@robertblevine_: Antitrust law never envisioned massive tech companies like Google

THE INTERNET HAS become so important to modern life that it’s hard to imagine it working much differently from the way it does. If you want to know something, you “Google it,” for free, presumably knowing you’ll be served targeted advertising. But today’s online world isn’t only a product of technological progress; it’s also the result of any number of legal cases and policy decisions that could easily have gone another way.

Imagine a world where, in the early 2000s, Microsoft programmed Internet Explorer, then the dominant browser, so that users who typed in “Google” would be sent to MSN Search or see a warning message about Google’s privacy policy and an invitation to use Microsoft’s product instead. In 2018, this is hard to imagine — that’s not the way the Internet works! But it could have been: At one point the idea was the subject of “informal conjectures” at Microsoft, The New York Times recently reported.

“Microsoft could have killed Google in the cradle,” says prominent Silicon Valley antitrust lawyer Gary Reback. Back in the 1990s, Reback spent years helping to convince the Justice Department to file charges against Microsoft, which was then using its dominance of the personal-computer software market to give Internet Explorer an advantage over other browsers. If not for the scrutiny Microsoft faced in antitrust cases in both the United States and Europe, Reback says — if the government hadn’t stepped in to stop the company from disadvantaging competitors — Google might never have become popular enough to be a verb.

Or, for that matter, the subject of its own antitrust controversy.

Read the post on the Boston Globe

@reuters: Google to invest $550 million in Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com [Owner of TenCent/Spotify]

[Editor Charlie sez: Isn’t this what Google is being fined billions for in Europe?  Why does Google need to invest $550 million in the parent company of Ten Cent, the Spotify investor that bailed Spotify out of its idiotic convertible debt?]

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Google will invest $550 million in Chinese e-commerce powerhouse JD.com, part of the U.S. internet giant’s efforts to expand its presence in fast-growing Asian markets and battle rivals including Amazon.com.

The two companies described the investment as one piece of a broader partnership that will include the promotion of JD.com products on Google’s shopping service. This could help JD.com expand beyond its base in China and Southeast Asia and establish a meaningful presence in U.S. and European markets.

Read the post on Reuters

 

@TessaMakesLove: Branding and Algorithms: Raging Against the Format

We all learn about the world through the prism of our own stories. The reason I rage against formats so much is because I don’t fit in any.

Modern America is the king of labeling. It is impossible to get through to the public interface without learning how to squeeze yourself into one of the predefined shapes, leaving the least possible amount of torn raw flesh and blood at the knives of public perception.

What kind of music do you play? What race are you? Who did you vote for? Are you with us, or are you against us? 

The interface pulses and dances to the beat of the dollar – primarily – as well as the peer pressure, and it evolves with time. But the principle of the Holy Algorithm remains.

Read the post on Tessa Fights Robots

@BekiHill: Max Schrems is back: Facebook, Google hit with GDPR complaint

Max Schrems, the thorn in Facebook’s side, has returned to launch the first challenges under the EU’s new data protection laws.

The complaints, filed on the day Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, take aim at what he describes as Google and Facebook’s “forced consent”.

Under the GDPR, when users are asked to consent, they should be given a free choice – and it should not be a condition of using a service.

But Schrems’ complaints argue that the consent boxes popping up on the screens of users of Google, Facebook and their affiliates does not meet this standard.

The four separate filings (all PDFs) are against Google, Facebook and two Facebook-owned businesses, Instagram and WhatsApp.

They dangle the 4 per cent of annual turnover fines as a maximum possible penalty – €3.7bn, €1.3bn, €1.3bn, and €1.3bn, respectively – though regulators have stressed they won’t be handing out the top level fines willy-nilly.

Read the post on The Register

@NellieBowles: Early Facebook and Google employees form coalition to fight what they built

A group of Silicon Valley technologists who were early employees at Facebook and Google, alarmed over the ill effects of social networks and smartphones, are banding together to challenge the companies they helped build.

The cohort is creating a union of concerned experts called the Center for Humane Technology. Along with the nonprofit media watchdog group Common Sense Media, it also plans an anti-tech addiction lobbying effort and an ad campaign at 55,000 public schools in the United States.

