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Paul Merrell

Facebook's Marketplace Faces Antitrust Probes in EU, U.K. - WSJ - 0 views

  • The European Union and the U.K. opened formal antitrust investigations into Facebook Inc.’s FB -0.86% classified-ads service Marketplace, ramping up regulatory scrutiny for the company in Europe. Both the European Commission—the EU’s top antitrust enforcer—and the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority said Friday they are investigating whether Facebook repurposes data it gathers from advertisers who buy ads in order to give illegal advantages to its own services, including its Marketplace online flea market. The U.K. added that it is also investigating whether Facebook uses advertiser data to give similar advantages to its online-dating service. The two competition watchdogs said they would coordinate their investigations.
  • Separately on Friday, Germany’s competition regulator announced that it is opening an investigation into Google’s News Showcase, in which the tech company pays to license certain content from news publishers. That probe, which is based on new powers Germany had granted the regulator, will look among other things at whether Google is imposing unfair conditions on publishers and how it selects participants, the Federal Cartel Office said.
  • The three newly opened cases are part of a new wave of antitrust enforcement in Europe. The European Commission filed formal charges last month against Apple Inc. for allegedly abusing its control over the distribution of music-streaming apps, including Spotify Technology SA . In November, it filed formal charges against Amazon.com Inc. for allegedly using nonpublic data it gathers from third-party sellers to unfairly compete against them. Both companies denied wrongdoing. At the same time, the U.K.’s CMA has opened investigations into Google’s announcement that it will retire third-party cookies, a technology advertisers use to track web users, and whether Apple imposes anticompetitive conditions on some app developers, including the use of Apple’s in-app payment system, which is also the subject of a lawsuit in the U.S. In the EU, the European Commission has been investigating Facebook for more than a year on multiple fronts. Facebook and the Commission have squabbled over access to internal documents as part of those investigations.
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  • New York State Attorney General Letitia James outlined in December a sweeping antitrust suit against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission and a bipartisan group of 46 state attorneys general, targeting the company’s tactics against competitors. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images (Video from 12/9/20)
Paul Merrell

Facebook, Google struck illegal advertising deal: state AGs - Business Insider - 0 views

  • A coalition of state attorneys general filed an antitrust case against Google on Wednesday. They accused Google of giving Facebook unfair advertising advantages to stop it from getting into an area of adtech called "header bidding." Google perceived a move by Facebook into this space as a threat, they said. Per Wired, if this deal is proved to be true, it could spell big trouble for Google and Facebook, as it would fall under part of the Sherman Antitrust Act that has a relatively low bar for illegality. Google denied the claims, and Facebook was not immediately available for comment.
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

Dept. of Justice Accuses Google of Illegally Protecting Monopoly - The New York Times - 1 views

  • The Justice Department accused Google on Tuesday of illegally protecting its monopoly over search and search advertising, the government’s most significant challenge to a tech company’s market power in a generation and one that could reshape the way consumers use the internet.In a much-anticipated lawsuit, the agency accused Google of locking up deals with giant partners like Apple and throttling competition through exclusive business contracts and agreements.Google’s deals with Apple, mobile carriers and other handset makers to make its search engine the default option for users accounted for most of its dominant market share in search, the agency said, a figure that it put at around 80 percent.“For many years,” the agency said in its 57-page complaint, “Google has used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising and general search text advertising — the cornerstones of its empire.”The lawsuit, which may stretch on for years, could set off a cascade of other antitrust lawsuits from state attorneys general. About four dozen states and jurisdictions, including New York and Texas, have conducted parallel investigations and some of them are expected to bring separate complaints against the company’s grip on technology for online advertising. Eleven state attorneys general, all Republicans, signed on to support the federal lawsuit.
  • The Justice Department did not immediately put forward remedies, such as selling off parts of the company or unwinding business contracts, in the lawsuit. Such actions are typically pursued in later stages of a case.Ryan Shores, an associate deputy attorney general, said “nothing is off the table” in terms of remedies.
  • Democratic lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee released a sprawling report on the tech giants two weeks ago, also accusing Google of controlling a monopoly over online search and the ads that come up when users enter a query.
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  • Google last faced serious scrutiny from an American antitrust regulator nearly a decade ago, when the Federal Trade Commission investigated whether it had abused its power over the search market. The agency’s staff recommended bringing charges against the company, according to a memo reported on by The Wall Street Journal. But the agency’s five commissioners voted in 2013 not to bring a case.Other governments have been more aggressive toward the big tech companies. The European Union has brought three antitrust cases against Google in recent years, focused on its search engine, advertising business and Android mobile operating system. Regulators in Britain and Australia are examining the digital advertising market, in inquiries that could ultimately implicate the company.“It’s the most newsworthy monopolization action brought by the government since the Microsoft case in the late ’90s,” said Bill Baer, a former chief of the Justice Department’s antitrust division. “It’s significant in that the government believes that a highly successful tech platform has engaged in conduct that maintains its monopoly power unlawfully, and as a result injures consumers and competition.”
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

