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Paul Merrell

Is Apple an Illegal Monopoly? | OneZero - 0 views

  • That’s not a bug. It’s a function of Apple policy. With some exceptions, the company doesn’t let users pay app makers directly for their apps or digital services. They can only pay Apple, which takes a 30% cut of all revenue and then passes 70% to the developer. (For subscription services, which account for the majority of App Store revenues, that 30% cut drops to 15% after the first year.) To tighten its grip, Apple prohibits the affected apps from even telling users how they can pay their creators directly.In 2018, unwilling to continue paying the “Apple tax,” Netflix followed Spotify and Amazon’s Kindle books app in pulling in-app purchases from its iOS app. Users must now sign up elsewhere, such as on the company’s website, in order for the app to become usable. Of course, these brands are big enough to expect that many users will seek them out anyway.
  • Smaller app developers, meanwhile, have little choice but to play by Apple’s rules. That’s true even when they’re competing with Apple’s own apps, which pay no such fees and often enjoy deeper access to users’ devices and information.Now, a handful of developers are speaking out about it — and government regulators are beginning to listen. David Heinemeier Hansson, the co-founder of the project management software company Basecamp, told members of the U.S. House antitrust subcommittee in January that navigating the App Store’s fees, rules, and review processes can feel like a “Kafka-esque nightmare.”One of the world’s most beloved companies, Apple has long enjoyed a reputation for user-friendly products, and it has cultivated an image as a high-minded protector of users’ privacy. The App Store, launched in 2008, stands as one of its most underrated inventions; it has powered the success of the iPhone—perhaps the most profitable product in human history. The concept was that Apple and developers could share in one another’s success with the iPhone user as the ultimate beneficiary.
  • But critics say that gauzy success tale belies the reality of a company that now wields its enormous market power to bully, extort, and sometimes even destroy rivals and business partners alike. The iOS App Store, in their telling, is a case study in anti-competitive corporate behavior. And they’re fighting to change that — by breaking its choke hold on the Apple ecosystem.
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  • Whether Apple customers have a real choice in mobile platforms, once they’ve bought into the company’s ecosystem, is another question. In theory, they could trade in their pricey hardware for devices that run Android, which offers equivalents of many iOS features and apps. In reality, Apple has built its empire on customer lock-in: making its own gadgets and services work seamlessly with one another, but not with those of rival companies. Tasks as simple as texting your friends can become a migraine-inducing mess when you switch from iOS to Android. The more Apple products you buy, the more onerous it becomes to abandon ship.
  • The case against Apple goes beyond iOS. At a time when Apple is trying to reinvent itself as a services company to offset plateauing hardware sales — pushing subscriptions to Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple News+, and Apple Arcade, as well as its own credit card — the antitrust concerns are growing more urgent. Once a theoretical debate, the question of whether its App Store constitutes an illegal monopoly is now being actively litigated on multiple fronts.
  • The company faces an antitrust lawsuit from consumers; a separate antitrust lawsuit from developers; a formal antitrust complaint from Spotify in the European Union; investigations by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice; and an inquiry by the antitrust subcommittee of the U.S House of Representatives. At stake are not only Apple’s profits, but the future of mobile software.Apple insists that it isn’t a monopoly, and that it strives to make the app store a fair and level playing field even as its own apps compete on that field. But in the face of unprecedented scrutiny, there are signs that the famously stubborn company may be feeling the pressure to prove it.
  • Tile is hardly alone in its grievances. Apple’s penchant for copying key features of third-party apps and integrating them into its operating system is so well-known among developers that it has a name: “Sherlocking.” It’s a reference to the time—in the early 2000s—when Apple kneecapped a popular third-party web-search interface for Mac OS X, called Watson. Apple built virtually all of Watson’s functionality into its own feature, called Sherlock.In a 2006 blog post, Watson’s developer, Karelia Software, recalled how Apple’s then-CEO Steve Jobs responded when they complained about the company’s 2002 power play. “Here’s how I see it,” Jobs said, according to Karelia founder Dan Wood’s loose paraphrase. “You know those handcars, the little machines that people stand on and pump to move along on the train tracks? That’s Karelia. Apple is the steam train that owns the tracks.”From an antitrust standpoint, the metaphor is almost too perfect. It was the monopoly power of railroads in the late 19th century — and their ability to make or break the businesses that used their tracks — that spurred the first U.S. antitrust regulations.There’s another Jobs quote that’s relevant here. Referencing Picasso’s famous saying, “Good artists copy, great artists steal,” Jobs said of Apple in 2006. “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” Company executives later tried to finesse the quote’s semantics, but there’s no denying that much of iOS today is built on ideas that were not originally Apple’s.
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