The campaign, titled The Truth About Tech, will be funded with $7 million from Common Sense and capital raised by the Center for Humane Technology. Common Sense also has $50 million in donated media and airtime from partners including Comcast and DirecTV. It will be aimed at educating students, parents and teachers about the dangers of technology, including the depression that can come from heavy use of social media.

Read the post on The New York Times

@neilturkewitz: Disruption, Fear and Slippery Slopes: Baby Steps in Building a Better Internet

The biggest story of 2017? To my mind, there is no contest — the broad emergence of an awareness that the irresponsibility masquerading as Internet freedom represented a threat to global societies and to cherished aspects of our humanity, and that a course correction was badly needed.

While recognition of the fact that rewarding lack of accountability would likely incentivize anti-social and illegal conduct took longer than it should have, such an awareness came to fruition throughout 2017. Whether motivated by concerns about sex trafficking or the prevalence of other internet-enabled crimes, fake news, foreign government interference in elections, monopoly or monopsony power, or the perceived political or cultural biases of platforms, the question at the end of 2017 wasn’t whether the current legal framework for platform responsibility should be amended, but how.

It became clear that the twin pillars upholding the current lack of accountability in the internet ecosystem — Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and Section 512 of the DMCA, each of which was adopted at the dawn of the commercial internet, would need to be reexamined and a new framework established.

Read the post on Medium

YouTube/Amazon Fight: Tone Deaf Google acts like it’s their videos

Your margin is my opportunity.  Now bend over.

Inspired by Jeff Bezos

If a record company pulled your music from a retailer because of a commercial dispute that had nothing to do with you or the label itself, how would that make you feel?  If you ran to your contract to see if you could stop them, do you think anyone would have ever thought to negotiate protection against anything so philistine? This little life parable shows you why you should never underestimate the highly innovative monopolists forcing their way into our lives.

According to Bloomberg:

Alphabet Inc.’s Google pulled support for its YouTube video service from Amazon.com Inc.’s streaming-media devices, citing the internet retailer’s failure to make Amazon Prime Video available through Google’s gadgets and the recent halt of the sale of some Nest products on its website.

What’s interesting about YouTube’s behavior is that you would think that YouTube actually owned the videos on YouTube.  Which in probably 99% of the cases, they do not.  (It’s unclear if the Amazon boycott includes Vevo, the premium content provider co-owned by Google, but I would assume it does.)  I’m no fan of Amazon, God knows, so I’m not suggesting that YouTube’s move here is hard on Little Jeffie, the destroyer of worlds.

I’m suggesting that it is hard on artists and is not something that any other distributor would think they could get away with.  And the fact that YouTube exists to screw artists and songwriters doesn’t excuse YouTube’s tone deaf wielding of other people’s property to gain a commercial advantage against Amazon accruing almost entirely to Google.  So what did Google do, exactly?  Bloomberg tells us:

Google blocked YouTube access via the Echo Show, Amazon’s smart speaker with a touchscreen, on Tuesday and will stop supporting YouTube on Amazon’s Fire TV set-top box on Jan. 1. In a statement, a Google representative said it’s taking the action because the YouTube apps on Amazon products aren’t made by Google, like the YouTube app on the iPhone is, and the retail giant doesn’t sell some Google products, such as Chromecast and Google Home.

“We’ve been trying to reach agreement with Amazon to give consumers access to each other’s products and services,” Google said in a statement. In its own statement, Seattle-based Amazon said its gadgets now send users to the YouTube website, and the company hopes to resolve the dispute as soon as possible.

In other words, Amazon stopped carrying totally unrelated Google products and Google responded by blocking your videos from Amazon devices.  Did anyone ask you if that was OK?  According to the Verge:

Three months ago, YouTube pulled its programming from Amazon’s Echo Show device — the first skirmish in what is apparently an ongoing war. Shortly after, Amazon stopped selling the Nest E Thermostat, Nest’s Camera IQ, and the Nest Secure alarm system. Two weeks ago, Amazon got YouTube back on the Echo Show by simply directing users to the web version, a workaround that left a lot to be desired. But even that version won’t be available after today.

In other words, this boycott of the billionaires has nothing to do with any YouTube artist or Vevo artist, but all are being harmed by it for reasons they have no control over.  You might, however, be able to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Google and possibly both Google and Amazon by clicking here.