Posts tagged ‘2022’


‘Google … broke the web’

23.01.2023

Nice to see I’m not the only one who sees Google for what it is today. Warning: coarse language.
 

 

What’s bizarre is a reply I wrote largely in agreement (and had a few likes to) has vanished. Maybe some Google lovers didn’t like what I wrote?

Sometimes I can make the point better the second time around.

Strange, a reply I wrote in agreement has vanished.

Basically my earlier point was that Google has also destroyed a lot of legitimate publications’ earnings through depressing ad prices, diverting income to splogs, content mills and spun sites. Not to mention taking a decent cut for itself.

The whole enterprise is a massive con.

From a legal POV I would even say it was all foreseeable and a negligence lawsuit waiting for someone to take it on. It would be great to close it down.

The original reply linked to this post, which is also saying the emperor has no clothes—except this time it’s applied to Google. If Googlers are worried about that, then maybe I’ve cut very close to the chase. The one part which, when attacked, destroys the entire corrupt system.
 

 
PS.: Don Marti expresses my point far better than I did.
 


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A format so old, it’s new and radical

16.01.2023


Above: I spy Natasha Lyonne and a Plymouth Barracuda. So the car is part of her screen identity? So it should be, it’s television. I might have to watch this.
 
Two very fascinating responses come up in Wired’s interview with director Rian Johnson on the Netflix release of his film Glass Onion.

I’m not going to refer to it with the bit after the colon in the Netflix release because it doesn’t make any sense. If you’re that stupid to require its presence, you won’t be able to follow the film anyway. (Johnson was annoyed that it was added as well. I can see why.) The second Peter Ustinov-led Poirot film in 1982 wasn’t called Evil under the Sun: a Death on the Nile Mystery. Studios obviously thought we were smarter 40 years ago.

Anyway, the first quotation, on social media trolls, where Johnson believes they have to be shut down, not ignored. Between Wired’s senior editor Angela Watercutter and Johnson:

Wired: It does feel like a shift. Ewan McGregor issued a statement pretty quick saying that this doesn’t represent the fandom. And like you said at WIRED25, 99 percent of the fandom isn’t trolls.

Johnson: Well, and also, that 1 percent tries to do this shell game where they say, “Anyone who doesn’t like the movie is a racist.” That’s a bad faith argument. It’s so clear. We’re not talking about whether you like something or whether you don’t, we’re talking about whether you’re toxic and abusive online and whether you’re an odious sexist racist.

Just something to keep in mind if you still use Facebook or Twitter, where these sorts of discussions erupt.

Second one, and why I began blogging about the interview: Johnson is working on a TV series called Poker Face for Peacock, with weekly release and stand-alone stories.

Oh, so each episode is a standalone?
It was a hugely conscious choice, and it was something that I had no idea was gonna seem so radical to all the people we were pitching it to. [Laughs] The streaming serialized narrative has just become the gravity of a thousand suns to the point where everyone’s collective memory has been erased. That was not the mode of storytelling that kept people watching television for the vast history of TV. So it was not only a choice, it was a choice we really had to kind of fight for. It was tough finding a champion in Peacock that was willing to take a bet on it.

All my favourite series follow this format and I was deeply surprised that it’s been gone so long that it seems radical in the early 2020s.

It’s actually why I tend not to watch much television these days, because all those shows are history.

Who wants multi-episode story arcs? I want an hour of escapism and next week I want another hour and I honestly do not care if character A picks up traits or clues about their father’s brother’s roommate’s missing excalibur each week and its relevance to their superpowers. If the characters are reasonably fleshed out, then I’ll enjoy the standalone stories on their merits, thanks. Maybe give me a little bit of the underlying mystery in the first and last episodes of the season. Or maybe not, I just don’t care.

