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Paul Merrell

CPSC files lawsuit against Amazon to force it to recall dangerous products, including f... - 0 views

  • Federal safety regulators filed a lawsuit against Amazon on Wednesday that accuses the retail giant of refusing to recognize regulators’ authority to force the company to recall defective and unsafe products, setting up a fight over how much responsibility Amazon should take for the products it sells on its website.Support our journalism. Subscribe today.arrow-rightThe action by the Consumer Product Safety Commission comes after months of behind-the-scenes negotiations between regulators and Amazon as the agency tried to persuade the company to follow the CPSC’s rules for getting dangerous products off the market, according to a senior agency official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment on internal discussions.The official said Amazon officials refused to acknowledge that the CPSC has the authority to compel the company to remove unsafe products.A lawsuit was viewed as a last resort, the official added.
Paul Merrell

Amazon will pay $62 million over deceptive delivery tips claims - Protocol - The people... - 0 views

  • Amazon will pay almost $62 million to settle allegations by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that it avoided handing over the full pay and tips it promised to delivery drivers, according to the agency.The company is giving back the amount it kept, according to a complaint released earlier this year by the agency, after it told Amazon Flex drivers and customers in 2015 it would pay $18 to $25 hourly plus tips. Instead, beginning the following year, it used tips to supplement lower base pay rates, and tried to hide the changes, according to the FTC."For a period of over two and a half years, without consumers' permission, Amazon secretly used nearly a third of customer tips to subsidize its own pay to drivers," the FTC had found.Under the 20-year settlement, Amazon will also need consent from drivers to change their pay scheme. All commissioners voted unanimously to approve the settlement.
Paul Merrell

How Silicon Valley, in a Show of Monopolistic Force, Destroyed Parler - Glenn Greenwald - 1 views

  • As Silicon Valley censorship radically escalated over the past several months — banning pre-election reporting by The New York Post about the Biden family, denouncing and deleting multiple posts from the U.S. President and then terminating his access altogether, mass-removal of right-wing accounts — so many people migrated to Parler that it was catapulted to the number one spot on the list of most-downloaded apps on the Apple Play Store, the sole and exclusive means which iPhone users have to download apps. “Overall, the app was the 10th most downloaded social media app in 2020 with 8.1 million new installs,” reported TechCrunch.It looked as if Parler had proven critics of Silicon Valley monopolistic power wrong. Their success showed that it was possible after all to create a new social media platform to compete with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And they did so by doing exactly what Silicon Valley defenders long insisted should be done: if you don’t like the rules imposed by tech giants, go create your own platform with different rules.
  • But today, if you want to download, sign up for, or use Parler, you will be unable to do so. That is because three Silicon Valley monopolies — Amazon, Google and Apple — abruptly united to remove Parler from the internet, exactly at the moment when it became the most-downloaded app in the country. If one were looking for evidence to demonstrate that these tech behemoths are, in fact, monopolies that engage in anti-competitive behavior in violation of antitrust laws, and will obliterate any attempt to compete with them in the marketplace, it would be difficult to imagine anything more compelling than how they just used their unconstrained power to utterly destroy a rising competitor.
Paul Merrell

