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Friday, 31 July 2020 11:59

Google, Facebook caught on the hop as Frydenberg strikes

Google, Facebook caught on the hop as Frydenberg strikes Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

For once, both Google and Facebook have been neatly shafted by the man who holds the country's purse strings: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Any time there is a small turn of the screw, a statement about fines and the need to pay for news — in other words to follow the law and not demand a free lunch — both Google and Facebook invariably get wind of it and plant their propaganda in some newspaper or the other the night before.

Most of the time it is that august publication, the Australian Financial Review, that gives these digital platforms yards and yards of hard drive space to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt — yeah, the old FUD — about what the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been asking of them.

But this time both companies were in the dark. They were hit by a bolt of lightning on Friday morning.

In truth, if a company asks you to pay for using their products — which they have to, in turn generate, by paying their staff — nobody, but nobody, tries to argue that they should get free stuff because they are doing the company in question a favour.

Only Facebook and Google do that. They have very little moral fibre in their organisations but chutzpah, mate, they have it in spades. Melanie Silva, who heads Google's operations in this region, can spin it better than Warnie in his prime, better than the vaunted Indian quartet of Bishen Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrashekhar and Srinivas Venkataraghavan.

She has people eating out of her hand, people who come to meet her with flaming bows and arrows, but leave looking like pussycats who have been fed cream. Facebook is not a poor second in this respect, though its chief Mark Zuckerberg's tactic is generally to duck and weave for cover.

Both companies often hold out threats – if you force us to pay, we will leave Australia and then see what you will be stuck with.

Pray, take the next plane out of this country, gentleman/lady. There are plenty of honest replacements who are willing to pay a fair price to get the benefits that you do.

The one important thing that has changed this morning from all the verbiage and softly-softly approach of the past, is that Frydenberg has shown that he has grown a pair. A big pair.

Josh is a softly spoken dude but even he has begun to snarl in a manner that would do a German Alsatian proud. At this stage, I would venture to point out that though Frydenberg has a baby face, it is dangerous to muck around with him. The man has teeth. And he has shown he is prepared to chomp down, bite and not let go.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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