These are the sorts of things I have boxed sets of: The Persuaders, Return of the Saint, The Professionals, The Saint, The New Avengers, Mission: Impossible, UFO, Department S, The Sweeney, Dempsey and Makepeace, Hustle, Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei. By the 2000s, I did think it was odd that Hustle was being compared to The Persuaders and how it parodied the formula. What parody? The shows are not that alike. Now I think the writer must have been getting at the standalone nature of its episodes (though there were some that connected through various seasons). It was that unusual by the 2000s for Hustle’s structure to be considered parodic.

As many of you know, I have Life on Mars but only because by then that was the closest thing to the formula, even if Sam Tyler is trying to figure out what’s happened to him in the background each week. I also have recordings of The Paradise Club, and prefer season 2 to season 1 because of its standalone episodes. I have fond memories of the US shows such as Knight Rider, Automan and CHiPs but never went as far as getting the DVDs.

Johnson is roughly the same age as me—he’s a year younger—so he’ll have grown up with the same influences. His statement that this was how people watched TV for the majority of its history is bang on. Just on that alone, I might find out what Poker Face is about. Maybe we Xers will start getting things we’d like to watch after decades of reality TV and a decade of realty TV, neither of which interests me.


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Here’s hoping Yuzo Related Posts v. 6 does the trick

06.01.2023

When we put our sites on a new server last year, one Wordpress plug-in we retained, despite a known exploit, was Yuzo Related Posts. Basically, nothing else could do related posts as well. It just worked. Everything else, inexplicably, either did not do post relationships terribly well, was too resource-heavy, or was too ugly,

Fortunately, I ran Wordfence, who were among the folks who reported on Yuzo’s vulnerability in 2019. They believed their program would guard against it. In addition, I found some code on this page at Stack Overflow, and made those changes as well.

Maybe I got lucky as we didn’t get hacked, or maybe the above set-up helped, but with the latest Linux-based hack also using Yuzo (and many others), I decided to look again. I wasn’t going to tempt fate, and I do not recommend that you do.

Wordpress’s own directory has a lot of related-post plug-ins, but once again, I had to draw the same conclusion that I did in 2022. In fact, two of them didn’t even function! So much for them having been tested.

Yuzo, of course, was toast, having been removed from the directory.

But a further search revealed that Lenin Zapata, one of the two people behind the original, did indeed rewrite the plug-in completely, taking it from v. 5 to v. 6. The latest, last updated in 2020, was v. 6.2.2.

As far as I can tell, it’s a complete rewrite, but I am no expert on such matters. What I can tell you is the directory structure looks different. The bottom entry in the readme.txt is for the original, where Mr Zapata wrote, ‘Old version (with faults): A bad day’. The new one is ‘renewed and with maximum security’.

I am taking Mr Zapata’s word for it, but I was saddened to note that Wordpress has kicked even the new version off for a ‘Guideline Violation’. Strangely, my web history says I downloaded the latest one from wordpress.org, even though the site says it is ‘not available for download’. It must be in there somewhere and even Wordpress’s own stats said there were a handful of downloads over the last week.
 

 

No wonder he stopped developing it after both the disappointment of the exploit and seeing the plug-in get kicked off. Even if it was the best and, it seems, irreplaceable. I don’t know why no one has risen up to meet the quality of the original plug-in (the exploit aside), but maybe Lenin Zapata is just that much cleverer with figuring out how posts relate and with presenting PHP-generated content smartly. Have a look below—I think it looks very good and works very well.

I’m just hoping I’m doing the right thing by using a version that hasn’t reportedly fallen victim to the 2019 exploit. I don’t like someone getting a raw deal if they’ve fixed up something on which they made a mistake. They deserve a second chance.

Do I recommend you do what I did? No, because I don’t understand enough code to be able to report definitively that it was the right decision. But if you understand this stuff, have a peek at v. 6 and see if it does what it’s supposed to—safely. Or write your own to compete with it and do what so many of these plug-ins don’t or can’t.


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Beware AI; the dangers of Google ads; and the beauty of Radio.garden

03.01.2023

Hat tip to Stefan Engeseth on this one: an excellent podcast with author, historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari.

