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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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This is not how the Net is supposed to work

16 Feb 2024

New Zealand mainstream media players are lobbying the government to introduce new laws that would force the likes of Google and Facebook to pay for news.

I'm sorry, I don't understand what's going on here.

The likes of Stuff, RNZ, The NZ Herald etc, all publish news online and that news (or at least part of it in the case of the NZH) is freely available for everyone to access using their favourite web browser.

Sometimes companies like Google search the news and create useful, well indexed ways to find stuff that might otherwise be missed. I know, I use Google News a lot to discover stuff that I might not otherwise see.

All of this actually drives traffic to the MSM's websites, so what's the problem? Why do they also want to be paid for this?

The reality is that any news publisher who doesn't want their stuff linked to by Google can simply add a "robots.txt" file that will exclude search engine crawlers from indexing their content.

With this in mind, it seems that the MSM are simply looking for another chance to cry poor and play the victim, as has become so trendy of late.

Talk about a culture of entitlement!

If a robots.txt file is not enough then just do what the NZH does and hide some or all of your stories behind a paywall. Problem solved -- neither Google nor Facebook nor anyone else who doesn't pay the price of entry will see your stuff.

Oh, what's that? You want your cake and to eat it too?

Reading the submissions from big media as reported in this "Live" feed on the Stuff website is worth a few moments of your time.

Sinead Boucher from Stuff states

"I want to challenge the idea too, that they are somehow sending us all this free traffic and that we should be grateful for what we get"

Well Sinead, where's your "robots.txt" file to stop Google et al from accessing your material?

Me thinks she doth protest too much. If she really felt that the "free traffic" was not a reasonable exchange of value then she'd simply stop Google from indexing Stuff's content, wouldn't she?

In fact, I notice that the NZH and Stuff even go out of their way to make the stuff behind their paywalls available to search engines -- something that can be exploited to your advantage if you type in a paywall-protected URL to this site. Archive.today masquerades as a search-engine crawler and return the full article without costing you a single red cent!

It strikes me that the NZ media has had a taste of handouts in the form of the last government's laughably named "Public Interest Journaism Fund" and it doesn't want to have to go back to actually working for a living. They love the taste of other people's money and with National in power they're very much aware that it's time to change horses and put the squeeze on the larger internet platforms for their wages.

I'm sorry but this is not the way the internet should work.

If you publish stuff online without any sort of firewall or even a robots.txt file then you have to expect that others will read it and may even use the information contained in it for their own purposes. THAT is how the internet works.

In the unlikely event that someone directly copies your hard work then there are copyright laws that can be used to stop them or extract suitable compensation and even punitive rewards -- so stop your grizzling.

What we have here is the equivalent of our MSM saying "if you read/hear/watch one of our news stories you can't tell your friends and neighbours what it was about -- unless you pay us money every time you do".

That's crazy!

Of course the issue of AI was also raised by news publishers. They claim that their hard work can now be exploited by platforms that use the news and AI to generate summaries or meta-analyses of their content.

Well guess what?

If a human does it, it's legal -- you can't copyright or protect the actual facts. Why would it be any different if an AI does it?

Having spent time in the news journalism field I am shocked and horrified at the way this industry has decayed and festered over the past 30 years. What was once a proud arm of the Fourth Estate is now a pale shadow of its former self. Instead of creating material that is worth paying for they now rely on being bought-off by governments or having those governments run a protection racket to line their pockets.

Perhaps its time for the rise of the citizen journalist and the demise of the greedy, whiney, corrupt MSM which has proven itself willing to be bought and paid for by anyone with a big enough wallet, rather than stand up and objectively report the facts.

Carpe Diem folks!

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