EU files antitrust charges against Amazon over use of data | The Seattle Times - 1 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

Google Sued By 36 States, DC Over Alleged Antitrust Violations | ZeroHedge - 0 views

  • Google on Wednesday was hit by a lawsuit from a group of state attorneys over alleged violation of antitrust laws by its Android app store.
  • Attorneys general for 36 states and the District of Columbia sued the Big Tech company in a 144-page complaint filed in a Northern California federal court. The group alleges that Google’s Play store for Android apps violates antitrust laws.The complaint centers on the control Google is able to exert on its Play store, allowing it to collect commissions of up to 30 percent on digital transactions within apps installed on Android-powered smartphones. Those devices represent more than 80 percent of the worldwide smartphone market.Led by Utah, North Carolina, Tennessee, New York, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, and Nebraska, it marks the fourth major antitrust lawsuit filed by U.S. government agencies against the company since October 2020.Other lawsuits filed against Google include a complaint filed by a bipartisan coalition of states, and one filed by the Department of Justice. It echoes allegations made against the company by mobile game maker Epic Games in August 2020. That case is awaiting trial.The complaint contends that Google has deployed various tactics and set up anticompetitive barriers to ensure it distributes more than 90 percent of the apps on Android devices—a market share that the attorneys general argue represents an illegal monopoly. It also alleges Google has been abusing that power to reap billions of dollars in profit at the expense of consumers, who wind up paying higher prices to subsidize the commissions, and the makers of apps who have less money and incentive to innovate.
Paul Merrell

House Committee Passes 'Big Tech' Antitrust Package Despite Lobbying Onslaught | ZeroHedge - 1 views

  • As the DoJ and FTC pursue civil antitrust litigation against some of America's largest tech firms, a House Committee has approved legislation to curb the market dominance of many of these same firms, including Google-owner Alphabet and Facebook. However, according to a report from WSJ, the tech firms targeted by the legislation are ramping up their lobbying efforts, precipitating a pitched battle over the legislation in the Senate.At the core of the six-bill raft of legislation is a measure to bar big tech firms from favoring their own products on their platforms. It was approved by the House committee early Thursday by a vote of 24 to 20.The NYT reported that Apple and other tech giants engaged in aggressive lobbying against the six-bill package, with Apple CEO Tim Cook going so far as to call Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top lawmakers to warn them against supporting the legislation. Per the NYT, the calls from Cook were "part of a forceful and wide-ranging pushback by the tech industry since the proposals were announced this month. Executives, lobbyists, and more than a dozen think tanks and advocacy groups paid by tech companies have swarmed Capitol offices, called and emailed lawmakers and their staff members, and written letters arguing there will be dire consequences for the industry and the country if the ideas become law."
  • Mirroring the outcome of several EU anti-trust investigations, the legislation, known as the "American Choice and Innovation Online Act," the legislation would prohibit the owners of big platforms (like Amazon's online marketplace) from creating disadvantages for goods and services provided by competitors.
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