Among the topics he covers, as detailed in the summary in Linkedin’s The Next Big Idea:

• AI is the first technology that can take power away from us
• if we are not careful, AI and bioengineering will be used to create the worst totalitarian regimes in history
• Be skeptical of technological determinism

We should be wary now—not after these technologies have been fully realized.

I also checked into Business Ethics today, a site linked from the Jack Yan & Associates links’ section (which dates back to the 1990s). The lead item, syndicated from ProPublica, is entitled, ‘Porn, Privacy Fraud: What Lurks Inside Google’s Black Box Ad Empire’, subtitled, ‘Google’s ad business hides nearly all publishers it works with and where billions of ad dollars flow. We uncovered a network containing manga piracy, porn, fraud and disinformation.’

This should be no surprise to anyone who reads this blog; indeed, this should be no surprise to anyone who has had their eyes open and breathes. This opaque black box is full of abuse, funds disinformation, endangers democracy, and exposes personal data to dodgy parties. As I outlined earlier, someone in the legal profession with cojones and a ton of funding and time could demonstrate that Google’s entire business should be subject to a massive negligence lawsuit. The authors of the article present more evidence that Google is being up to no good.

An excerpt, without revealing too much:

Last year, a marketer working for a Fortune 500 company launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign …

Over the next few months, Google placed more than 1.3 trillion of the company’s ads on over 150,000 different websites and apps. The biggest recipient of ads — more than 49 million — was a website called PapayAds. The company was registered in Bulgaria less than two years ago and lists one employee, CEO Andrea De Donatis, on LinkedIn …

It seems impossible that 49 million ads were legitimately placed and viewed on PapayAds’ site over the span of several months … “I don’t have an explanation for this,” he said, adding that he does not recall receiving payment for such a large volume of ads.

I doubt this is isolated, and the story elaborates on how the scheme worked. And when Google realized its ads were winding up on inappropriate websites, the action it took was to keep doing it.
 

 

On a more positive note, I found out about Radio.garden in December on Mastodon (thank goodness for all the posts there these days, a far cry from when I joined in 2017) and have since been tuning in to RTHK Radio 1 in Hong Kong. I had no idea they even gave NZ dollar–US dollar exchange rates as part of their business news! The interface is wonderful: just rotate the planet and place the city of your choice within the circular pointer. It works equally well on a cellphone, though only in portrait mode there. You’d be amazed at what you can find, and I even listened to one of the pop stations in Jeddah.

My usual suspects are “favourited”: KCSM in San Mateo, Sveriges Radio P1, and RNZ National here. I might add Rix FM from Stockholm but I seem to have grown up a little since the days when its music was targeted to me.

It’s now been added to our company link list. Sadly, a few dead ones have had to be culled today. But I must say Radio.garden has been one of the best finds of 2022. Almost makes you want to surf to random sites again like we did in the 1990s.


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January 2023 gallery

01.01.2023

Here are January 2023’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 


 

Notes
Rosa Clará image, added as I was archiving files from the third quarter of 2021.

The Claudia Schiffer Rolling Stone cover came to mind recently—I believe it was commended in 1991 by the Society of Publication Designers, which I was a member of.

I looked at a few more risqué, but mainstream, covers to see what is appropriate, since the Lucire issue 46 cover was one of our more revealing though most glamorous ones in years. Vanity Fair and Women’s Health were useful US cases.

Lucire 46 cover for our 25th anniversary: hotographed by Lindsay Adler, styled by Cannon, make-up by Joanne Gair, and hair by Linh Nguyen. Gown by the Danes; earrings by Erickson Beamon at Showroom Seven; and modelled by Rachel Hilbert.


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An introduction to smart TVs for a complete novice

27.12.2022

Earlier in December, we decided to put a TV into our guest room. One catch: there is no aerial there, so initially we thought, ‘We have some great DVDs, let’s plug in the DVD player.’ But it didn’t quite feel right.

We’ve stayed at enough places with smart TVs, including some running the Android TV system. We’ve never really had a need to pursue this since most of the things I really love to watch have come out on DVD, and if Amanda and I wanted on-demand, there’s always the laptop with an HDMI cable. Simple.

