FTC Is Investigating AI Investments by Major Tech Companies

The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into Big Tech’s artificial intelligence arms race. Specifically, the agency has ordered five companies to provide information under what it calls a “6(b) inquiry,” targeting Amazon and Google’s strategic alliance with Anthropic, and Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI. The scrutiny aims “to build a better internal understanding of these relationships and their impact on the competitive landscape.” In other words, the government does not want another free for all, along the lines of social media’s growth, which saw big players acquire startups competing in the space. Continue reading FTC Is Investigating AI Investments by Major Tech Companies

Apple Creates Payment Fee Workaround After Battle with Epic

Concurrent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 16 decision not to hear the appeal in Epic vs. Apple, the iPhone maker has revised its App Store rules, letting developers link to outside payment platforms. While that ostensibly lets third parties circumvent Apple’s unpopular payment processing fee of up to 30 percent, the tech giant says it will still collect a premium of up to 27 percent using a “commission” structure. That workaround has Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney vowing to continue litigating the case in U.S. District Court. Continue reading Apple Creates Payment Fee Workaround After Battle with Epic

FCC Votes to End Cable and Satellite Early Termination Fees

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to eliminate penalties for early termination and other so-called junk fees from cable and direct broadcast satellite television providers. The agency will also be studying the impact of such practices on consumers, which it believes may be subject to undue hardship when penalized for things like moving, unexpected financial hardship or poor service. During its December Open Meeting last week, the FCC voted to adopt a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) to end what it appears to feel are unjustified fees that also potentially harm competition by adding costs to switching services. Continue reading FCC Votes to End Cable and Satellite Early Termination Fees

Court Rules in Favor of Epic Games in Google Antitrust Case

Epic Games has prevailed against Google in U.S. District Court, scoring a victory in the 2020 lawsuit filed against the search giant over antitrust behavior related to its Google Play store. Epic claims that Google leverages control over the Android mobile operating system to require content creators who want a presence on an estimated 71 percent of the world’s smartphones to sell through the Play Store. The verdict “proves Google’s app store practices are illegal and they abuse their monopoly to extract exorbitant fees, stifle competition and reduce innovation,” Epic wrote of the win. Google disagrees with the ruling and says it plans to appeal. Continue reading Court Rules in Favor of Epic Games in Google Antitrust Case

UK’s Competition Office Issues Principles for Responsible AI

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority has issued a report featuring seven proposed principles that aim to “ensure consumer protection and healthy competition are at the heart of responsible development and use of foundation models,” or FMs. Ranging from “accountability” and “diversity” to “transparency,” the principles aim to “spur innovation and growth” while implementing social safety measures amidst rapid adoption of apps including OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Microsoft 365 Copilot, Stability AI’s Stable Diffusion. The transformative properties of FMs can “have a significant impact on people, businesses, and the UK economy,” according to the CMA. Continue reading UK’s Competition Office Issues Principles for Responsible AI

White House Launches $20 Million AI Cybersecurity Challenge

The White House has unveiled plans for a two-year competition with $18.5 million in prizes for artificial intelligence coders who can come up with ways to identify and fix software vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure code, such as that which runs the Internet. Styled AIxCC, the AI Cyber Challenge is being led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) with support from companies including Anthropic, Google, Microsoft and OpenAI, who have committed to lending expertise and technology. Up to seven small businesses will potentially receive $1 million each to participate. Continue reading White House Launches $20 Million AI Cybersecurity Challenge

Biden Supports FCC Plan for Multichannel Price Disclosures

The Federal Communications Commission proposed a rule that would require cable TV and multichannel satellite services to disclose full pricing for programming plans in consumer promotional materials and invoicing, a plan President Biden quickly endorsed. The intent is to clearly convey “all-in” costs as a prominent single line, avoiding taxes and surcharges excluded from sales pitches and sometimes difficult to decipher on bills. “Too often, these companies hide additional junk fees on customer bills disguised as ‘broadcast TV’ or ‘regional sports’ fees that in reality pay for no additional services,” Biden said. Continue reading Biden Supports FCC Plan for Multichannel Price Disclosures

Meta Platforms Is Selling Giphy to Shutterstock for $53 Million

Meta Platforms has agreed to sell Giphy to Shutterstock for $53 million in net cash, winding down a yearslong legal battle with the UK Competition and Markets Authority, which ordered the divestiture. Shutterstock, which licenses photos and other image content, said Giphy adds 1.7 billion in daily mobile users and global partners that include Meta’s own Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp in addition to Microsoft, Samsung, Twitter, TikTok, Slack and Discord. Meta acquired Giphy in 2020 for $315 million and was one year later ordered by the UK CMA to unwind the deal, citing antitrust issues. Continue reading Meta Platforms Is Selling Giphy to Shutterstock for $53 Million

