Judge Rules in Favor of Ending Paramount Consent Decrees

U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres approved the Justice Department’s proposal to terminate the 71-year-old Paramount Consent Decrees, intended to prevent Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Paramount and other major studios from owning both the means of production and distribution. Studios such as The Walt Disney Company and Lionsgate that became distributors after the law went into effect were not subject to its rules. Last fall, the Justice Department suggested the Decrees were anachronistic in today’s entertainment ecosystem. Continue reading Judge Rules in Favor of Ending Paramount Consent Decrees

European Union Adopts New Strategy to Contain Tech Firms

The European Union has led the movement to leverage antitrust laws in an effort to limit the power of Big Tech companies from the United States. Now, convinced that the impact of these efforts did not go far enough to change behavior, they are pursuing a different tack, this time drafting regulations that address specific business practices. But even as the chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google were grilled in a Congressional hearing last week, they reported skyrocketing revenue and billions in profit. Continue reading European Union Adopts New Strategy to Contain Tech Firms

Big Tech Companies Are Thriving Despite the Current Climate

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the wares and services of Big Tech companies such as Amazon, Apple and Facebook have become more indispensable than ever. As such, they are thriving. Amazon, for example, reported $88.9 billion in sales, with profits doubling to a record $5.2 billion in the quarter ending June, even though it spent $4 billion on its supply chain and worker safety in that time frame. Apple marked an 11 percent increase in quarterly sales, and Facebook sales rose 11 percent to $18.7 billion. Continue reading Big Tech Companies Are Thriving Despite the Current Climate

Big Tech Executives Are Grilled During Congressional Hearing

At a congressional hearing this week, the chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google endured frustration and hostile criticism from bipartisan lawmakers. House Antitrust Subcommittee chair David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) started by saying that, “Our founders would not bow before a king. Nor should we bow before the emperors of the online economy,” referring to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai. The companies are collectively worth almost $5 trillion. Continue reading Big Tech Executives Are Grilled During Congressional Hearing

Big Tech Firms Step Up Acquisitions Despite Antitrust Probes

Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft — the five largest U.S. tech firms — are speeding up their acquisitions, even as they are under antitrust investigation by federal officials and state attorneys general. By the end of June, the companies had disclosed 27 deals, up 29 percent from the same period last year, when they announced 21 deals. The increase in purchases could be used as proof by regulators and economists that these companies are using their wealth to dominate competitors and increase their market share. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Step Up Acquisitions Despite Antitrust Probes

Amazon, Google, Qualcomm Support Global Antitrust Institute

Last year, the Global Antitrust Institute, part of the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, organized and paid for a weeklong conference in California for antitrust regulators from 30 foreign countries, including Australia, Brazil, China and Japan. At the conference, these officials attended classes that were described as continuing education to learn more about the economic foundation of competition regulations. According to attendees and critics, however, the message of the conference also benefited Big Tech companies. Continue reading Amazon, Google, Qualcomm Support Global Antitrust Institute

FTC Probe of Facebook Unlikely to Conclude by Election Time

About a year ago, the Federal Trade Commission chair Joseph Simons predicted that the antitrust probe of Facebook would be done before the presidential election, a goal that now seems unlikely. If it runs into next year, a new president could change the FTC’s priorities. For now, the Facebook investigation continues, with staff members prepping depositions of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and examining its purchase of Giphy, a search database for short videos. Continue reading FTC Probe of Facebook Unlikely to Conclude by Election Time

EU’s Antitrust Probe Expands to Include the Internet of Things

The European Union’s antitrust unit has broadened its focus of Big Tech companies to include voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa and the growing number of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The EU’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager noted the threat of a big company pushing the market until “competition turns into monopoly.” With regard to IoT, she pinpointed voice assistants as the “center of it all,” but included any digital device that records consumer data from Apple Watch to an Internet-connected refrigerator. Continue reading EU’s Antitrust Probe Expands to Include the Internet of Things