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

Four Attorneys General Sue Google Over Privacy Claims - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Three states and the District of Columbia allege that the tech giant misled consumers by continuing to track those who had changed their privacy settings to prevent data collection.
  • Google is also fighting an antitrust lawsuit led by Texas in which states have accused the company of obtaining and abusing a monopoly over the systems that allow publishers to auction off ad space to marketers. On Friday, Google asked a federal court to dismiss the lawsuit.The lawsuits add to a mounting offensive by regulators to curtail the power and business practices of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. State and federal regulators have filed dozens of antitrust, consumer protection, privacy and trade lawsuits in an attempt to curb the business models or break up the companies. A Senate committee last week advanced potentially landmark antitrust legislation that tries to weaken the dominance of the internet giants.
Paul Merrell

Keller Lenkner & Quinn Emanuel File Antitrust Class-Action Lawsuit Against Facebook - 1 views

  • National plaintiffs’ law firm Keller Lenkner LLC and global business litigation firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook, Inc. alleging violations of federal antitrust laws and California law on behalf of Facebook users.ADVERTISEMENTFiled in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the complaint alleges that Facebook obtained and maintained a social network and social media monopoly by consistently deceiving consumers about the data-privacy protections it provided to users, and by exploiting the data it extracted from users to target smaller startup companies for destruction or acquisition.The lawsuit seeks to put an end to Facebook’s misrepresentations about its privacy practices and its anticompetitive acquisition conduct; to require Facebook to engage in third-party auditing of its conduct; and to require Facebook to divest assets, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, that entrench its market power.
  • According to the complaint, which was filed on behalf of named plaintiffs Sarah Grabert and Maximilian Klein, Facebook did not achieve its Big Tech monopoly through innovation or vigorous competition. Despite its public pledge to protect user privacy, Facebook lied to users and violated their trust in a scheme to build a technology empire. Facebook also acquired technology from smaller firms that it used to track consumer activity across the internet so that it could identify and target competitors.ADVERTISEMENTThe complaint further alleges that in a strategic, intentional ploy for market domination, Facebook engaged in its scheme to destroy all competition without a care for the ultimate harm it would inflict on consumers. By the time Facebook’s deception about its lackluster privacy protections became public knowledge, Facebook had already achieved dominance, making it difficult for any firm to challenge its social media and social network monopoly.
  • The complaint notes that Facebook derives enormous economic value from the data it harvests from consumers on its platform. In fact, Facebook itself has described how it generates massive earnings per user from the data it collects. The complaint details how Facebook’s destruction of competition has caused consumers substantial economic injury. Consumers who sign up for Facebook agree to give up their valuable data and attention in exchange for using Facebook’s platform. That information and attention is then sold in measurable units to advertisers in exchange for money. The complaint alleges that consumers were harmed by Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct, as they did not receive the benefit of their bargain with Facebook.The lawsuit includes claims for violations of federal antitrust laws and California common law. It also seeks an order enjoining Facebook from continuing to engage in the alleged wrongful acts, requiring Facebook to engage third-party auditors to evaluate and correct problems with Facebook’s conduct, and requiring Facebook to divest assets like Instagram and WhatsApp. The lawsuit also seeks monetary damages, restitution and/or disgorgement of Facebook’s wrongful gains, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
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

Google, Facebook made secret deal to divvy up market, Texas alleges - POLITICO - 1 views