I began looking into this and was intrigued by one suggestion on Mastodon for an Nvidia Shield, but alas, none were available in the time-frame (viz. before guests arrived). I was largely stuck with the Amazon Fire sticks, various Google-branded Chromecasts, and the DishTV Smartvu. The ever-knowledgeable Drew at PB Tech recommended the Smartvu, since he was in a similar boat: his place didn’t have an aerial, and he used the Smartvu to work as his regular TV. It also happened to be the most expensive of the lot.

My criteria were fairly basic. I wanted something that I could set up and sideload APKs on to, and never, ever go to a Google Play store. I began de-Googling in earnest at the end of 2009 and I sure as heck wasn’t going to intentionally invite the bastards back 13 years later—and actually pay to have their spyware in my home. The fact that Google’s offerings were more expensive than Amazon’s should be an affront to all consumers. Pay more to have them spy on you!

DishTV’s New Zealand distributor has comprehensive instructions on how to set it up, and sure enough, one of the first steps was it would take you to the Google Play store. No doubt that would be the same story with the Google Chromecasts. Which, unfortunately, left me with one choice: give Amazon money even though they owe me (and this is an ongoing dispute in which, since they are Big Tech, I believe they are lying).

But Amazon it was. PB was charging quite a lot more than Harvey Norman and Noël Leeming and, while Gerry Harvey might be a prized dick, he does seem to hire good people on the shop floor. I never had anyone at Leeming help. Nor could I even find the product at their Tory Street store.

Amazon does require an Amazon account, which I still have, despite all the BS; but once you are in, sideloading is not too difficult. And there’s no Google Play in sight, even if it is a reasonably stock Chromecast set-up.

Of course, I went through the privacy settings and made sure any data the gadget had collected to date were deleted.

I then proceeded to follow these instructions and enabled third-party apps.

The first method, sideloading from my phone using Apps2Fire, never worked. Waste of time. For whatever reason, the third method didn’t, either: ES File Explorer refused to sync with Dropbox despite all my credentials being correct. Of course I had to attempt the second one last—download the Downloader (yes, really), then go to the address where the APKs are.

It’s just as well, since some of the Amazon-hosted APKs don’t work (e.g. Euronews), so you need to find alternatives. Matt Huisman offers some New Zealand ones on his website, and getting the Freeview one was a no-brainer—the terrestrial channels are then all available, as though one had a normal TV. (I was very surprised to learn that this is not a common thing to do, and equally surprised that the APK was not available on Amazon; presumably it’s not on Google Play either.)
 

 

Amazon did suggest getting the Fire TV app for my phone, but when you scan the bar code, it offers two destinations from which to download it: Google Play and Apple Appstore (I still want to call it Ishop). This is pretty senseless, since Amazon has gone to the trouble of hosting so many APKs itself, why not its own one?

Maybe … it’s because it’s a lemon and doesn’t work. I grabbed the one at APK Mirror, and it was about as useless as a milliardaire running a social network. (I don’t believe it even installed.) No biggie, once everything was set up I had zero use for it.

Which leaves Alexa, which interested me from a technological point of view. The original Alexa will stop working on December 31, so I might as well shift to using the thing that Amazon now calls Alexa. And to ask it to make fart noises, which seems to be its only utility if you don’t have other gadgets wired into the network. Only problem: how does it work? Where do you talk into? The stick? The remote?

Strangely, Amazon does not say when I searched for information on its own site, so I guess everyone else automatically worked it out by telepathy.

All I know is when I pressed the button, as per the very few instructions provided in the box, the TV said to wait for the tone, then speak. Nothing ever happened, whether I spoke to the remote or to the stick.

One Mastodon user told me that I had to talk into the slot in the remote.

It was a week later that I tried keeping the button pressed down after the tone. Only then did it work.

