@theguardian: The Guardian view on Google: overweening power

When Google received a record $2.7bn fine from the European Union in June for abusing its search engine monopoly to promote its shopping search service, a relatively minor member of an American thinktank, the New America Foundation, posted a short statement praising the regulator, and calling on the US to follow suit.

The New America Foundation is intimately intertwined with the search firm. It has received more than $20m over its lifetime from Google and related companies and individuals. So when Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, expressed his displeasure over the statement, the foundation moved quickly. The tussle that followed ended up with its author, Barry Lynn, departing the group, along with his entire team at the Open Markets programme.

To be clear: neither Google, nor Mr Schmidt, told New America to fire Mr Lynn or his colleagues. They did not have to.

Similarly, Google doesn’t have to ask the researchers whom it funds to write about public policy to turn in favourable articles. But it has funded, directly or indirectly, 329 such papers since 2005, according to the US-based Campaign for Accountability. More than a quarter of those funded directly by Google didn’t disclose the source of their money, according to the report.

Read the post on The Guardian

 

 

 

 

 

 

@kostasrossoglou: How Google’s Local Search Results Harm Consumers and Why the EU Acted

[On June 27], the European Commission announced that Google has breached antitrust rules by manipulating search results to favor its own vertical search services. In a landmark decision, the EU antitrust enforcement body hit Google with a record fine of €2.42 billion and gave Google a deadline of 90 days to end all discrimination against rival services. We applaud the European Commission’s dedication to the issue and commitment to restoring competition in online search to the benefit of consumers.

Google ordered to cease anticompetitive practices

Google has been found guilty of engaging in illegal conduct with the aim of promoting its vertical search services. Although the decision addresses comparison shopping services, the European Commission has also recognized that the same illegal behavior applies to other verticals, including local search. To this end, Google has been ordered to cease abusing its dominant general search engine to give advantages to its own specialized search products. A similar order has the potential to neutralize the harm Google has inflicted to online search and to effectively address anticompetitive concerns over local search.

Why local search matters

Local search is one of the most important human behaviors on the internet. It is the bridge between online research and offline commerce. Local searches – people looking for a pediatrician in Munich, a hotel in Barcelona or a Thai restaurant in Copenhagen – comprise the largest single category of search, representing roughly one third of total desktop search volume, and over one half of smartphone search volume. Between the defaults on iOS Safari and Android’s pre-installed Chrome, Google enjoys a 98% market share on smartphones.

The European Commission has been investigating Google for seven years following a number of complaints by both European and US companies, as well as consumer groups. Yelp has been a complainant in the case and we have been engaging with the EU authorities providing evidence of consumer harm in the market of local search.

Read the post on Yelp’s Policy Blog

@hshaban: Google spent the most it ever has trying to influence Washington: $6 million

[Editor Charlie sez:  Another reason why Google is getting the Register or Die database safe harbor from Sensenbrenner, no doubt.]

Google spent the most it ever has in a single quarter trying to influence elected officials in Washington, according to lobbying disclosures made public late Thursday. The past three months have also seen record spending on lobbying by several other major tech companies, including Amazon, Apple and Uber.

Google Inc., according to the disclosure forms, spent $5.93 million between April 1 and June 30, more than any other corporation in the second quarter. That’s about 40 percent more than it had spent during the same period last year. The only three entities that doled out more money were large business organizations: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($11.68 million), the National Association of Realtors ($10.92 million), and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America ($6 million).

Since the 2016 election, the tech industry has had to navigate not only a Republican-controlled Congress, but an administration whose decisions have often cut against Silicon Valley’s business interests and generally progressive outlook.

“Some tech companies have only existed in a world when a president [Obama] has largely aligned with them,” said Julie Samuels, the executive director of Tech: NYC, a group that represents New York-based tech firms. “So a lot of people are grappling with how to live in a space where there is tension there.”

Read the post on the Washington Post

 

@bsookman: Worldwide de-indexing order against Google upheld by Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada released a landmark decision today ruling that Canadian common law courts have the jurisdiction to make global de-indexing orders against search engines like Google. In so, ordering, the Court in Google Inc. v. Equustek Solutions Inc., 2017 SCC 34 underlined the breadth of courts’ jurisdiction to make orders against search engines to stem illegal activities on the Internet including the sale of products manufactured using trade secrets misappropriated from innovative companies.

