Saturday, January 23, 2021

Google, Facebook think they are above Australian law

The editorial below is rather over the top. No matter how big it gets, a private company has little power over a sovereign state. And in this case the media companies' response to the threatened Australian legislation is mostly bluff. There are many alternatives to social media companies and the idea that anybody has to rely on Google et al. for their news is laughable. There are more news sites around the world than you could poke a stick at. Russian news site RT in particular delights in putting up stories that are little covered in the West.

And even search is far from a monopolized function. Bing, Duckduckgo and Yahoo are well established alternatives. Anybody who finds the offering of a major media company suddenly missing will quickly learn to log on to an alternative site.

And precisely that will cause Google et al. to back down. They would be very allergic to a loss of business to their competitors

The threats and bullyboy behaviour of Google and Facebook yesterday tore away any last facade hiding the tech titans’ true nature as virtual rogue states who consider themselves immune to fair law or regulation.

Both companies’ appalling tactics will be of deep concern to thinking Australians – who are the ultimate victims.

Over several years the several million Australians who use these platforms have become increasingly suspicious and disturbed at the way tech giants wield their power without any responsibility; from allowing the publication and distribution of extremist and harmful content and the proliferation of fake news, failing to cooperate with law enforcement authorities, and manipulating audiences at the end of their algorithms.

Yesterday both companies proved once and for all they believe they should not be answerable to the rule of law.

Before a Senate hearing examining a proposed code of conduct which will for the first time make the digital behemoths pay news organisations for the content which helps drive their superprofits, Google threatened to remove its search engine from Australia in retaliation.

It’s a crucial moment in time: Australia wants to apply a simple – and small – set of reins but both tech giants want to gallop away, unfettered by regulation or scrutiny.

The threat to withdraw Google Search follows on from Google’s decision a few weeks ago to hide some Australian news sites from its search results – a move interpreted in several quarters as another retaliation against an Australian government backing the payment proposal.

Google is now the third technology company behind Apple and Microsoft to exceed a value of One Trillion US dollars, putting it ahead of a few successful western countries when compared to their wealth as measured in GDP.

Independent Senator Rex Patrick has compared the company, which in a burst of idealism once incorporated into its mission statement the phrase, “don’t be evil,’’ to the oppressive leadership of China.

“Google’s behaviour is straight out of the Chinese Communist Party’s playbook, and it’s not appreciated,” Senator Patrick said.

Senator Patrick, who along with five other upper house colleagues was examining the merits of the proposed legislation, said he and his Senate colleagues took a dim view of Google’s threat to remove itself from the Australian market.

Senator Patrick, quite rightly, pointed out that Google was threatening to withdraw its service from the market place just as countries around the world were examining ways of sustaining public interest journalism.

Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, also a member of the Senate committee at yesterday’s hearing, warned of the dangers of big companies amassing the sort of global power which he compared to the oil companies of the last century.

“Their power and market reach is such that there needs to be intervention to redress the imbalance.’’

Google and fellow travellers in the tech world such as Facebook have grown enormously rich in the past two decades partly because they can harvest data valuable to the world of marketing.

But what began in 1996 as a Stanford University research project has become such a corporate juggernaut that it is beginning to become apparent that Google believes it can dictate terms, and decide the rules, of a game which it believes it controls totally.

Executive director for Reset Australia, Chris Cooper, gave a wonderfully illustrative quote on how the company’s corporate maturity may not have kept pace with its financial growth.

“Today’s egregious threats show Google has the body of a behemoth, but the brain of brat,’’ he said. “When a private corporation tries to use its monopoly power to threaten and bully a sovereign nation, it’s a sure-fire sign that regulation is long overdue.’’

While slightly more restrained, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had a blunt view of the latest development, clearly indicating he would not be intimidated by Google’s threat to limit the nation’s access to Google Search.

“Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia,” the Prime Minister said. “And people who want to work with that in Australia – you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats.”

This case has implications that go far beyond our shores. It is a true test of whether these global tech titans can be brought to heal or whether they are above the law and unanswerable to the people of Australia.

Coronavirus Qld: Hi-tech quarantine solution

The State Government is pushing ahead with controversial plans to establish quarantine camps in central Queensland and Toowoomba.

Dr Anseline, together with epidemiologists Professor Marylouise McLaws and Dr Henning Liljeqvist, is lobbying for a similar national scheme.

They said recent evidence suggested hotels were far from optimal for quarantine, as the virus could easily spread among guests and workers.

Dr Anseline said locking people up in hotel rooms for 14 days – often without fresh air or exercise – was having a huge impact on mental health.

He said while state and federal governments had done a great job thus far containing the virus, changes were needed as the pandemic dragged on.

“Hotels have been a stopgap solution, but we have to look at the medium and longer term because even with a vaccine, this virus could be with us for years,” he said.

“There are still tens of thousands of Australians waiting to return home, as well as overseas students and tourists hoping to travel to Australia again in the not-too-distant future once travel bans are lifted.

“We need to come up with safer, novel and more effective solutions, and we believe that new technology and processes, which can be overlaid on existing hotel quarantine protocols, are the answer.”