I’m not sure how anyone is supposed to know that, especially as Amazon’s own instructions just instruct you to speak after the tone. There’s no instruction to keep the button pressed down. I would even say that implicitly, you’re instructed to let go of the button. You hear a strange noise, you release the button. That seems like a natural reaction to me.

Again we come to the usual conclusion that tech people make a lot of presumptions about how tech-savvy the public is. Folks, you need to assume that we are coming to these gadgets with zero knowledge about them. Yes, I realize Walter Matthau had to press the button on his mic to talk to Robert Shaw in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, but Walt never had a computer tone beep back at him.

Now with hundreds of channels, there’s still barely anything to watch, though I did find the Jackie Chan movie Wheels on Meals in the original Cantonese. Once I finish watching that, it’s back to the DVDs for me. I just hope our guests are happy.


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When reverse image search services allege you’ve stolen work

23.12.2022

I think these are going to get more frequent. We received another copyright claim, accusing us of publishing a photograph without authorization. They wanted around €500, part of that for the licence, and part of that for running it since 2009.

This one, from a German company, was easier to deal with than an American firm that approached us with a similar accusation some years back, using the same tactic of including a pro forma invoice in the body of the email. I don’t remember the US firm’s name, and right now I’m not comfortable revealing the German firm’s since I’m still checking to see how legitimate they are.

I remember the Americans dragging it out over days, never answering the substantive parts of my legal arguments—gaslighting is part of their intimidation tactics. They wanted me to cough up, citing sections from our Copyright Act—an act which I knew better than they did and how the sections actually operated.

Their last email was citing one section which I knew they would fail on if they were to go to court, so I said, ‘You already have my response.’

They never actioned any lawsuit and I felt the whole thing was a scam. The way the American was avoiding getting to the core of the argument and not understanding commercial law (which could come into it as well as copyright law) told me as much.

Of course the image at issue was used legitimately, but in this case I didn’t have any evidence where it was from. All I knew were our procedures.

I never let on I had a law degree and he was emailing our main work email, so he never saw my signature file with my qualifications.

In this latest case, the approach was a little softer. In addition, things were a lot clearer, since I recall how we came to run the allegedly pirated photo of a Coty perfume: it came via a press release.

The beauty of having used Eudora as my email program—and still using it 27 years later—is being able to grab old mailboxes and load them up again.

And there it was, the press release from October 2009 in the inbox—twice, in fact, one sent to a former editor and one to our general media wire address. In there was the download link, which, happily, made it into the Internet Archive so I could confirm for myself that that was the source.

This German company had an online process where you could feed your evidence and details of your licence. I provided one of the releases and fed in the name and company of the person responsible. One of the companies was Coty, Inc., whom I very much doubt would not have made sure we in the press were covered.

In the message field I advised that if there were a claim for costs, they should approach Coty, Inc. and Coty SAS—all the while knowing that they would have secured the necessary licence.

Tonight, the German company emailed to say they would not pursue the claim further, which was a speedy resolution—but I wonder if they will continue going after people who got their image the same way but not having records stretch back that far. If they are con merchants, they will. If they’re legitimate and professional, they won’t.

A few things strike me here. The first is the timing: sending out on December 21 and demanding a reply by December 28. There’ll be offices that aren’t working through the Christmas break.

Secondly, my memory is that pro forma invoices, as far as New Zealand is concerned, are illegal. I can also think of them breaching other legislation. (N.B.: this blog post doesn’t constitute legal advice.)

Thirdly, will everyone still have their 2009 emails and will the Internet Archive have found the download link to spider? Unlikely—and this makes it unfair on the publisher.

Fourthly, I would say this claim falls outside the Limitation Act.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe photographers, indeed any author within the meaning of the Copyright Act, should be rewarded for their work. We send out DMCA notices a lot—but only after we have written a velvet-gloved email to the publisher or a comment on their blog.

I’ve even toyed with using such services ourselves over a series of articles, some hosted by Go Daddy who seems reluctant to have their customer remove them.

I would only consider them if I can identify the parties who have allegedly pirated, and not leave it to their systems, which appear to make overly sweeping approaches.

