Wednesday, January 12 2022

Dive In


Why is it different for an unmarried woman? How does it affect an unmarried woman’s dignity, but not a married woman’s dignity? Whether she is married or not, she has a right to say ‘no’.

That’s the Delhi High Court asking all the right questions when considering a number of petitions seeking to criminalise marital rape. The judges said that the exemption granted to marital rape by the Indian Penal Code “has to be tested on the anvil of Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution”.

Important editor’s note: Almost half of our already-small team has fallen ill overnight. We do not know as yet if this is related to Omicron. But we are sharing an early heads up that we may not be able to publish tomorrow. We will do our best to keep the show going.

Big Story

Indian media vs Google: Who profits from news?

The TLDR: India’s antitrust body—the Competition Commission of India (CCI)—is investigating Google to determine whether it is abusing its market power to cheat Indian media companies. The issues it raises reveal what a huge impact a simple Google search has on the fortunes of a news outlet.


Researched by: Sara Varghese & Ankita Ghosh 


First, the allegations

Who is complaining? The complaint with the CCI was filed by the Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA)—an industry association of the biggest media players such as India Today Group, Indian Express, The Times of India, Malayala Manorama etc. Not included in this group: smaller, independent digital publishers like Scroll, The Wire, The News Minute etc. They have their own group called Digipub—and are partnering with Google to foster news startups in India.


What’s the complaint? Here are the main points of contention:


  • Most people discover a news outlet or news story via Google search. And whether they do so or not is arbitrarily decided by the company’s search algorithm.
  • Google arbitrarily decides whether or not it will pay publishers for content displayed in the search results. For example: it does not pay a dime for ‘snippets’—the bit of text, image or short video that shows up as part of a link.
  • Publishers also rely on Google for a great chunk of their advertising revenue—earned via those annoying display ads. But they receive only 51% of the revenue generated. And Google doesn’t share information about the revenue it earns from those display ads.
  • Google has launched a number of its own news products—like Google News, Google News Showcase—that essentially cannibalise news content from publishers. And it uses them to dictate what news sites and links will be seen by a user.
  • A number of technologies developed to optimise user experience—like ‘zero click’ searches (explained below)—actually erode traffic to a news site, and therefore its revenues.


The CCI’s view: The commission found merit in the complaint, noting the unequal relationship between Google and news companies: “They are dependent on Google for the majority of the traffic, which makes it an indispensable trading partner. News publishers have no choice but to accept the terms and conditions imposed by Google.”


The global media view: Google is already in trouble in Europe and Australia for the exact same reasons. Publishers in France point out that Google needs them for its search to offer any value


“Without the news media, Google’s search engine would not perform as it does; it would be less relevant, and would carry only low-quality content. The main search algorithm would not work so well as it would be fed with crappy stuff.”


Point to note: Google is already facing two other antitrust investigations in India—into its ad business and Play Store.


How Google’s search tech works


Headlines that matter

New rules for India’s A-list colleges

The Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) system allows students to pursue up to 50% of a course from institutions other than the one with which they are enrolled. The government has now brought the country’s most prestigious institutions—including IITs, IIMs and other Institutions of National Importance—under its ambit. Students can get their credits at other colleges by taking either online or offline courses—or a mix of both. What has some professors are upset: the online option for half of all courses:


“Using the opportunity provided by the pandemic, the Indian government is trying to replace regular classes with online classes as a permanent feature of higher education. No other country in the world is doing this. The quality of education will be the biggest casualty when the online mode is mainstreamed.”

The Telegraph has more on the new system.


Wanna be a Tesla-driving jerk?

A beta version of the car’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ mode lets you choose from three modes: Chill,” “Average” and “Assertive’. They determine how the car will “behave” on the road—with regard to stuff like rolling stops, speed-based lane changes, following distance and yellow light headway.” The ‘Assertive’ version is, well, assertive:


“It’s hard to tell just how much these FSD profiles change the way the vehicle drives, and if they push the limits of safety, especially when traveling in the rain or snow. If the descriptions of these profiles are accurate, this means that a Tesla in ‘Assertive’ mode may follow cars more closely, come to rolling stops, and swap lanes more frequently—behaviors that tend to be more dangerous no matter the car you’re in.”

The Verge has more details, while Axios explains why critics are not happy. Watch a test drive here.


One animal-related story 

New research into a female dolphin’s clitoris shows that it is “strikingly similar in terms of their anatomy and function” to the human kind: “Our study suggests that female dolphins likely experience pleasure when the clitoris is stimulated during sexual intercourse, homosexual behavior, and masturbation.” (Inverse)

One thing to see

The UK government is issuing new stamps to mark the 60th anniversary of the Rolling Stones. The Stones will be the fourth pop music band to be honoured with a dedicated set of Royal Mail stamps—after The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Queen.



In today’s edition

Sanity Break

  • The perfect recipe to create a Badshah song


A list of curious facts

  • Did you know that some visitors to Florence, Italy, experience 'Stendhal syndrome'?
  • SilentSpeller or super-smart braces 
  • VR headsets for cows in Turkey
  • A PSA: “Stop putting Maggi into your anus"

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