  • Google and Facebook, the No. 1 and No. 2 players in online advertising, made a secret illegal pact in 2018 to divide up the market for ads on websites and apps, according to an antitrust suit filed Wednesday against the search giant. The suit — filed by Texas and eight other states — alleges that the companies colluded to fix prices and divvy up the market for mobile advertising between them.
  • The allegation that Google teamed up with Facebook to suppress competition mirrors a major claim in a separate antitrust suit the Justice Department filed against the company in October: that Google teamed up with Apple to help ensure the continued dominance of its search engine. Such allegations provide some of the strongest ammunition yet to advocates who argue that the U.S. major tech companies have gotten too big and are using their power — sometimes in conjunction with each other — to control markets.Many of the details about the Google-Facebook agreement, including its specific language, are redacted from the complaint. But the states say it “fixes prices and allocates markets between Google and Facebook as competing bidders in the auctions for publishers’ web display and in-app advertising inventory.”
  • The complaint alleges that the agreement was prompted by Facebook’s move in 2017 to use “header bidding” — a technology popular with website publishers that helped them increase the money they made from advertising. While Facebook sells ads on its own platform, it also operates a network to let advertisers offer ads on third-party apps and mobile websites.
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  • Google was concerned about the move to header bidding, the complaint alleges, because it posed an “existential threat” to its own advertising exchange and limited the ability of the search giant to use information from its ad-buying and selling tools to its advantage. Those tools let Google cherry pick the highest value advertising spots and ads, according to the complaint.Within months of Facebook’s announcement, Google approached it to open negotiations, the complaint alleged, and the two companies eventually cut a deal: Facebook would cut back on the use of header bidding and use Google’s ad server. In exchange, the complaint alleges that Google gave Facebook advantages in its auctions.
Paul Merrell

'Major Win': Judge Says Suit to Break Up Facebook Empire Can Proceed - 0 views

  • A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the Federal Trade Commission's revised antitrust lawsuit against Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook, can move forward—a potentially significant blow to the social media empire, which sought to have the case dismissed.In an amended complaint filed last August, the FTC provided additional data and stronger details to back up its allegations that Facebook has maintained a monopoly on social networking services for the past decade by "illegally acquiring innovative competitors and burying successful app developers."U.S. District Judge James Boasberg—who in June dismissed the FTC's first antitrust complaint against Facebook, calling it "legally insufficient"—wrote in Tuesday's ruling that the evidence in the agency's second filing is "far more robust and detailed than before."
Paul Merrell

Facebook Meta Netflix User Private Messages Antitrust Lawsuit Claim - 0 views

  • The lawsuit, which accuses Meta of engaging in anti-competitive practices, sheds new light on the circumstances surrounding the shutdown of Meta's streaming business.
  • Meta, the parent company of Facebook, have allegedly allowed Netflix access to users' private messages in exchange for data, a recent antitrust lawsuit claimed. This development has come to light following Meta's decision last April to discontinue its streaming business, including original shows like Red Table Talk on Facebook Watch, citing cost-cutting measures and
Gary Edwards

