Microsoft Takes Its Case for Activision Purchase to Capitol Hill

Microsoft has begun laying the groundwork to gain regulatory approval for its $68 billion Activision Blizzard bid, assuring D.C. decision-makers the purchase will not improperly advantage its own platforms and services. In an effort at transparency, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and president Brad Smith say they’re “sharing where we’re going with members of Congress” and meeting with think tank representatives to compile a best-practices road map to ensure lawmakers and stakeholders the deal presents no threat. Microsoft says it wants Activision’s IP not to dominate existing markets but to help stake its claim in the emerging metaverse. Continue reading Microsoft Takes Its Case for Activision Purchase to Capitol Hill

Google Advertising Puts Alphabet Profit Up 36 Percent in Q4

Google parent Alphabet posted Q4 2021 revenue of $75.33 billion, a 32 percent increase over the same period in 2020 that outperformed expectations. The blowout results were attributed to small and large businesses embracing digital advertising as a way to reach consumers housebound by COVID-19. Profits rose 36 percent to $20.64 billion in Q4. Alphabet revenue for the year ending December 31 was $257.6 billion, a 41 percent increase over 2020. The company also announced a 20-for-1 stock split. Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai cited “a quarterly sales record for our Pixel phones despite supply constraints” among the achievements. Continue reading Google Advertising Puts Alphabet Profit Up 36 Percent in Q4

FTC Develops New Antitrust Strategies for Taking on Big Tech

The Federal Trade Commission is taking an alternative approach to antitrust protections and Big Tech, focusing not on the ultimate harms of monopolies to consumers but rather the damage perpetrated by the giants inflicted on smaller companies that are often their partners. For an agency that since the mid-80s has focused its antitrust actions on the price-gouging or shoddy goods that usually result from consolidation, the new strategy may be an effective way to rein-in companies that offer their services free of charge, like Google and Facebook, or at what appears to be market rate, like Amazon. Continue reading FTC Develops New Antitrust Strategies for Taking on Big Tech

Big Tech Bristles as Antitrust Bill Moves to a Full Senate Vote

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to advance a bill designed to level the playing field between Big Tech and smaller players forced to rely on the giant firms to reach customers. Allegations that the behemoths abuse their power to subjugate competitors and exploit consumers permeate Capitol Hill. After being reminded by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) that antitrust laws haven’t been meaningfully updated “since the birth of the Internet,” the American Innovation and Choice Online Act was advanced on a bipartisan basis, setting it on a path for a full Senate vote. Continue reading Big Tech Bristles as Antitrust Bill Moves to a Full Senate Vote

Regulatory Fervor Has Worldwide Reverberations for Big Tech

There are signs a Big Tech backlash could have sweeping ramifications in U.S., Europe, Australia and elsewhere, rewriting the rules for how major technology companies deal with everything from startups to artificial intelligence. Foes of the tech titans may even be leveraging the mood of general hostility toward antitrust tactics exhibited by lawmakers around the globe by seizing the moment to press for changes in the regulation of transatlantic data flows, digital advertising, and self-dealing in addition to new rules circumscribing facial recognition and use of consumer data. Silicon Valley is said to be taking the threat seriously. Continue reading Regulatory Fervor Has Worldwide Reverberations for Big Tech

Meta Quest VR Unit Faces Antitrust Probe by FTC and States

In the wake of a last week’s ruling that the Federal Trade Commission can prosecute its antitrust suit against Meta Platforms, it is now reported that the FTC and multiple state attorneys general are scrutinizing the company’s virtual reality unit — formerly known as Oculus Quest but renamed Meta Quest — for potential anti-competitive practices. New York, North Carolina and Tennessee are among the states that, in addition to the FTC, are said to be investigating whether the Meta Quest app store discriminates against app developers whose goods compete against Meta’s own products. Continue reading Meta Quest VR Unit Faces Antitrust Probe by FTC and States

Judge Rules That FTC Can Proceed with Meta Antitrust Case

A federal judge has allowed a Federal Trade Commission antitrust lawsuit against Facebook to proceed, denying dismissal, a major victory for the agency as it gears up to take on Big Tech. The FTC claims the company, which since renamed itself Meta Platforms, accrued monopoly power and abused it by harming competition through an acquisitions strategy described as “buy or bury.” The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruling is seen as a warning to tech behemoths like Amazon, Apple and Google and the armies of lobbyists and lawyers employed to protect their interests. Continue reading Judge Rules That FTC Can Proceed with Meta Antitrust Case