Barr Ignores Lawyers' Calls to Go Slow on Google Antitrust Case - The New York Times - 0 views

  • The Justice Department plans to bring an antitrust case against Google as soon as this month, after Attorney General William P. Barr overruled career lawyers who said they needed more time to build a strong case against one of the world’s wealthiest, most formidable technology companies, according to five people briefed on internal department conversations.Justice Department officials told lawyers involved in the antitrust inquiry into Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, to wrap up their work by the end of September, according to three of the people. Most of the 40-odd lawyers who had been working on the investigation opposed the deadline. Some said they would not sign the complaint, and several of them left the case this summer.Some argued this summer in a memo that ran hundreds of pages that they could bring a strong case but needed more time, according to people who described the document. Disagreement persisted among the team over how broad the complaint should be and what Google could do to resolve the problems the government uncovered. The lawyers viewed the deadline as arbitrary.While there were disagreements about tactics, career lawyers also expressed concerns that Mr. Barr wanted to announce the case in September to take credit for action against a powerful tech company under the Trump administration.
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

Trump Declares War On Silicon Valley: DoJ Launches Google Anti-Monopoly Probe | Zero Hedge - 0 views

  • Just before midnight on Friday, at the close of what was a hectic month for markets, WSJ dropped a bombshell of a story: The paper reported that the DoJ has opened an anti-trust investigation of Alphabet Inc., which could "present a major new layer of regulatory scrutiny for the search giant, according to people familiar with the matter." The report was sourced to "people familiar with the matter," but was swiftly corroborated by the New York Times, Bloomberg and others. For months now, the FTC has appeared to be gearing up for a showdown with big tech. The agency - which shares anti-trust authority with the DoJ - has created a new commission that could help undo big-tech tie-ups like Facebook's acquisition of Instagram, and hired lawyers who have advanced new anti-monopoly theories that would help justify the breakup of companies like Amazon. But as it turns out, the Trump administration's first salvo against big tech didn't come from the FTC; instead, this responsibility has been delegated to the DoJ, which has reportedly been tasked with supervising the investigation into Google. That's not super surprising, since the FTC already had its chance to nail Google with an anti-monopoly probe back in 2013. But the agency came up short. From what we can tell, it appears the administration will divvy up responsibility for any future anti-trust investigations between the two agencies, which means the FTC - which is already reportedly preparing to levy a massive fine against Facebook - could end up taking the lead in those cases.
  • Though WSJ didn't specify which aspects of Google's business might come under the microscope, a string of multi-billion-euro fines recently levied by the EU might offer some guidance. The bloc's anti-trust authority, which has been far more eager to take on American tech giants than its American counterpart (for reasons that should be obvious to all), has fined Google over its practice of bundling software with its standard Android license, the way its search engine rankings favor its own product listings, and ways it has harmed competition in the digital advertising market. During the height of the controversy over big tech's abuses of sensitive user data last year, the Verge published a story speculating about how the monopolistic tendencies of each of the dominant Silicon Valley tech giants could be remedied. For Google, the Verge argued, the best remedy would be a ban on acquisitions - a strategy that has been bandied about in Congress.
Paul Merrell

Google Caves to Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service, Agrees to Pay Fine - nsnbc intern... - 0 views