Further, I do not approve of the pro forma invoice tactic.

I can see through the legalese as I’ve had legal training and specialized in intellectual property. But I don’t believe everyone can see through it. They’re designed to intimidate, and based on some forum discussions, that intimidation works.

And I fear we are going to see many more of these. Like our experience earlier this year with a Spanish company, it seems they automate their processes too much, identifying piracy where there isn’t any. Gullible companies like Facebook and Google believe them and act against a smaller player.

Typically, copyright owners have turned a blind eye to the use of images of, say, packaging if the associated article is about them and promotional in nature (again, as this was—we alerted our readers to a fragrance launch).

I can’t promise you that we have records of every image we’ve used, because we might have clicked on the email server-side to get the download link, and Eudora’s filters took out the actual message once it was imported, for example. Or one of us went to a free photo site where an uploader hadn’t done their checks.

All I know is that we’ve behaved ourselves. I’d never accuse someone of doing something that they didn’t do and make my approach look like a scam. One hopes copyright reform will balance things on this front.


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You can’t even mention Mastodon in Twitter private messaging

17.12.2022

It was pretty unsurprising to see Mastodon links blocked on Twitter. If you consider that its owner is a petulant manchild, then everything makes sense. But I was surprised that this censorship extended to private messages. This from Tweetdeck as I advised a friend:
 

 
Note the links aren’t even live—they’re just text mentions. Those are too upsetting for Elmu to deal with.

Remember, petulant children who harp on about free speech care about only their free speech, as they lack the maturity to understand others’ free speech.

I haven’t seen this sort of censorship since Google Plus, though I’m sure users of Chinese social media will find it familiar.

I eventually copied and pasted the text and took a screenshot for my friend, so OnlyKlans’ software isn’t smart enough to do OCR yet. That got through.

Sadly, till Dlvr.it is capable of exporting my RSS feeds to Mastodon, my Twitter account remains live—plus I still don’t want people pinching my handle that I’ve had since 2007. But some of these tech companies are pretty slow. Dlvr.it has only had six years to build in ActivityPub and the capability to export to Mastodon. Give them time. One day, they, and Zoho Social, will get there.

Though realistically, our government should be blocking OnlyKlans itself, due to its alleged distribution of the March 15 video. A service that was based here would have been shut down already, and Twitter does have a New Zealand office (via a law firm on Brandon Street). The fact Labour isn’t working on this means they will continue kowtowing to Big Tech. The fact National hasn’t uttered a word means nothing will change under them, either. Blairites and the right love these foreigners and the power and money they wield.


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Are there a lot Gmail users who get their address wrong, more than any other service?

12.12.2022

Kurt and I have very different brains, if you read this thread that I jumped in on.

I am sure he is right on how things should work. Get me talking about spacing and spelling, and I’d be in the same boat. Or the use of the word billion. I have my ideas on all of these, but not everyone follows them.

But in the Wikipedia article he cites, not everyone accepts that [email protected] and [email protected] are the same—and certainly my own experience backs this up. You won’t be able to email me, for example, if you miss the punctuation. I also won’t be able to reach employees at some of the big media players on this planet.

I know Gmail would like us to think that a dotted and non-dotted email address are the same, and says as much, but there are just too many stories out there of people receiving emails not meant for them.

And you know what I think of Google: what it says and what it does have not always been the same thing.

Kurt believes all those people have fed in the wrong address for their emails to wind up with others. It’s entirely possible, but for one tale that I linked to, on Reddit.

A former network engineer, Dan Hoyer, said, inter alia:

So, bottom line is that Gmail didn’t always ignore dots, and people who had dots but had that address first were merged with the non dotted accounts and started receiving email from someone else’s non dotted account in addition to their dotted version. (I am not sure, but I believe the reverse may have happened too if the non dotted name came first.)