UK Regulator’s Order for Meta to Sell Giphy Shocks Big Tech

Regulators the world over have been exhibiting antitrust leanings in an effort to temper Big Tech’s unfettered growth, but the UK’s unprecedented move ordering Meta Platforms to sell animated images platform Giphy nearly a year after the purchase has shocked many. The surprise is due not only to the timing, but also for its U.S. implications, and because Giphy’s modest stature has triggered the realization that no deal is too small to escape scrutiny. Meta’s Giphy deal is being described as a “killer acquisition,” wherein an innovative startup is purchased with an intent to quash future competition. Continue reading UK Regulator’s Order for Meta to Sell Giphy Shocks Big Tech

Talk of Twitter Sale Brews with Square/Block Floated as Suitor

Even before Jack Dorsey tweeted his resignation as Twitter CEO — and announced that another company he co-founded and runs as CEO, Square, will on December 10 change its name to Block — there was speculation that Twitter will soon be purchased. The rumors have been fueled by a belief that Twitter has potential beyond its stagnant share price — $44.47 as of yesterday’s close, slightly less than $44.90 the day of its November 2013 IPO — evidenced in its strong branding and popularity with elites. Top tech exec Parag Agrawal’s ascent to CEO is the corporate equivalent of staging in real estate.  Continue reading Talk of Twitter Sale Brews with Square/Block Floated as Suitor

FTC Files Lawsuit to Block $40 Billion Nvidia Purchase of Arm

The Federal Trade Commission is suing to block Nvidia’s $40 billion acquisition of UK-based semiconductor IP firm Arm, claiming it would stifle competition and hurt consumers. In October, the European Commission cited like reasoning when it launched an investigation into the purchase. Arm licenses its chip and software technology to a about 500 companies, including Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung, TSMC and Nvidia. The major concern is whether the purchase would provide Nvidia an unfair competitive advantage. The global chip shortage and opposition on both sides of the pond dim the deal’s prospects. Continue reading FTC Files Lawsuit to Block $40 Billion Nvidia Purchase of Arm

Biden Reveals FCC Chair and New Commissioner Nominees

President Joe Biden has paved the way for a potential Democratic majority at the Federal Communications Commission, nominating Gigi Sohn to fill the fifth commissioner slot, vacant since Ajit Pai resigned in January. Jessica Rosenworcel, who stepped up as acting chairwoman when Pai left, has been nominated as permanent chair. Sohn, a public interest lawyer with 30 years of experience in communications and technology policy, spent three years as counselor to Obama administration FCC chair Tom Wheeler. In that capacity, she championed net neutrality and Title II common carrier rules that were adopted in 2015, only to be jettisoned in 2017 under Pai. Continue reading Biden Reveals FCC Chair and New Commissioner Nominees

New Apple Guidelines Permit Payment Outside of App Store

Following an announcement in August that it had settled a class action lawsuit, Apple has introduced new App Store Review Guidelines. Specifically, Apple now permits its registered developers to communicate to customers how they may pay for iOS apps using payment means outside iOS and Apple’s App Store. The guidelines now explain developers may request customer information, including name and email, but must permit customers to provide that information at their discretion. The third change is how to use a new Apple feature called in-app events that Apple says is unrelated to litigation. Continue reading New Apple Guidelines Permit Payment Outside of App Store

Bipartisan Congressional Effort Afoot for Tougher Tech Laws

Riding the momentum of Washington hearings and media criticism, legislators are pushing forward various bills to regulate Big Tech. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) led fellow Senators in pushing legislation that would prevent tech platforms from favoring their own products and services, lending weight to efforts already progressing in the House. House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders have put forward their own proposal to prevent social-media companies from boosting circulation of harmful content. At the forefront are initiatives to limit the collection of personal info from minors, as well as restrictions on marketing to children. Continue reading Bipartisan Congressional Effort Afoot for Tougher Tech Laws

European Parliament Recommends Ban of Facial Recognition

The European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution that calls for banning law enforcement’s use of biometric surveillance, including facial recognition. The vote signals what Parliament is willing to adopt as part of the Artificial Intelligence Act being developed by the European Commission. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) advocate for a permanent ban on automated recognition of individuals in public spaces in addition to the use of private facial recognition databases such as those developed by companies including New York-based Clearview AI.  Continue reading European Parliament Recommends Ban of Facial Recognition

Facebook Whistleblower Fuels Interest in Tougher Tech Laws

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s Senate testimony Tuesday appears to have fueled congressional desire to pass new regulations on Big Tech. At a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online,” the inquiry expanded well beyond teens’ mental health, ranging from obsequious algorithms to Chinese surveillance of Uyghur populations, COVID-19 vaccine disinformation and speech leading to January’s Capitol insurrection. Calling Facebook “morally bankrupt,” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) said “Big Tech is facing its Big Tobacco moment,” and urged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify. Continue reading Facebook Whistleblower Fuels Interest in Tougher Tech Laws