, and restrictions on data collection and targeting, Snapchat is in a tough spot, and will be for some time yet.

Essentially, then, you’re banking on Snap’s future, and its advanced tools that could help it better align with expanded AR and VR use. And Snap is seemingly in a good position on this front – though again, the impacts of the last year, which also forced Snap into lay-offs, will also have some effect.

Really, then, the results here are relative to your perspective.

For advertisers, more Snap users means more potential reach – but most of Snap’s growth is coming from outside the US. More advanced AR activations could become a bigger deal in future, but it depends on how you’re looking to connect, and product fit.

Investors won’t be overly happy with the numbers, but there are positive signs on the horizon. It’s just that the horizon, in this respect, remains well in the distance at this stage.

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Climate disinfo surges in denial, conspiracy comeback

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Climate disinfo surges in denial, conspiracy comeback

Activists of Extinction Rebellion hold a ‘die-in’ for climate action in Boston in July 2022 – Copyright AFP/File Joseph Prezioso

Roland LLOYD PARRY

False information about climate change flourished online over the past year, researchers say, with denialist social media posts and conspiracy theories surging after US environmental reforms and Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.

“What really surprised us this year was to see a resurgence in language that is reminiscent of the 1980s: phrases like ‘climate hoax’ and ‘climate scam’ that deny the phenomenon of climate change,” said Jennie King, head of civic action at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based digital research group.

Popular topics included the false claims that CO2 does not cause climate change or that global warming is not caused by human activity, said Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD), a coalition of campaigners, in a report.

“Let me expose what the climate scam is actually all about,” read one of the most-shared tweets, cited in another survey by US non-profit Advance Democracy, Inc (ADI).

“It is a wealth transfer from you — to the global elite.”

– Twitter disinfo surge –

An analysis of Twitter messages — carried out for AFP by two computational social scientists at City, University of London — counted 1.1 million tweets or retweets using strong climate-sceptic terms in 2022.

Watchdogs are urging social media platforms to tackle climate disinformation – Copyright AFP Robyn Beck

That was nearly twice the figure for 2021, said researchers Max Falkenberg and Andrea Baronchelli. They found climate denial posts peaked in December, the month after Tesla billionaire Musk took over the platform.

Use of the denialist hashtag #ClimateScam surged on Twitter from July, according to analyses by CAAD and the US-based campaign group Center For Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).

For weeks it was the top suggested search term on the site for users typing “climate”.

CAAD said the reason for that was “unclear”, though one major user of the term appeared to be an automated account, possibly indicating that a malignant bot was churning it out.

ADI noted that July saw US President Joe Biden secure support for a major climate spending bill — subject of numerous “climate scam” tweets — plus a heatwave in the United States and Europe.

Climate denial posts also peaked during the COP27 climate summit in November.

– Blue-tick deniers –

A quarter of all the strongly climate-sceptic tweets came from just 10 accounts, including Canadian right-wing populist party leader Maxime Bernier and Paul Joseph Watson, editor of conspiracy-theory website InfoWars, the City research showed.

CCDH pointed the finger at Musk, who reinstated numerous banned Twitter accounts and allowed users to pay for a blue tick — a mark previously reserved for accredited “verified” users in the public eye.

“Elon Musk’s decision to open up his platform for hate and disinformation has led to an explosion in climate disinformation on the platform,” said Callum Hood, CCDH’s head of research.

Musk himself tweeted in August 2022: “I do think global warming is a major risk.”

Musk has also created a $100 million dollar prize for technology innovations shown to be effective in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

But prolific climate change contrarians -– such as blogger Tony Heller and former coal executive Steve Milloy — have hailed him in their tweets.

– Conspiracy theories –

An analysis by Advance Democracy seen by AFP found the number of Twitter posts “using climate change denialism terms” more than tripled from 2021 to 2022, reaching over 900,000.

On TikTok, views of videos using hashtags associated with climate change denialism increased by 4.9 million, it said.

On YouTube, climate change denial videos got hundreds of thousands of views, with searches for them bringing up adverts for climate-denial products.

YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez told AFP that in response to the claim, certain climate-denial ads had been taken down.

TikTok and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.

On Facebook, meanwhile, ADI found the number of such posts decreased compared to 2021, in line with overall climate change claims.

– Culture wars –

The CAAD report said climate content regularly features alongside other misleading claims on “electoral fraud, vaccinations, the COVID-19 pandemic, migration, and child trafficking rings run by so-called ‘elites’.”

Jennie King of ISD said: “We are definitely seeing a rise of out-and-out conspiracism. Climate is the latest vector in the culture wars.”

Given the reports by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showing that human carbon emissions are heating the planet, raising the risk of floods, droughts and heatwaves, CCDH’s Hood emphasised the urgency of restricting the reach of misinformation.

“We would encourage platforms to think about the real harm that is caused by climate change,” Hood said, “so people who repeatedly spread demonstrably false information about climate are not granted the sort of reach that we see them getting.”

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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

The company posted a net loss of $288.5 million, or 18 cents a share, including $34 million in charges from its workforce restructuring. That compared to a profit of $23 million, or one cent, a year earlier.

Snap ended the fourth quarter with 375 million daily users, a 17% increase. In the first three months of the year, the company estimates 382 million to 384 million people will use its platform daily.

Snap has become a bellwether for other digital advertising companies. Last year, it was the first to raise concerns about the slowdown in marketer spending online and to fire a significant number of employees—20% of its workforce—to cut costs in the face of falling revenue.

The company has spent the last two quarters refocusing the organization, cutting projects that don’t contribute to user and revenue growth.

In the first quarter, Snap expects the environment to “remain challenging as we expect the headwinds we have faced over the past year to persist.”

Investors will get additional information about the state of the digital ad market when Meta and Alphabet report earnings later this week.

—Bloomberg News

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