Press corner | European Commission - 0 views

  • The European Commission has informed Amazon of its preliminary view that it has breached EU antitrust rules by distorting competition in online retail markets. The Commission takes issue with Amazon systematically relying on non-public business data of independent sellers who sell on its marketplace, to the benefit of Amazon's own retail business, which directly competes with those third party sellers. The Commission also opened a second formal antitrust investigation into the possible preferential treatment of Amazon's own retail offers and those of marketplace sellers that use Amazon's logistics and delivery services. Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “We must ensure that dual role platforms with market power, such as Amazon, do not distort competition.  Data on the activity of third party sellers should not be used to the benefit of Amazon when it acts as a competitor to these sellers. The conditions of competition on the Amazon platform must also be fair.  Its rules should not artificially favour Amazon's own retail offers or advantage the offers of retailers using Amazon's logistics and delivery services. With e-commerce booming, and Amazon being the leading e-commerce platform, a fair and undistorted access to consumers online is important for all sellers.”
  • Amazon has a dual role as a platform: (i) it provides a marketplace where independent sellers can sell products directly to consumers; and (ii) it sells products as a retailer on the same marketplace, in competition with those sellers. As a marketplace service provider, Amazon has access to non-public business data of third party sellers such as the number of ordered and shipped units of products, the sellers' revenues on the marketplace, the number of visits to sellers' offers, data relating to shipping, to sellers' past performance, and other consumer claims on products, including the activated guarantees. The Commission's preliminary findings show that very large quantities of non-public seller data are available to employees of Amazon's retail business and flow directly into the automated systems of that business, which aggregate these data and use them to calibrate Amazon's retail offers and strategic business decisions to the detriment of the other marketplace sellers. For example, it allows Amazon to focus its offers in the best-selling products across product categories and to adjust its offers in view of non-public data of competing sellers. The Commission's preliminary view, outlined in its Statement of Objections, is that the use of non-public marketplace seller data allows Amazon to avoid the normal risks of retail competition and to leverage its dominance in the market for the provision of marketplace services in France and Germany- the biggest markets for Amazon in the EU. If confirmed, this would infringe Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) that prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position.
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    "In addition, the Commission opened a second antitrust investigation into Amazon's business practices that might artificially favour its own retail offers and offers of marketplace sellers that use Amazon's logistics and delivery services (the so-called "fulfilment by Amazon or FBA sellers"). In particular, the Commission will investigate whether the criteria that Amazon sets to select the winner of the "Buy Box" and to enable sellers to offer products to Prime users, under Amazon's Prime loyalty programme, lead to preferential treatment of Amazon's retail business or of the sellers that use Amazon's logistics and delivery services. The "Buy Box" is displayed prominently on Amazon's websites and allows customers to add items from a specific retailer directly into their shopping carts. Winning the "Buy Box" (i.e. being chosen as the offer that features in this box) is crucial to marketplace sellers as the Buy Box prominently shows the offer of one single seller for a chosen product on Amazon's marketplaces, and generates the vast majority of all sales. The other aspect of the investigation focusses on the possibility for marketplace sellers to effectively reach Prime users. Reaching these consumers is important to sellers because the number of Prime users is continuously growing and because they tend to generate more sales on Amazon's marketplaces than non-Prime users. If proven, the practice under investigation may breach Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) that prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position. The Commission will now carry out its in-depth investigation as a matter of priority"
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    On the filed charges, the violation seems to be fairly clear-cut and straightforward to prove. (DG Competition has really outstanding lawyers.) I suspect the real fight here will be over the remedy.
Paul Merrell

EU files antitrust charges against Amazon over use of data | The Seattle Times - 0 views

  • European Union regulators filed antitrust charges Tuesday against Amazon, accusing the e-commerce giant of using its access to data from companies that sell products on its platform to gain an unfair advantage over them.The charges, filed two years after the bloc’s antitrust enforcer began looking into the company, are the latest effort by European regulators to curb the power of big technology companies. Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner in charge of competition issues, has slapped Google with antitrust fines totaling nearly $10 billion and opened twin antitrust investigations this summer into Apple. The EU’s executive Commission also opened a second investigation Tuesday into whether Amazon favors product offers and merchants that use its own logistics and delivery system.
  • The EU investigation found that Amazon is accessing and analyzing real-time data from other vendors that sell goods on its platform to help it decide which new products of its own to launch and how to price and market them. That “appears to distort genuine competition,” Vestager said.Investigators focused on that practice in France and Germany, the company’s two biggest markets in the EU, but Vestager didn’t give specific examples of merchants affected by Amazon’s behavior.The stakes have risen for retailers as many European countries have shut nonessential shops temporarily to try to contain the coronavirus pandemic, pushing more shopping online, where Amazon is a major presence. Advertising Skip AdSkip AdSkip Ad Amazon faces a possible fine of up to 10% of its annual worldwide revenue. That could amount to as much as $28 billion, based on its 2019 earnings. The Seattle-based company rejected the accusations.
Paul Merrell

House Lawmakers Condemn Big Tech's 'Monopoly Power' and Urge Their Breakups - The New Y... - 0 views

  • House lawmakers who spent the last 16 months investigating the practices of the world’s largest technology companies said on Tuesday that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google had exercised and abused their monopoly power and called for the most sweeping changes to antitrust laws in half a century.In a 449-page report that was presented by the House Judiciary Committee’s Democratic leadership, lawmakers said the four companies had turned from “scrappy” start-ups into “the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons.” The lawmakers said the companies had abused their dominant positions, setting and often dictating prices and rules for commerce, search, advertising, social networking and publishing.The House ReportRead the full report here »
  • To amend the inequities, the lawmakers recommended restoring competition by effectively breaking up the companies, emboldening the agencies that police market concentration and throwing up hurdles for the companies to acquire start-ups. They also proposed reforming antitrust laws, in the biggest potential shift since the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act of 1976 created stronger reviews of big mergers.
Paul Merrell

