Welcome again to your regular update on digital marketing news from around the world. In this week’s update: France to demand visibility on Google’s algorithm; a challenger to China’s Tmall marketplace appears; basic internet education needed to motivate e-commerce growth in rural India; Internet.org falls foul of net neutrality criticism; and why Russia hasn’t banned Internet memes.
A bill passing through the French senate this week aims to grant Arcep (France’s national telecoms regulator) unprecendented powers to monitor the workings of major search engines. Google would be compelled to allow Arcep access to its algorithm, while also being forced to provide links to at least three rival search engines (one French) and disclose the “general principles of ranking” to all users. While the bill is likely to pass, there’s no guarantee that its recommendations will subsequently become law.
The stated goal of France’s action is to “ensure results are fair and non-discriminatory”, recalling the EU Antitrust charges that Google also faces. Google’s statements on that subject, made last week, are also under scrutiny: Google cited traffic data for the Guardian newspaper and Yelp that was refuted by the brands themselves. Google apologised and corrected its stats.
International brands trying to break into China typically have limited options: self-developed e-commerce websites tend to gain momentum slowly, due to lacking brand recognition (or alternatively, rampant counterfeiting). As a result, many brands have turned to Alibaba’s Tmall.com, an e-commerce retail platform that offers space to sell brand name goods to about 47% of the B2C online retail market in China.
Jingdong Mall, formerly 360Buy, has entered this same space, offering an alternative to Tmall called JD Worldwide. The model is identical – international sellers can reach Chinese consumers via JD.com’s logistics network, without having to establish a physical presence. Meanwhile, buyers can easily obtain genuine, branded products from around the world. As part of JD Worldwide’s initial push, a “Best of eBay Deals” program was launched simultaneously, offering items from eBay’s international inventories.
According to an Accenture study recently highlighted on Emarketer.com, the single biggest barrier to India’s Ecommerce growth is a simple (but undoubtedly complex) matter of education. Education is needed both to ensure rural internet users can trust e-commerce sites, and for them to understand how the internet works. 35% stated that they “don’t trust the internet” and 34% that they don’t know how to access it.
Product quality, high price, poor after sales service, poorly constructed websites and payment issues were also significant reasons cited for respondents avoiding digital purchases. 38% stated that if they were to simply get an explanation of how to make a digital purchase, they would be motivated to do so.
Internet.org, the partnership between Facebook and seven mobile phone companies that aims to bring Internet services to lower income areas, is under fire from critics who claim it goes against the principles of net neutrality. A number of Indian tech startups are exiting or reducing their involvement because Internet.org has a package of 39 “essential services” that are free to users – a “sponsored data” model that allows large companies with deep pockets to gain an unfair advantage.
Mark Zuckerberg later defended Internet.org, stating that “Arguments about net neutrality shouldn’t be used to prevent the most disadvantaged people in society from gaining access or to deprive people of opportunity.”
English speaking media – including the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Gizmodo, Metro and Daily Express – were up in arms last week over a Russian ban on internet memes. In Internet culture, memes are images that spread and get taken up by multiple creators, often with humourous results. To aim to supress them would be both worryingly authoritarian and ultimately futile (and thus, entirely compatible with the current media narrative for Russian policy at the present time). However, as BBC Trending points out, this wasn’t actually a thing that happened.
Indeed, the source of the supposed legislation was nothing more substantial than a VKontakte status update by Russia’s state internet regulator Roskomnadzor. This was a status update that actually includes a meme, cheekily posted after a reminder that Russia already has (strict but rarely enforced) legislation about parodying public figures on social media. The trigger for this appears to have been an image circulating in which a Russian singer was attributed with a misogynistic phrase. Though theoretically these laws could be used to silence criticism of Vladimir Putin (as widely forecasted), the laws haven’t already been enforced for this purpose.
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View from Eifel Tower photo by Flickr user B.Hbers
Jaïpur – les vaches ne font pas de l’internet photo by Flickr user Vincent Desjardins
Obama in the Backseat: Rally to Save the Internet photo by Flickr user Free Press