The decision arose from a lower court decision that ordered Google to block websites that were selling goods that violated the trade secrets of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs obtained a default order against the defendants. But, the defendants continued to sell the offending goods over the Internet. The plaintiffs, unable to enforce their order, asked for Google’s help in blocking the websites. Google voluntarily de-indexed specific URL’s requested by the plaintiffs, but this “whac-a-mole” process was ineffective. When Google refused to de-index the offending websites from its search results, the plaintiffs brought a motion against Google for interim relief requiring Google to de-index the websites from all of its search engines worldwide.

Over Google’s objections, in Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Jack 2014 BCSC 1063 Madam Justice Fenlon of the British Columbia Supreme Court granted the injunction. Google subsequently applied for leave to appeal the decision to the British Columbia Court of Appeal and for an order staying the enforcement of the order. In Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Google Inc.,  2014 BCCA 295, the court granted Google leave to appeal the decision but refused Google’s application to stay enforcement of the injunction order. Google’s appeal was later dismissed by the Court of Appeal in Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Google Inc.,  2015 BCCA 265. For a summary of the prior proceedings, see Barry Sookman, Google ordered by BC court to block websites: Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Jack.

The Supreme Court of Canada, in a seven to two majority decision written by Justice Abella, affirmed the decisions below.

Google had argued that courts had no jurisdiction to make orders against it as a non-party to the litigation. It argued that any order against it should have been limited to the google.ca search engine. It also contended that the worldwide order would violate the principle of comity and rights of freedom of expression. The Court rejected each of these arguments and found that the balance of convenience favoured granting the order.

Read the post on Barry Sookman’s excellent blog

@littlekidsrock: Three Quarters of Chicago Public School Music Programs to Benefit from Expansion of Innovative Music Classes

If you have ever heard the music of Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, or Bruno Mars rising from a Chicago Public School (CPS) music classroom, chances are that you have heard one of the district’s 144 Modern Bands in action. Thanks to a new philanthropic investment of over $2,000,000 worth of instruments, curriculum and professional development, the number of Chicago schools offering these classes is set to double over the next five years and more than 100,000 students in 300 CPS schools will benefit from the district’s new initiative.

On February 28, CPS will announce the expansion of its partnership with national nonprofit Little Kids Rock. The nonprofit is making one of the largest investments ever into CPS by a partner organization. Approximately 320 of the 397 CPS sites that offer music programming will benefit from this expansion of the district’s Modern Band programs. The announcement celebrates the near decade-long partnership of CPS and Little Kids Rock, and the work that this expansion will facilitate. Guest speakers and a special performance by Modern Band students from Franklin Fine Arts Academy will be featured.

Modern Band programs teach kids the popular musical styles of the past 60 years including rock, reggae, hip-hop, Latin and other genres. The method focuses on improvisation, composition, and getting kids to play the music they know and love. Modern Band is a burgeoning national movement and many school districts across the country are adding it to their roster as a means of getting more kids involved in music.

The federal government recently declared music as an important part of a “well-rounded education” in the Every Student Succeeds Act stating that it must be taught to all students “… regardless of their personal circumstances.”

To understand how a culturally relevant music program can affect students, one needs to look no further than our nation’s own musical history. “We should look at the place that jazz music now has in our society, our schools, and our curricula,” said Evan Plummer, Director of Arts Education for Chicago Public Schools. “Jazz, once a marginalized musical genre, is now part of the canon, and student engagement in jazz is sustained. We now have the chance to bring popular music into our schools. It brings a sense of cultural relevance to our diverse sets of students within the district.”

“Modern Band helps school districts build music programs that are diverse as the children they serve,” says David Wish, CEO and Founder of Little Kids Rock. “We are proud to have been working work with ChicagoPublic Schools since 2008 to bring the transformational gift of music to more students. We are honored to help them double the size of their Modern Band programming over the next five years.”

WHAT: Chicago Public Schools and Little Kids Rock hold a special announcement event to reveal the expansion of Moden Band programming to 100,000 students in 300 schools.

Read the press release here