How Will New Tech Laws Affect You?

Google and Facebook might have to pay journalists whose websites show up in search. TikTok might be banned in the United States. Consumers will be able to opt-out of targeted marketing. How will these and other proposed bills affect ordinary people who use websites for business or other kinds of public communication?

Short answer: who knows? Few proposed bills actually become laws, and many laws have unintended consequences.

The Link Tax

A California law, similar to laws proposed by Canada and Australia, among others, wants Google to share revenue with news outlets. This idea has been around for a long time. We wrote about the European proposals back in 2016.

Ancillary Rights, or the Link Tax

We felt then and we still think that Google does news outlets a service by sending traffic to their websites. It certainly does consumers a service by helping them find the news, and it does that at no charge. nWe write for news sites and we know for a fact that links in search engine results pages and in social media send us the majority of our traffic.  Google has just stopped showing news in countries that have already done this, and Facebook has backed off from sharing news sources.

Proponents of the bill have said that Google should share its revenue with publishers because the news industry as a whole is in serious trouble. This is true. About 14% of Americans actually go read news sources on purpose, and most of the ones who do are over 65. They say that Google is just having a hissy fit and they should shut up and pay up.

But can you force consumers to use services that they don’t find valuable? If I hear a rumor that a volcano in Iceland has erupted, I will Google that to find out the truth. I will not pick up a random newspaper — or even my Kindle with The Washington Post app — to find out. You might just go to X or Facebook.

If search engines, including those in social media, decide not to show news links, people will not respond by subscribing to the local paper. We might end up with a less well-informed populace rather than a better-funded news industry.

If the law goes through, however, you might lose traffic that currently reaches you through search engines and social media. It is not yet clear what will count as news, but if your website shows up in the “News” category on Google, you should consider the possibility that you would be affected. The first step is to determine how much of your traffic currently comes from these sources. The next step is to work on alternative sources.

The TikTok ban

The bill, which has already passed the House, gives ByteDance nine months to sell its ownership of TikTok to a US company approved by the US government. The President can grant a three-month extension if a sale is in progress. If no sale occurs within this timeframe, the app could be banned from US app stores and potentially face other restrictions.

There are a lot of uncertainties here. Will the Senate pass the bill? If so, will ByteDance be willing to sell it? If so, could anyone afford to buy it? If so, would such a purchase survive U.S. anti-trust laws?

If the bill doesn’t pass and ByteDance doesn’t sell, will it be possible to effectively ban TikTok, or will people simply find workarounds? And how many people will infect their phones with malware by trying to download pirated versions of the app?

Will ByteDance sue to reverse the ruling (hint:yes)? Will China retaliate? What would that look like?

But imagine that TikTok is indeed banned. If TikTok is important for your business right now, what will you need to do to recapture the audience?

First, bear in mind that the current version of the bill aims to keep people from downloading the app, not to make it quit working. With a year’s time to prepare, that could still leave you a lot of audience. The poorly-named ‘‘Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act’’ or PAFACAA specifically forbids anyone in the U.S. to  “distribute, maintain, or update” the app or to host it.

We’re getting ready to rebuild a website which has been contentedly running on WordPress 5.0 for over a decade. You can get away with outdated tech for a long time.

Meanwhile, you’ve got a year to work on other platforms. Make sure that you have access to all your TikTok content and plan other means of distribution.

Responding to new tech laws

Digital marketing is still in a continual state of change. Every time a platform crumbles or makes significant changes, it seems like a tragedy to someone. It can definitely be an inconvenience. However, we should be prepared to adjust. Flexibility and an agile response to real-world events are key to successful online marketing.

Fortunately or unfortunately, world governments are taking the gloves off an coming up with regulations to govern online interactions. They’re not always making the most informed decisions, but they’re also not making their changes at breakneck speed. News coverage may suggest that hordes of TikTok-famous entrepreneurs will be thrown on the breadline all at once, but it’s not like shutting down a factory that employs the whole town. It’s a lot slower and less definite than that.

One of the most important takeaways for your business is this: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Make sure your strategy includes multiple tactics. If you don’t actually have a strategy, this is a good time to order yourself a Strategy Document.






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