Big Tech Braces for Potential Impact of EU Digital Markets Act

The European Union’s Digital Markets Act, applicable as of May 1, finds tech giants scrambling to anticipate regional compliance. The regulatory framework aims to ensure tech giants don’t abuse their clout by taking advantage of consumers and smaller companies. Within two months, companies providing core platform services will have to notify the European Commission and provide all relevant information. The Commission will then have two months to identify companies that fit the DMA definition of “gatekeeper.” Those that do will be subject to DMA rules and have six months to conform. Continue reading Big Tech Braces for Potential Impact of EU Digital Markets Act

Changes Ahead for Big Tech When EU Regulations Enforced

The European Union’s implementation of the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA) is poised to trigger worldwide changes on familiar platforms like Google, Instagram, Wikipedia and YouTube. The DSA addresses consumer safety while the DMA deals with antitrust issues. Proponents say the new laws will help end the era of self-regulating tech companies. Although as in the U.S., the DSA makes clear that platforms aren’t liable for illegal user-generated content. Unlike U.S. law, the DSA does allow users to sue when tech firms are made aware of harmful content but fail to remove it. Continue reading Changes Ahead for Big Tech When EU Regulations Enforced

Netflix Password Sharing Plan Added in Four Global Markets

Netflix is expanding its paid sharing program to Canada, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain. The program, which was tested last year in several Latin American markets, is the company’s attempt to crackdown on the unauthorized password sharing that deprives the company of what one analyst estimates is billions of dollars per year. Where the program is live, subscribers can pay to add non-household members to their account at the rate of an extra CAD$7.99 a month per person in Canada, NZD$7.99 in New Zealand, Euro 3.99 in Portugal, and Euro 5.99 in Spain. Continue reading Netflix Password Sharing Plan Added in Four Global Markets

EU Pushes Its Antitrust Case Against Facebook Marketplace

The European Commission has formed a “preliminary view” that Meta Platforms has breached EU antitrust law by manipulating competition in the online classified advertising markets on Facebook and Instagram. The Commission took particular umbrage with the bundling of Meta’s Facebook with access to Facebook Marketplace, which allows users to buy and sell items. Meta could face a fine as high as $11.8 billion if the allegations of self-dealing prove true. The Commission also claims Meta is imposing unfair conditions on Marketplace competitors for its own benefit. Continue reading EU Pushes Its Antitrust Case Against Facebook Marketplace

Deepmind’s AlphaCode AI Can Program Like Human Coders

DeepMind researchers have trained an AI to solve computer coding challenges as well as the average person. In a paper published last week in the journal Science, the group from Google’s AI division described how AlphaCode performed when pitted against human programmers, ranking in the top 54.3 percent in simulated tests, commensurate with “approximately human-level performance.” “This performance in competitions approximately corresponds to a novice programmer with a few months to a year of training,” according to Science, which says about half the humans who compete in coding contests could outperform the AI. Continue reading Deepmind’s AlphaCode AI Can Program Like Human Coders

Taylor Swift Fans File Class Action Suit Against Ticketmaster

A group of 26 Taylor Swift fans have filed a lawsuit against Ticketmaster, alleging anticompetitive conduct and fraud after a glitch resulted in the ticketing service canceling sales to Swift’s “Eras” tour, leaving thousands of fans — some of whom waited four to eight hours in ticket queues last month — “empty-handed and unhappy,” according to The New York Times. Their outcry resulted in not only a 33-page complaint filed in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, but also Congressional demands to unwind the 2010 merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation. Swift’s 52-show Eras tour is scheduled to begin in March. Continue reading Taylor Swift Fans File Class Action Suit Against Ticketmaster

ETC@USC Student Challenge: Future of Themed Experiences

On October 22, ETC@USC began a one-week student challenge on “The Future of Themed Experiences.” Leveraging the tools, techniques and resources of today and those that could emerge in the next few years, students were asked to come up with an original idea for an experience that: 1) has a specific location-based experience, and 2) extends the experience out into the real and virtual worlds before and after the person has the location-based experience. Eighteen 3-minute pitch videos were submitted and an esteemed panel of industry executives chose to reward five of them. All 18 videos with follow-up Q&A discussions are available online. Continue reading ETC@USC Student Challenge: Future of Themed Experiences