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How tech firms frustrate news sites

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Google is appealing three rulings, with its lawyer telling judges that the company is not compelled to hold back on its innovation to accommodate its rivals. PHOTO | AFP

jenny

Summary

  • And for me, in the media, that company is Google: for there is a reason it keeps losing huge anti-competitive lawsuits. It is not behaving well.
  • In Europe, that has played out as three consecutive lost law suits, in 2017, 2018 and 2019, each imposing fines on Google of billions of euros, and thus trillions of shillings, for anti-competitive behaviour. 
  • The company is appealing all three rulings, with its lawyer telling judges Google is not compelled to hold back on its innovation to accommodate its rivals.

There are only so many times you can get ripped off by a large, monopolistic company before you take glee in every court case it loses, as some small moment of vindication. And for me, in the media, that company is Google: for there is a reason it keeps losing huge anti-competitive lawsuits. It is not behaving well.

In Europe, that has played out as three consecutive lost law suits, in 2017, 2018 and 2019, each imposing fines on Google of billions of euros, and thus trillions of shillings, for anti-competitive behaviour — in online shopping, in promoting its apps, and, the worst one for many, in blocking ads from rival companies.

The company is appealing all three rulings, with its lawyer telling judges Google is not compelled to hold back on its innovation to accommodate its rivals.

However, as Google shows a loss of values so substantial it now confuses blocking paid ads from competitors — from its position as the world’s largest and leading search engine—with calling that innovation, its absence of ethics, unfortunately, is playing out at every level of its business.

For right now, I am suffering my second loss of income of 2020 on Google’s thirst to innovate by taking my money.

As it is, I publish a website, a farmers’ news website, the largest, in fact, in sub-Saharan Africa, without giving any clues on its name (no promotions here).

Its traffic, consequently, is quite large, and some months ago we set it up to run Google adverts, to earn funds for our running costs, being the cost of two reporters, and overheads.

AD PAYMENTS

It’s earning well from those ads, only it is not, and may never. Because Google slapped a notice on the account five months ago saying it could not issue any of the ad payments until it verified my own, personal, physical address, for which purpose it was posting a PIN number to me.

It didn’t wait to run its ads on that PIN clearance. It has been taking money from advertisers to run ads on my website for now five months — it just won’t pay me for them.

However, it said the PIN would arrive within 28 days, although there was also a note saying coronavirus might cause some delays. The PIN didn’t arrive after 28 days.

It hasn’t arrived after 150 days, but here’s where I began to realise I had found a new Google trap.

For, after 90 days, I tried to find a way to contact Google to trace the PIN hold-up. I could not, but I found a way, via noticeboards galore, to send a new request for a PIN, and here’s where I began to worry: it told me that this request, for a resend of the account PIN, was one of only three I was allowed. So people ask three times and still no PIN?

Needless to say, some 60 days later, the second PIN has never arrived.

Poor Google: my post works for everyone else. I get letters from tax authorities, water companies, credit card companies, banks, even government departments. But for Google, the post does not work.

And horror, as a miserable consequence of the postal system’s loss of just its letters alone, it has felt obliged to keep my now €600 plus.

MONEY TRAP

Of course, in finding its new money trap, I found literally hundreds of other web owners similarly stymied. Indeed, my own website tends to move in and out of the top 400,000 largest in the world.

Let’s say half of those were running Google ads, and Google was taking the money for ads on them, but not paying for them — on its grave challenges with sending a PIN letter — it would be left holding over Sh14 billion just from the last five months.

And here’s the thing. I can write off five months of earnings that Google has been paid for and move to another network – where Google will block its ads.

So, then I won’t earn from them either. So, if you wonder why some of the news services you love are closing, thank Google. It calls it innovation.