And in the replies, Melissa Chapman says:

I am with you about the change. It 100% used to see dots and they were suggested to users as alternate forms when you created your gmail. I’ve gotten email for people with my same maiden name in California, New Jersey, Minnesota, and most recently France. And not just junk mail, but Paypal, church tithes, and utilities. It’s frustrating that Google completely denies that this is the case! I don’t use my older email much, but I also wonder if the other user has some access or gets some emails. Like with Paypal, they had confirmed their email to create the account!

Now, if Melissa is telling the truth, then there is an issue with Gmail, where someone else can get your emails. If what Kurt says is right, then Melissa’s claim about the Paypal account’s verification by another user is impossible if someone else did not register a variant of her address on Gmail separately, and was told that it was accepted.

With respect, if someone is ignoring certain claims, it’s probably because they don’t want to open their minds to the possibility that their belief system is wrong. I remember that from an earlier Google experience—and what kicked off my de-Googling in 2009. As I said, I accept Kurt’s position on how things should be—but in practice not everyone is strict about things, and the computer world is as rife with examples as any other.


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Google’s advertising business is a negligence lawsuit waiting to be actioned

09.12.2022

Apparently the New Zealand government says Big Tech will pay a ‘fair price’ for local news content under new legislation.

Forget the newcomers like Stuff and The New Zealand Herald. The Fairfax Press, as the former was, was still running ‘The internet is scary’ stories at the turn of the century. What will Big Tech pay my firm? Any back pay? We have been in this game a long, long time. A lot longer than the newbies.

And what is the definition of ‘sharing’?

Because Google could be in for a lot.

Think about it this way: Google’s ad unit has enabled a lot of fake sites, scraped sites, spun sites, malware hosts, and the like, since anyone can sign up to be a publisher and start hosting their ads.

While Google will argue that they have nothing to do with the illegitimate usage of their services, some might look at it very differently.

Take the tort of negligence. To me this is classic Donahue v. Stevenson [1932] AC 562 territory and as we’re at 90 years since Lord Atkins’ judgement, it offers us some useful pointers.

Lord Atkin stated, ‘You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who, then, in law is my neighbour? The answer seems to be—persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.’

If you open up advertising to all actors (Google News also opens itself up to splogs), then is it foreseeable that unethical parties and bad faith actors will sign up? Yes. Is it foreseeable that they will host content illegally? Yes. Will this cause harm to the original copyright owner? Yes.

We also know a lot of these pirate sites are finding their content through Google News. Some have even told me so, since I tend to start with a softly, softly approach and send a polite request to a pirate.

I’d say a case in negligence is already shaping up.

If Google didn’t open up its advertising to all and sundry, then there would have been far fewer negative consequences—let’s not even get into surveillance, which is also a direct consequence of their policy and conduct.

Do companies that are online owe a duty of care to internet users? I’d say this is reasonable. I imagine some smaller firms might find it more difficult to get rid of a hacker, but overall, this seems reasonable.

Was this duty of care breached? Was there causation? By not vetting people signing up to the advertising programme, then yes. Pre-Google, ad networks were very careful, and I had the impression websites were approved on a case-by-case, manually reviewed basis. The mess the web is in, with people gaming search engines, with fake news sites (which really started as a way of making money), with advertising making pennies instead of dollars and scam artists all over the show, can all be traced to Google helping them monetize this conduct. There’s your obiter dicta right there. (Thanks to Amanda for remembering that term after all these years.)

Google hasn’t taken reasonable care, by design. And it’s done this for decades. And damages must be in the milliards to all legitimate publishers out there who have lost traffic to these unethical websites, who have seen advertising revenue plummet because of how Google has depressed the prices and how it feeds advertising to cheap websites that have cost their owners virtually nothing to run.

Make of this what you will. Now that governments are waking up after almost two decades, maybe Big Tech is only agreeing because it fears the rest of us will figure out that they owe way, way more than the pittance they’ll pay out under these legislative schemes?

Anyone with enough legal nous to give this a bash on behalf of the millions of legitimate publishers, past and present, directly harmed by Google and other Big Tech companies’ actions?


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Posted in business, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, USA | 2 Comments »