Meteor: The NeXT Web - 0 views

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    "Writing software is too hard and it takes too long. It's time for a new way to write software - especially application software, the user-facing software we use every day to talk to people and keep track of things. This new way should be radically simple. It should make it possible to build a prototype in a day or two, and a real production app in a few weeks. It should make everyday things easy, even when those everyday things involve hundreds of servers, millions of users, and integration with dozens of other systems. It should be built on collaboration, specialization, and division of labor, and it should be accessible to the maximum number of people. Today, there's a chance to create this new way - to build a new platform for cloud applications that will become as ubiquitous as previous platforms such as Unix, HTTP, and the relational database. It is not a small project. There are many big problems to tackle, such as: How do we transition the web from a "dumb terminal" model that is based on serving HTML, to a client/server model that is based on exchanging data? How do we design software to run in a radically distributed environment, where even everyday database apps are spread over multiple data centers and hundreds of intelligent client devices, and must integrate with other software at dozens of other organizations? How do we prepare for a world where most web APIs will be push-based (realtime), rather than polling-driven? In the face of escalating complexity, how can we simplify software engineering so that more people can do it? How will software developers collaborate and share components in this new world? Meteor is our audacious attempt to solve all of these big problems, at least for a certain large class of everyday applications. We think that success will come from hard work, respect for history and "classically beautiful" engineering patterns, and a philosophy of generally open and collaborative development. " .............. "It is not a
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    "How do we transition the web from a "dumb terminal" model that is based on serving HTML, to a client/server model that is based on exchanging data?" From a litigation aspect, the best bet I know of is antitrust litigation against the W3C and the WHATWG Working Group for implementing a non-interoperable specification. See e.g., Commission v. Microsoft, No. T-167/08, European Community Court of First Instance (Grand Chamber Judgment of 17 September, 2007), para. 230, 374, 421, http://preview.tinyurl.com/chsdb4w (rejecting Microsoft's argument that "interoperability" has a 1-way rather than 2-way meaning; information technology specifications must be disclosed with sufficient specificity to place competitors on an "equal footing" in regard to interoperability; "the 12th recital to Directive 91/250 defines interoperability as 'the ability to exchange information and mutually to use the information which has been exchanged'"). Note that the Microsoft case was prosecuted on the E.U.'s "abuse of market power" law that corresponds to the U.S. Sherman Act § 2 (monopolies). But undoubtedly the E.U. courts would apply the same standard to "agreements among undertakings" in restraint of trade, counterpart to the Sherman Act's § 1 (conspiracies in restraint of trade), the branch that applies to development of voluntary standards by competitors. But better to innovate and obsolete HTML, I think. DG Competition and the DoJ won't prosecute such cases soon. For example, Obama ran for office promising to "reinvigorate antitrust enforcement" but his DoJ has yet to file its first antitrust case against a big company. Nb., virtually the same definition of interoperability announced by the Court of First Instance is provided by ISO/IEC JTC-1 Directives, annex I ("eye"), which is applicable to all international standards in the IT sector: "... interoperability is understood to be the ability of two or more IT systems to exchange information at one or more standardised interfaces
Paul Merrell

Ohio's attorney general wants Google to be declared a public utility. - The New York Times - 2 views

  • Ohio’s attorney general, Dave Yost, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in pursuit of a novel effort to have Google declared a public utility and subject to government regulation.The lawsuit, which was filed in a Delaware County, Ohio court, seeks to use a law that’s over a century old to regulate Google by applying a legal designation historically used for railroads, electricity and the telephone to the search engine.“When you own the railroad or the electric company or the cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access,” Mr. Yost, a Republican, said in a statement. He added that Ohio was the first state to bring such a lawsuit against Google.If Google were declared a so-called common carrier like a utility company, it would prevent the company from prioritizing its own products, services and websites in search results.AdvertisementContinue reading the main storyGoogle said it had none of the attributes of a common carrier that usually provide a standardized service for a fee using public assets, such as rights of way.The “lawsuit would make Google Search results worse and make it harder for small businesses to connect directly with customers,” José Castañeda, a Google spokesman, said in a statement. “Ohioans simply don’t want the government to run Google like a gas or electric company. This lawsuit has no basis in fact or law and we’ll defend ourselves against it in court.”Though the Ohio lawsuit is a stretch, there is a long history of government control of certain kinds of companies, said Andrew Schwartzman, a senior fellow at the nonprofit Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. “Think of ‘The Canterbury Tales.’ Travelers needed a place to stay and eat on long road treks, and innkeepers were not allowed to deny them accommodations or rip them off,” he said.
  • After a series of federal lawsuits filed against Google last year, Ohio’s lawsuit is part of a next wave of state actions aimed at regulating and curtailing the power of Big Tech. Also on Tuesday, Colorado’s legislature passed a data privacy law that would allow consumers to opt out of data collection.On Monday, New York’s Senate passed antitrust legislation that would make it easier for plaintiffs to sue dominant platforms for abuse of power. After years of inaction in Congress with tech legislation, states are beginning to fill the regulatory vacuum.Editors’ PicksThe Abandoned Houses of Instagram21 Easy Summer Dinners You’ll Cook (or Throw Together) on Repeat‘King Richard’ Finds Fresh Drama in WatergateAdvertisementContinue reading the main storyAdvertisementContinue reading the main storyOhio was also one of 38 states that filed an antitrust lawsuit in December accusing Google of being a monopoly and using its dominant position in internet search to squeeze out smaller rivals.
Paul Merrell

