The Cost Of Trusted Information

Posted on 12/27/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The European Parliament is debating new legislation that could require Facebook, Google, Twitter and other major players to share some of the advertising revenue they earn from making the information produced and supplied by major European press agencies available to readers for free.

The argument is that producing content where there is some level of checking and verification before publication costs money. If the flow of information from trusted sources is to continue then there must be some way to cover the costs of gathering such information and determining its accuracy and truthfulness.

Many Internet consumers have focused on relying on “the crowd” to supply them with information. That can be useful in some cases, but relying on the crowd has some big flaws if it becomes the only source of information.

If there are no standards, and the reader knows nothing about the ethics, standards or biases of the supplier, the consumer has no way of knowing if it is based on any facts or if it is totally fabricated to advance some agenda of the supplier. Some of the information available on the Internet has been found to have been created by fictitious individuals with hidden agendas.

On the other hand, if the information is supplied buy The New York Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, on in Europe by the French agency AFP; Dutch agency ANP; Italian agency Ansa; Austria’s APA; Belgium’s Belga; German agency DPA; Spanish agency EFE; Britain’s Press Association; and Swedish agency TT the reader knows that the accuracy of the information has been checked.

It may be argued that in some cases the press has biases. But where they exist they tend to be consistent. Regular readers can easily identify them. With much of the crowd sourced information on the Internet it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine what is trustworthy and reliable.

And then in the United States the idea of “Fake News” has been raised to a new level by our President Donald Trump. For him the only thing that is “Real News” is when someone says something nice about him or advances his agenda of the moment. Everything else is “Fake” or not worth mentioning because it is not focused on Donald.

Back To The European Union

In an op-ed published in Le Monde the nine European press agencies listed above argued that Google and Facebook should be required to pay copyright royalties on the third-party news and information they distribute and profit from.

They pointed out that the draft directive on copyright that is being considered by various bodies in the European Union is essential for all European citizens if they are to continue to “receive reliable and complete information from the media.”

Ways To Correct The Imbalance

The big problem is with what the European Union calls the GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple), the giants of the Web. The European Union is considering a rule that would correct the imbalance of those who invest in the production of information, be they publishers or news agencies that feed them news. It would allow the sustainability of a reliable and complete information production system, without appealing to the taxpayer.

Some in the European Parliament are worried about this draft directive and afraid that the right of the public to be informed "for free" is questioned. But the citizens would not pay more. Instead, the advertising revenue that has traditionally gone to support the gathering and fact checking of news information would now be shared with those who produce news content rather than being captured exclusively by those who distribute that content.

Le Monde argued, “If there is no correcting of the imbalance media will continue to disappear. Either citizens will no longer have trusted sources of information, or they will have to be funded by governments which will make them more beholden to the government in power.”

In a democracy there has always been the idea that a free press and the free flow of factual information would serve the public as a check and balance on the government. If the free press is unable to function for lack of sufficient funds to serve as a watchdog over various government bodies on behalf of the citizens, then the community as a whole will be less free.

Copyright © 2017 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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