Rupert Murdoch has always hated the Web. It has always threatened his control of public opinion and his political dominance, a dominance I consider this century’s greatest evil.
But he’s mostly had to suck eggs. His efforts to buy into the Web have come to nothing. This is the guy who destroyed MySpace. His Realtor.com is worth less than he paid for it.
That’s changed thanks to a classic Rupert Murdoch strategy. Political blackmail.
Australia has gotten Google to hand “news sources” (half of them owned by Murdoch) cash for hyperlinks to stories. Expect this to come to the U.S. as well, although for now The New York Times is soft pedaling it but you can hear the cheering inside its story. It’s what incumbent news organizations want – money for nothing.
The result may seem small. The payments give Google a route to putting ads on its Google News and Google Now services. This may even improve them, as readers now see headlines leading to a lot of paywalls.
But a precedent has been set. You can get money for letting people link to your stuff. The free web can be blackmailed. Instead of fighting for the free web, the press is attacking Facebook, which is resisting the blackmail.
It’s all part of a process by which the Internet is being forced to dance to incumbents’ tune, whatever that tune happens to be. In a democratic society like Australia this may not seem bad. In China, it’s evil. Even in a democracy like India it can turn evil when the elected government chooses to black out news on its opponents.
The Web, in short, is being balkanized. The free web is being destroyed. And no one, not even journalists who should be its advocates, is objecting.