4 Key Takeaways From Washington's Big Tech Hearing On 'Monopoly Power' : NPR - 0 views

  • Here are some key takeaways from the hearing:
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    Hearing was held by video-conference. Not much of substance came out of it. Still, the subcommittee has employed some high-power investigators who have spent hundreds of hours pawing through these companies' documents. I look for more substantive disclosures later.
Paul Merrell

Time to 'Break Facebook Up,' Sanders Says After Leaked Docs Show Social Media Giant 'Tr... - 0 views

  • After NBC News on Wednesday published a trove of leaked documents that show how Facebook "treated user data as a bargaining chip with external app developers," White House hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders declared that it is time "to break Facebook up."
  • When British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell first shared the trove of documents with a handful of media outlets including NBC News in April, journalists Olivia Solon and Cyrus Farivar reported that "Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg oversaw plans to consolidate the social network's power and control competitors by treating its users' data as a bargaining chip, while publicly proclaiming to be protecting that data." With the publication Wednesday of nearly 7,000 pages of records—which include internal Facebook emails, web chats, notes, presentations, and spreadsheets—journalists and the public can now have a closer look at exactly how the company was using the vast amount of data it collects when it came to bargaining with third parties.
  • According to Solon and Farivar of NBC: Taken together, they show how Zuckerberg, along with his board and management team, found ways to tap Facebook users' data—including information about friends, relationships, and photos—as leverage over the companies it partnered with. In some cases, Facebook would reward partners by giving them preferential access to certain types of user data while denying the same access to rival companies. For example, Facebook gave Amazon special access to user data because it was spending money on Facebook advertising. In another case the messaging app MessageMe was cut off from access to data because it had grown too popular and could compete with Facebook.
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  • The document dump comes as Facebook and Zuckerberg are facing widespread criticism over the company's political advertising policy, which allows candidates for elected office to lie in the ads they pay to circulate on the platform. It also comes as 47 state attorneys general, led by Letitia James of New York, are investigating the social media giant for antitrust violations.
  • The call from Sanders (I-Vt.) Wednesday to break up Facebook follows similar but less definitive statements from the senator. One of Sanders' rivals in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), released her plan to "Break Up Big Tech" in March. Zuckerberg is among the opponents of Warren's proposal, which also targets other major technology companies like Amazon and Google.
Paul Merrell

Facebook probe by U.S. states expands to 47 attorneys general - Reuters - 0 views

  • A New York-led probe into allegations that Facebook Inc put consumer data at risk and pushed up advertising rates has expanded to include attorneys general from 47 U.S. states and territories, New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement on Tuesday.
  • The investigation of Facebook announced in September had included Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia. It now includes most U.S. states as well as the U.S. territory of Guam.
  • Some states, particularly New York and Nebraska, have raised concerns that Facebook and other big tech companies engage in anti-competitive practices, expose consumer data to potential data theft and push up advertising prices.
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  • The Facebook investigations are part of a larger landscape of probes of big tech firms. Reuters and others reported in June that the Justice Department and FTC had divided responsibility for the companies being investigated, with the Justice Department taking on Alphabet Inc’s Google and Apple Inc while the FTC looked into Facebook and Amazon.com Inc. The Justice Department later said it was opening a probe of online platforms, which would include Facebook.
Paul Merrell

States to launch antitrust investigation into big tech companies, reports say | TechCrunch - 2 views

  • The state attorneys in more than a dozen states are preparing to begin an antitrust investigation of the tech giants, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported Monday, putting the spotlight on an industry that is already facing federal scrutiny.The bipartisan group of attorneys from as many as 20 states is expected to formally launch a probe as soon as next month to assess whether tech companies are using their dominant market position to hurt competition, the WSJ reported.If true, the move follows the Department of Justice, which last month announced its own antitrust review of how online platforms scaled to their gigantic sizes and whether they are using their power to curb competition and stifle innovation. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission formed a task force to monitor competition among tech platforms.
Paul Merrell

Explainer: What Google, Facebook could face in U.S. antitrust probe - Reuters - 0 views