European Union Court Overturns 2016 Decision Against Apple

The European Union overturned a 2016 decision that ordered Apple to make good on $14.9 billion in unpaid taxes to Ireland. Apple selecting Ireland as its European base to avoid taxation was the genesis that eventually led to the decision. The European Commission’s top antitrust regulator Margrethe Vestager accused the arrangement of being an illegal subsidy not available to Apple’s rivals and demanded that Ireland recover 10 years of back taxes. Amazon and Google have pending court appeals to overturn similar EU decisions. Continue reading European Union Court Overturns 2016 Decision Against Apple

Big Tech Firms Face More EU Scrutiny, Facebook Loses Case

The European Union increased its efforts to regulate major U.S. technology companies, including Amazon, Apple and Google, with a new tool that allows it to investigate any potential antitrust issue and force changes without proving illegality. EU antitrust head Margrethe Vestager warned that the tech behemoths potentially risk being broken up as a “last resort” if they don’t adhere to the rules. Meanwhile, a German high court ruled against Facebook finding it abused its social media dominance to illegally harvest user data. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Face More EU Scrutiny, Facebook Loses Case

Justice Department Probes Requirements of Apple App Store

The Justice Department is scrutinizing Apple’s App Store rules, specifically the requirement that app developers use Apple Pay, which takes up to a 30 percent cut. Since mid-2019, lawyers have been interviewing app developers about their experiences with Apple. Developers have pushed back by blocking subscriptions and payments on their apps or charging higher rates on iPhone apps. The DOJ’s antitrust resources are focused on Google’s dominance in digital advertising, which may result in a case as early as this summer. Continue reading Justice Department Probes Requirements of Apple App Store

Apple Rejects Facebook App, Calls for Antitrust Probe Grow

Apple rejected Facebook Gaming’s submission to the App Store for at least the fifth time since February. Sources said that, with each rejection, Apple referred to its rules that don’t allow apps with the “main purpose” of distributing casual games. Apple’s App Store is the only officially approved venue for iPhone and iPad owners to find new games (and other programs), which generated about $15 billion in revenue last year. Microsoft president Brad Smith said antitrust regulators need to look at the practices of app stores. Continue reading Apple Rejects Facebook App, Calls for Antitrust Probe Grow

DOJ Favors Withdrawing Section 230’s Immunity for Big Tech

The Justice Department recommended, in a 25-page report, that lawmakers repeal portions of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which has given website operators broad immunity for what people post on their services. The proposed repeal would take away that immunity, forcing social media platforms and similar sites to be responsible for the videos, words, images posted by their users, while assuring that their moderation is consistent. The DOJ’s recommendation will have to be enacted by Congress. Continue reading DOJ Favors Withdrawing Section 230’s Immunity for Big Tech

Apple is Next Target of European Commission Investigations

European Commission executive vice president in charge of competition Margrethe Vestager is ramping up her scrutiny of U.S. tech giants, including Apple and Amazon. She’s currently targeting Apple’s “gatekeeper” position with third-party apps and Apple Pay. She is also looking more closely at Amazon’s position in online retail. Bloomberg Intelligence antitrust analyst Aitor Ortiz, however, noted that the $9 billion fine she levied against Google didn’t stop the tech giant from continuing to dominate search. The fines “don’t really have a deterrent effect,” he concluded. Continue reading Apple is Next Target of European Commission Investigations

Facing Increased Scrutiny, Big Tech Seeks Political Support

While federal regulators are scrutinizing Amazon, Facebook and Google, the Big Tech companies are fighting to protect themselves by helping to fund a wide range of political groups that act as allies. One such group is the Connected Commerce Council (3C), a Washington-based nonprofit that describes itself as an advocate of small businesses — but also counts Amazon, Facebook and Google as “partners.” Meanwhile, the European Commission is reportedly going to levy formal antitrust charges against Amazon in the next two weeks. Continue reading Facing Increased Scrutiny, Big Tech Seeks Political Support

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