Under Hemisphere’s plan, overseas arrivals would be rapid-tested on arrival in Australia, with those testing positive housed in separate quarantine accommodation.

Those testing negative would be quarantined in single-level cabins with their own kitchens, outside CBDs but close to airports and hospitals. “This would reduce worker and guest transmission but also significantly improve mental health outcomes,” Dr Anseline said.

The plan also involves guests and staff wearing new hi-tech wristband trackers to monitor movements and vital signs. The wristbands could also be used for home quarantine, Dr Anseline said.

Quarantine facilities would have COVID marshals and on-site sewage testing.

Dr Anseline said masks should be compulsory on all flights and quarantine facility staff needed to be given special COVID-19 safety training.

Relocating to Queensland? Get in line, Sunshine state builders record four-fold rise in new home enquiries

A building company says the level of inquiry for new homes in south-east Queensland is "phenomenal," with a mass domestic migration apparently underway to the Sunshine State.

Metricon Queensland general manager Luke Fryer said new homes sales were up 80 per cent and the level of enquiry in local property had been extraordinary.

"The major relocation companies are quoting 400 per cent increases in quotes to people who are wanting pricing to relocate from Sydney and Melbourne up to the Gold Coast and Greater Brisbane," Mr Fryer said.

Interstate migration and government stimulus measures have helped boost new homes sales and building approvals across south-east Queensland, he said.

"We are seeing a significant increase in domestic migration.

"The level of enquiry and level of people committing to building a new home on the Gold Coast and south-east Queensland has really been phenomenal."

"I'd suggest some 80 to 90 per cent up year on year.

"It's been an extraordinarily positive result and response from Australians who do have certainty around their employment."

While trades and product supply pressures were currently manageable, Mr Fryer said they could become an issue later this year when more building approvals will be processed.

"Certainly trades will come under pressure in 2021, because there's only so many plumbers, so many brickies, so many electricians to go around at the moment."

'Absolutely the biggest boom'

Darryl Meehan director of Q Coast Homes said demand for renovations was unprecedented and unlike anything he had experienced in over 40 years. "The renovation sector is doing even better than the new home market, especially on the Gold Coast," Mr Meehan said. "I think that has just gone in absolutely the biggest boom … its [ever] been."

Mr Meehan said 2021 was looking very positive and the Federal Government's HomeBuilder and JobKeeper programs had saved the industry. "Every builder on the Gold Coast that was able to survive through the pandemic has had an increase in volume, I would say somewhere between 20 to 25 per cent."

Mr Meehan said interstate migration was putting pressure on property prices for existing homes too. "Any existing house that comes onto the market, it's not on the market for very long."

HomeBuilder figures show the grants have been most popular in Victoria, Queensland then NSW.

Mr Fryer said real estate agents have been inundated with eager buyers and many existing homes are being sold before they even hit the market. "They've got a book of buyers that have given them very clear instructions that if they find a property that fits their criteria to purchase it."

"Properties are selling before their listed for sale," Mr Fryer said. "In the olden days that would be sight unseen but now with modern technology with virtual walk throughs and the like, they're able to view the property digitally and they're purchasing."

Violent women are mad but violent men are bad

Bettina Arndt

Our captured media really showed their bias in the reporting on the tragedy at Tullamarine, in Melbourne where the bodies of a mother and three children were discovered last Thursday. The ABC led the charge, with their thinly veiled account which highlighted the fact that the father of the children was “assisting police with inquiries”. Using the classic journalist’s fake nod to fair reporting, the story mentioned that there was no history of family violence but then featured prominently a list of family violence support services bang in the middle of the article.

All the media stories waxed lyrical about this caring, protective mother who adored her children, and wasted few words on the devastated father who had called the police to report the tragedy. One report in The Australian suggested the father had been led away in handcuffs by police, which wasn’t true. He was apparently never really a suspect and certainly was not charged.

By the next day, police had released their conclusion that this was a murder/suicide perpetrated by the mother. Boy, did that take the wind out of the sails of these prejudiced reporters. Within two days the story was forgotten with only the occasional piece appearing, often featuring heart-wrenching letters written by schoolfriends of the little children. No one seems to want to write about this devoted father who has seen his entire family wiped out. No investigatory reporting on how and why this happened.

Now that we know the mother was the perpetrator, how come we see absolutely no reporting about exactly how these poor children were killed? If the father had been responsible, the media would have delighted in exposing grisly details of why crime scene cleaners were required at the house.

Naturally, most of the media isn’t interested in highlighting the fact that women are just as likely as men to commit filicide, killing their own children. Currently mothers are actually more likely to do so than fathers in Australia. But have a look at this telling piece from Denise Buiten, a sociology and social justice lecturer from Notre Dame – “Men and women kill their children in roughly equal numbers and we need to understand why.”

The answer is pretty simple, according to Buiten. When it comes to perpetrators of filicide, the women are mad and the men bad.

It’s all part of our biased justice system where the gender of the perpetrator influences the outcome from the moment a crime is reported.





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