  • The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether big technology companies are engaged in anticompetitive behavior, addressing a rising tide of criticism they have become too powerful to the detriment of consumers.
  • The Justice Department has said it will investigate “whether and how” online platforms in “search, social media, and some retail services online” are engaging in behavior that stifles competition and harms consumers. While the Justice Department did not name any targets in announcing the probe on Tuesday, sources have indicated Alphabet Inc’s Google, social media giant Facebook Inc, online retailer Amazon.com Inc and possibly Apple Inc will likely be reviewed. Here’s what regulators could focus on at the big technology companies:
Paul Merrell

Amazon's Face Recognition Falsely Matched 28 Members of Congress With Mugshots | Americ... - 0 views

  • Amazon’s face surveillance technology is the target of growing opposition nationwide, and today, there are 28 more causes for concern. In a test the ACLU recently conducted of the facial recognition tool, called “Rekognition,” the software incorrectly matched 28 members of Congress, identifying them as other people who have been arrested for a crime.  The members of Congress who were falsely matched with the mugshot database we used in the test include Republicans and Democrats, men and women, and legislators of all ages, from all across the country.
  • The false matches were disproportionately of people of color, including six members of the Congressional Black Caucus, among them civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). These results demonstrate why Congress should join the ACLU in calling for a moratorium on law enforcement use of face surveillance.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Firefox for Linux will soon support Netflix and Amazon videos | PCWorld - 0 views

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    " Chris Hoffman | @chrisbhoffman Contributor, PCWorld Aug 17, 2016 5:00 AM Firefox 49 for Linux, scheduled for a September 2016 release, will add support for DRM-protected HTML5 videos. Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming services will "just work" in Firefox on Linux, just as they do in Google Chrome. Encrypted media extensions come to Linux"
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

De Microsoft a Google pasando por Amazon: la guerra digital de Europa contra los gigant... - 0 views

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    " La Comisión Europea acusa a Google de abuso de posición dominante con Android, pero no es la única empresa que ha estado en su punto de mira "
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    " La Comisión Europea acusa a Google de abuso de posición dominante con Android, pero no es la única empresa que ha estado en su punto de mira "
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Apple Music Didn't Kill Spotify. Amazon's New Streaming Service Won't, Either. | Katie ... - 0 views

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    "Amazon is working on a 'Spotify killer'. Sound familiar? Apple Music was hailed as such by basically everyone. Google's All Access was called the same, back in 2013. Even Tidal got the label. And now it's Amazon's turn. As first "
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

GNU.org Website Says Microsoft's Software Is Malware - 0 views

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    "GNU.org has a category on its website named "Philosophy of the GNU Project," where the Microsoft software is described as malware, along with Apple and Amazon."
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    "GNU.org has a category on its website named "Philosophy of the GNU Project," where the Microsoft software is described as malware, along with Apple and Amazon."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Microsoft, Google, Amazon, others, aim for royalty-free video codecs | Ars Technica UK - 0 views

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    "Alliance for Open Media hopes to make the next generation of video codecs free. by Peter Bright (US) - Sep 1, 2015 5:44 pm UTC"
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    "Alliance for Open Media hopes to make the next generation of video codecs free. by Peter Bright (US) - Sep 1, 2015 5:44 pm UTC"
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Amazon set to pay self-published authors as little as $0.006 per page read - Compliance... - 0 views

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    "elf-published authors could be paid as little as $0.006 per page read under new rules planned by Amazon."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

American cultural imperialism has a new name: GAFA - Quartz - 0 views

  • In France, there’s a new word on everyone’s lips: GAFA. It’s an acronym, and it has become a shorthand term for some of the most powerful companies in the world—all American, all tech giants. GAFA stands for Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon.
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    [In France, there's a new word on everyone's lips: GAFA. It's an acronym, and it has become a shorthand term for some of the most powerful companies in the world-all American, all tech giants. GAFA stands for Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. ...]
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    [In France, there's a new word on everyone's lips: GAFA. It's an acronym, and it has become a shorthand term for some of the most powerful companies in the world-all American, all tech giants. GAFA stands for Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. ...]
Paul Merrell

An Important Kindle request - 0 views

  • A Message from the Amazon Books Team Dear Readers, Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents — it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year. With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution — places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if "publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them." Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion. Well… history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
  • Fast forward to today, and it's the e-book's turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette — a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate — are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there's no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market — e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive. Perhaps channeling Orwell's decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn't only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette's readers. The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will "devalue books" and hurt "Arts and Letters." They're wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.
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