  • Google ultimately caved to Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service, agreeing to pay $7.8 million (438 million rubles) for violating antitrust laws. The corporate Colossus will also pay two other fines totaling an additional $18,000 (1 million rubles) for failing to comply with past orders issued by state regulators. Last year Google caved to similar demands by the European Union.
  • In August 2016 Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service responded to a complaint by Russian search engine operator Yandex and fined the U.S.-based Google 438 million rubles for abusing its dominant market position to force manufacturers to make Google applications the default services on devices using Android. Regulators set the fine at 9 percent of Google’s reported profits on the Russian market in 2014, plus inflation. Similar to the case against the European Union Google challenged the penalty in several appellate courts before finally agreeing this week to meet the government’s demands. The corporation also agreed to stop requiring manufacturers to install Google services as the default applications on Android-powered devices. The agreement is valid for six years and nine months, Russia’s Antimonopoly Service reported. Last year Google, after a protracted battle, caved to similar antitrust regulations by the European Union, but the internet giant has also come under fire elsewhere. In 2015 Australian treasurer Joe Hockey implied Google in his list of corporate tax thieves. In January 2016 British lawmakers decided to fry Google over tax evasion. Google and taxes were compared to the Bermuda Triangle. One year ago the dispute between the European Union’s competition watchdog and Google, culminated in the European Commission formally charging Google with abusing the dominant position of its Android mobile phone operating system, having launched an investigation in April 2015.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

With the Google Antitrust Case, the European Commission Is Is Trying to Gerrymander Yes... - 1 views

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    "Earlier this month Google filed its response to the European Commission's Android antitrust complaint, which alleges that Google thwarts its competitors in search, mobile apps, and mobile devices by limiting their access to Android users through self-serving licensing terms. "
Paul Merrell

News - Antitrust - Competition - European Commission - 0 views

  • Google inquiries Commission accuses Google of systematically favouring own shopping comparison service Infographic: Google might be favouring 'Google Shopping' when displaying general search results
  • Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on comparison shopping service; opens separate formal investigation on AndroidWed, 15 Apr 2015 10:00:00 GMTAntitrust: Commission opens formal investigation against Google in relation to Android mobile operating systemWed, 15 Apr 2015 10:00:00 GMTAntitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on comparison shopping serviceWed, 15 Apr 2015 10:00:00 GMTStatement by Commissioner Vestager on antitrust decisions concerning GoogleWed, 15 Apr 2015 11:39:00 GMT
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    The more interesting issue to me is the accusation that Google violates antitrust law by boosting its comparison shopping search results in its search results, unfairly disadvantaging competing shopping services and not delivering best results to users. What's interesting to me is that the Commission is attempting to portray general search as a separate market from comparison shopping search, accusing Google of attempting to leverage its general search monopoly into the separate comoparison shopping search market. At first blush, Iim not convinced that these are or should be regarded as separable markets. But the ramifications are enormous. If that is a separate market, then arguably so is Google's book search, its Google Scholar search, its definition search, its site search, etc. It isn't clear to me how one might draw a defensible line taht does not also sweep in every new search feature  as a separate market.   
Paul Merrell

Excite News - EU files antitrust charges against Google - 0 views

  • BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union's competition chief is filing an antitrust complaint alleging Google has been abusing its dominance in Internet searches and is opening a probe into its Android mobile system.EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Wednesday she is "concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service."Vestager said the separate antitrust probe into Android will investigate whether the Internet giant relies on anti-competitive deals and abuses its dominant position in Europe's mobile market.Vestager said her chief goal was to make sure multinationals "do not artificially deny European consumers as wide a choice as possible or stifle innovation".Google's general counsel Kent Walker wrote late Tuesday that a "statement of objections" to Google's business practices was to be released by Vestager Wednesday.
Paul Merrell

Gmail blows up e-mail marketing by caching all images on Google servers | Ars Technica - 1 views