FTC Hits Amazon With 'One of the Most Important Antitrust Cases in US History' - 1 views

  • Economic justice advocates applauded on Tuesday as the Federal Trade Commission and 17 states filed a sweeping antitrust lawsuit against Seattle-based Amazon.com for illegally dominating the online retail economy at the expense of consumers.
  • The 172-page complaint "lays out how Amazon has used a set of punitive and coercive tactics to unlawfully maintain its monopolies," said FTC Chair Lina Khan in a statement. "The complaint sets forth detailed allegations noting how Amazon is now exploiting its monopoly power to enrich itself while raising prices and degrading service for the tens of millions of American families who shop on its platform and the hundreds of thousands of businesses that rely on Amazon to reach them." The document—filed in a federal court in Washington state—alleges that Amazon maintains "durable monopoly power" in the online superstore and marketplace services markets, including by stifling price competition and coercing sellers into using its fulfillment service.
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.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • 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

U.S. vs. Facebook: A Playbook for SEC, DOJ and EDNY - 0 views

  • Six4Three recently published a playbook for the FTC to get to the bottom of Facebook’s secretive deals selling user data without privacy controls. In light of The New York Times article reporting multiple criminal investigations into Facebook surrounding these secretive deals, we’re publishing the playbook for criminal investigators.Perhaps the most important recognition at the outset is that the secretive deals that have been reported, whether those with a handful of device manufacturers or with 150 large technology companies, are just the tip of the iceberg. Those secretive deals handing over user data in exchange for gobs of cash were merely part and parcel of a much broader illegal scheme that begins with Facebook’s transition to mobile in 2012 and continues to this very day. We believe this illegal scheme amounts to a clear RICO violation. The United Kingdom Parliament agrees. Here’s how criminal investigators can overcome Facebook’s incredibly effective concealment campaign and bring a viable RICO case.Facebook’s pattern of racketeering activity is a play in three acts from at least 2012 to present. The first act is all about the desperation resulting from the collapse of Facebook’s desktop advertising business right around its IPO and the various securities violations that resulted. The second act is about covering up those securities violations by illegally building its mobile advertising business via extortion and wire fraud in order to close the gap in Facebook’s revenue projections before the world took notice, which likely resulted in additional securities violations. The third act is about covering up the extortion and wire fraud by lying to government officials investigating Facebook while continuing to effectuate the scheme. We are still in the third act.For almost a decade now Facebook has been covering up one illegal act with another in order to hide how it managed to ramp up its mobile advertising business faster than any other business in the history of capitalism. The abuses of Facebook’s data, from Russian interference in the 2016 election to Cambridge Analytica and Brexit, all stem in substantial part from the decisions Facebook knowingly, willfully and maliciously made to facilitate this criminal conspiracy. Put simply, Facebook’s transition to mobile destabilized the world.
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    This is so reminiscent of Microsoft tactics at the point that antitrust regulators stepped in.
Paul Merrell

Epic Games accuses Google of bullying and bribing to block competition to its Android a... - 0 views

  • oogle on Monday confronted the second major U.S. antitrust trial in two months to cast the internet powerhouse as a brazen bully that uses its immense wealth and people’s dependence on one of its main products to stifle competition at consumers’ expense. The trial that opened in a San Francisco federal court targets the Google Play Store that distributes apps for the company’s Android software that powers virtually all the world’s smartphones that aren’t made by Apple. The case, stemming from a lawsuit filed by video game maker Epic Games, alleges Google has created an illegal monopoly on Android apps primarily so it can boost its profits through commissions ranging from 15% to 30% on purchases made within an app. “The result of what Google is doing is higher prices, lower quality and less choice for everybody,” Epic attorney Gary Bornstein said Monday during a 45-minute opening statement before the 10-person jury that will decide the case.
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