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NewsNow slams Times Online block

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NewsNow issues link warning

NewsNow has argued that the “entire basis on which the internet runs” is under threat after News International demanded that it stop linking to Times Online content.

This week, the aggregator was told to stop linking to stories on the news website. News International also implemented a technical solution, using the robots.txt protocol to request that search engine spiders cease to crawl the pages of Times Online.

Several commentators have suggested that the move may be the first step in News International’s paywall plan. In August 2009, chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch declared that he wanted to charge users to read the company’s content online.

NewsNow on its own

However, NewsNow has complained that it is the only major search engine to be blocked in this manner. While the UK’s largest aggregator can no longer link to news stories, it appears similar restrictions have not been imposed on international rivals such as Yahoo or market leader Google News.

Shaun Bartlett, director and chairman of NewsNow, described the move as “lamentable” and warned that it could have far-reaching consequences. “The freedoms to link and quote sources and compare and contrast reported views are press freedoms on which News International itself relies,” he said. “Arbitrary attacks on news search engines therefore undermine press freedom as well as the entire basis on which the internet runs.”

Although links to Times Online content have been removed, the aggregator continues to provide headlines for other leading media organisations including the Guardian, the Telegraph, the BBC and Sky News. Moreover, a banner ad has been added to the top of the NewsNow homepage and major sections. It calls on the site’s estimated two million monthly users to sign up to the Right2Link campaign, of which NewsNow is the founding sponsor.

Written by Richard Frost

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