  • Ever wonder why most e-mail clients hide images by default? The reason for the "display images" button is because images in an e-mail must be loaded from a third-party server. For promotional e-mails and spam, usually this server is operated by the entity that sent the e-mail. So when you load these images, you aren't just receiving an image—you're also sending a ton of data about yourself to the e-mail marketer. Loading images from these promotional e-mails reveals a lot about you. Marketers get a rough idea of your location via your IP address. They can see the HTTP referrer, meaning the URL of the page that requested the image. With the referral data, marketers can see not only what client you are using (desktop app, Web, mobile, etc.) but also what folder you were viewing the e-mail in. For instance, if you had a Gmail folder named "Ars Technica" and loaded e-mail images, the referral URL would be "https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#label/Ars+Technica"—the folder is right there in the URL. The same goes for the inbox, spam, and any other location. It's even possible to uniquely identify each e-mail, so marketers can tell which e-mail address requested the images—they know that you've read the e-mail. And if it was spam, this will often earn you more spam since the spammers can tell you've read their last e-mail.
  • But Google has just announced a move that will shut most of these tactics down: it will cache all images for Gmail users. Embedded images will now be saved by Google, and the e-mail content will be modified to display those images from Google's cache, instead of from a third-party server. E-mail marketers will no longer be able to get any information from images—they will see a single request from Google, which will then be used to send the image out to all Gmail users. Unless you click on a link, marketers will have no idea the e-mail has been seen. While this means improved privacy from e-mail marketers, Google will now be digging deeper than ever into your e-mails and literally modifying the contents. If you were worried about e-mail scanning, this may take things a step further. However, if you don't like the idea of cached images, you can turn it off in the settings. This move will allow Google to automatically display images, killing the "display all images" button in Gmail. Google servers should also be faster than the usual third-party image host. Hosting all images sent to all Gmail users sounds like a huge bandwidth and storage undertaking, but if anyone can do it, it's Google. The new image handling will rollout to desktop users today, and it should hit mobile apps sometime in early 2014. There's also a bonus side effect for Google: e-mail marketing is advertising. Google exists because of advertising dollars, but they don't do e-mail marketing. They've just made a competitive form of advertising much less appealing and informative to advertisers. No doubt Google hopes this move pushes marketers to spend less on e-mail and more on Adsense.
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    There's an antitrust angle to this; it could be viewed by a court as anti-competitive. But given the prevailing winds on digital privacy, my guess would be that Google would slide by.
Matteo Spreafico

Advocacy Group Asks DOJ To Probe Google Search Results - 2 views

  • The nonprofit advocacy group said it sent a letter to Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Division, after news that the European Commission had received three complaints against Google alleging the company manipulated search engine results in an anticompetitive way.
  • "As part of your continued antitrust investigation we call on you to shine a light on Google’s black box, and require it to explain what’s behind search results," Simpson wrote.
  • "If, as it appears, Google is tweaking results to further its narrow agenda, this anticompetitive behavior must be stopped."
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    If the evidence supports the allegations, this is a plausible antitrust theory, a company with a dominant market position leveraging that position into new markets via integration. In essence this is the same theory as that applied against Microsoft's bundling and integration of Windows, Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player.  
Paul Merrell

Los Angeles Times - latimes.com - 0 views

  • The Obama administration put large companies on notice that it would be tougher on mergers and attempts to stifle competition, restoring the type of aggressive antitrust enforcement of the 1990s that led to the landmark government case against Microsoft Corp.
  • Among those likely to feel the heat of federal inquiries are technology companies, such as chip maker Intel Corp., Internet giant Google Inc. and longtime tech leader IBM Corp.
Paul Merrell

The antitrust thing that won't blow over | Here we go again | The Economist - 0 views

  • Google, the industry’s newest giant, is also coming under closer scrutiny. On April 29th it emerged that America’s Justice Department is examining whether Google’s settlement with authors and publishers over its book-search service violates antitrust laws; and on May 5th the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched a probe to see whether Google’s sharing of two board members with Apple reduces competition between the two firms.
  • Similarly, antitrust lobbying is part of a broader “platform war” for IBM, which hopes thereby to keep Microsoft at bay. Among other things, IBM is a sponsor of the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS), which has many of Microsoft’s other competitors as its members and is one of the prime movers behind the new browser case. It started in late 2007 with a complaint by Opera, a Norwegian browser-maker and ECIS member. Not to be outdone, Microsoft has entered the antitrust game, too. It recently made an investment in T3, a small vendor of mainframe-like computers, which in January lodged a complaint with the European Commission, alleging that IBM kept it from competing by refusing to license mainframe software to T3’s customers. Microsoft has also lobbied American antitrust regulators to tackle Google, encouraging them to look into an online-advertising deal between the search giant and its rival, Yahoo!, which was eventually abandoned.
  • IBM, for its part, would appear to have little to fear. It is hard to argue, with so many different computer systems around, that mainframes still constitute a separate market—a necessary condition if IBM’s behaviour is to be judged anticompetitive.
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