Features

Splice News Trends: Piracy blocks in Singapore, China’s war on comics and Elon Musk’s ‘Yelp for journalists’

In this week's media commentary, the Splice Newsroom founder Alan Soon talks China's latest crackdown, the downfall of Time Magazine and hope for Malaysia's anti-fake news law

Government

Malaysia’s new communications minister says the country’s controversial fake-news law, introduced just before the recent elections, will be repealed. Media freedom is my priority. The media churning out news and publishing companies are bound by the existing laws so we have to look at it that way.”

China now has rage comics on its banned list. These images — often drawn crudely to describe extreme emotion — are super popular in the country… until one of them started making fun of communist heroes.

The offending rage comic

Australian senators are backing the government’s plan to impose a GST-like levy on advertising generated by companies like Facebook and Google. The Treasurer says big tech companies are “ripping out a big part of our tax base“.

Copyright holders scored a major victory in Singapore. The government ordered ISPs to block sites like Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents. Not surprisingly, there’s now a surge in Google searches for “VPN”.

Google, Microsoft, WhatsApp, and Facebook have been fined about $1,464 (not a typo) by the Indian supreme court for failing to take down sexual content. There’s allegedly photos of children taken in public where users have been posting graphic descriptions of sexual abuse. It’s been running for more than a year.

Lawmakers at the European Parliament got straight to the point in their grilling of Mark Zuckerberg this week. They asked: Does Facebook need to be broken up? But the politicians, like most politicians, were more interested in impressing each other with their ability to ask questions than to extract real responses.

They spent an hour lining up questions, leaving Zuck with only 30 minutes to answer. And as every good journo knows, if you ask a series of questions, your interviewee gets to cherry-pick. And that’s what he did. His answers weren’t particularly useful. Nothing you haven’t already heard.

Platforms

Given its history, Germany is perhaps one of the best examples of a modern democracy that operates without freedom of speech. Today it’s a test case of how to regulate both online speech and privacy on platforms like Facebook. “For them, data is the raw material that makes them money. For us, data protection is a fundamental right that underpins our democratic institutions.” This will also give you a better understanding of what Europe wants to achieve with GDPR.

A federal judge in the U.S. ruled that Trump can’t block people he doesn’t like on his Twitter account. The judge said he’s violating First Amendment rights because Twitter is a “designated public space”.

Twitter pissed off a number of its users in Bulgaria by automatically suspending their accounts because they were tweeting in Cyrillic. The algo seems to assume that just because you’re using Cyrillic, you must be a Russian bot. AI странно.

Five years ago, Zuckerberg put out a manifesto to wire the world and get everyone on Facebook. He said universal basic internet “isn’t going to happen by itself”. Today, Zuck’s plan — almost as a mirror to Facebook’s bigger problems — is stuck.

Transformation

Malaysiakini spent two decades fighting for Malaysia’s democracy. With the opposition in power for the first time since independence, the granddaddy of digital news in Asia needs to figure out what to do now that its dream has finally come true. A Splice Original.

Politico started a content-sharing partnership with SCMP. Look out for Politico’s coverage of China on the SCMP site. I can see why Politico needs SCMP — but what does SCMP get from Politico?

Comcast says it’s ready to put in a higher, all-cash bid to buy most of the media assets of Twenty-First Century Fox. Its rival Disney currently has a $52 billion all-stock offer for Fox on the table.

The New York Times runs 55 newsletters. Many of these are meant to be pop-up, short-run emails. “People like signing up for them because it’s a short-term commitment, and it’s something they’re passionate about right now.” They want to do more.

Like many of you, I grew up with a reverence for Time, one of the most important news magazines of the past century. Today, it’s in the scrap heap. This is what happened.

Trends

Asia is long overdue for a shakedown of foreign male journalists (often white) preying on young female reporters.“Some of them get away with being one way at home, but when they find themselves in these places where sex is so easily available — especially if you’re a white dude and some local women see status in that — some men abuse it.” Read Joanna Chiu’s piece on “sexpats” in Asia.

China’s biggest Netflix-style streaming app iQiyi is trying something new: It’s building offline cinemas. You can book private on-demand cinemas to watch your favorite shows.

Gizmodo launched The Inventory, its foray into e-commerce, matched by evergreen content like reviews and guides.Commerce content is massive for Gizmodo, making up 25% of revenues last year.

By the end of this year, you’ll start to see headlines like “How publishers can use Facebook Stories to reach audiences.”The next pivot-to-whatever’s-hot-because-we’re-told-they’re-hot. Stories (and this was a big surprise to me as someone who doesn’t use them) is on the way to surpassing News Feed interactions. It’s doing so well that Facebook is starting to test its first Stories ads in the U.S., Mexico, and Brazil.

If you’re a non-subscriber, the Wall Street Journal doesn’t try to hit you with a paywall right away. In fact, there’s a dynamic paywall working behind the scenes, trying to understand what content should be given for free — and when to finally hit you with that subscribe button.

Shonda Rhimes, Tyra Banks. They’re among a group of investors who’ve just put $12 million into the girl-friendly TheSkimm newsletter.

Singapore-based Tickled Media, which owns The Asian Parent, raised $6.7 million in a new round of funding. The investment will be used for expansion into Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam.

Notables

Tencent’s new Shenzhen headquarters is something of a tourist attraction. Have a look.

Elon Musk wants to make Yelp for journalists. “Going to create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication.” Worst idea ever, Musky.

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