PACT Act Intends to Update Section 230, Protect Consumers

Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-South Dakota) introduced the Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency (PACT) Act, which would hold Internet platforms such as Facebook and Google responsible for hosting illegal content and require them to reveal their moderation practices. The Act would change parts of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that shield such platforms from liability for the content their users post, and is intended to require platforms to quickly remove offending content. Continue reading PACT Act Intends to Update Section 230, Protect Consumers

Amazon Saves Premium Search Results for Its Own Products

According to a review by ProPublica, tech giant Amazon has begun to reserve the best placement in search results for its own products. Brands have been able to bid on search terms in order to gain visible listings at the top of the Amazon product search results. They can still bid on such placements, which also earns them a “sponsored” tag. But ProPublica and consultants found that, during the coronavirus pandemic, the company made the top left position on the first page unavailable to anything other than its own private-label products. Continue reading Amazon Saves Premium Search Results for Its Own Products

Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Facebook has acquired the GIF platform Giphy for $400 million. Giphy’s 100+ million active daily users send over 1 billion GIFs a day. Facebook stated that Giphy’s content database will be integrated into its apps including Instagram, although it didn’t state a timeframe. Since every social app offers at least some GIF integration, including many that rely on a GIF keyboard and Giphy’s database, Facebook’s purchase is both a competitive edge and another way to harvest the kind of data that attracts advertisers. Continue reading Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Facebook Ad Sales Pick Up, Resulting in Strong Q1 Revenue

With the coronavirus pandemic, advertising plummeted on many online sites, including social media giant Facebook. The company’s chief financial officer David Wehner declared that factor “largely attributable” to the 16 percent decline in average price of ads purchased in March. But gaming and e-Commerce companies picked up the slack by spending more, taking advantage of less competition in the company’s ad auctions. As a result, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told analysts the company would “remain in growth mode.” Continue reading Facebook Ad Sales Pick Up, Resulting in Strong Q1 Revenue

Judge Greenlights Facebook’s $5B Agreement With the FTC

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia judge Timothy Kelly approved a deal reached last summer whereby Facebook will pay a $5 billion fine to settle with the Federal Trade Commission over privacy violations related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook will also be restricted in some of its business decisions and will be subject to ongoing oversight. Facebook chief privacy officer for product Michel Protti noted that the agreement “has already brought fundamental changes to our company.” Continue reading Judge Greenlights Facebook’s $5B Agreement With the FTC

French Competition Authority Fines Apple & Two Wholesalers

The French Competition Authority fined Apple 1.1 billion euros ($1.23 billion) after determining that the company unfairly divided products and customers between two wholesalers, Tech Data and Ingram Micro, and forced them to charge the same prices as those offered in its own retail stores. The Authority president Isabelle de Silva stated that doing so had the effect of “sterilizing the wholesale market for Apple products.” Tech Data and Ingram Micro were fined 76.1 million euros and 62.9 million euros, respectively. Continue reading French Competition Authority Fines Apple & Two Wholesalers

Facebook Creates Changes to Its Rules on Paid Political Ads

Facebook has made adjustments to its policy on digital political advertising after reports emerged that 2020 presidential candidates are paying Instagram influencers. It will now require candidates buying branded content to register as political advertisers. FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra stated that a 2017 policy requiring influencers and marketers to reveal any “material connection” to advertisers is under review, adding that, “we may need new rules for tech platforms and for companies that pay influencers to promote products.” Continue reading Facebook Creates Changes to Its Rules on Paid Political Ads

Google Adjusts New Design Updates Following Complaints

Google controls approximately 90 percent of Internet search, and regulators, politicians, advertisers and users are sensitive to the tech giant’s efforts to wring more dollars out of that dominance. Twenty years ago, Google introduced text ads above search results and, over time, the company has made those ads less conspicuous. A recent design change prompted users to accuse the company of trickery to get them to click on ads, and marketers to complain the practice is a “shakedown” to push them to pay for ads. Continue reading Google Adjusts New Design Updates Following Complaints

Big Tech Firms Increase Spending to Influence Lawmakers

Big Tech is now one of the biggest lobbying groups in Washington, D.C. Facebook posted the greatest increase in spending last year, followed by Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. By increasing spending in lobbying, the companies hope to influence privacy legislation, pursue government contracts and rebut charges of unfair competition. Alphabet is the only Big Tech company to reduce its spending for lobbying in 2019, by 44 percent to $11.8 million. It also ended its relationship with lobbyists at six outside firms. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Increase Spending to Influence Lawmakers

CES 2020: A Fireside Chat With FTC Chair Joseph Simons

CTA chair/chief executive Gary Shapiro held court with two high-level government leaders: FTC chair Joseph Simons and FCC chair Ajit Pai, in two separate, 30-minute CES sessions. Simons first took the stage and described the Federal Trade Commission’s mission as two-fold: competition and consumer protection. “As we get further into the digital age, privacy concerns are becoming more important,” he said, noting that the FTC Act governing these concerns is 100 years old. “It’s time for Congress to adopt something more modern.” Continue reading CES 2020: A Fireside Chat With FTC Chair Joseph Simons

CES 2020: (Finally) a Fireside Chat With FCC Chair Ajit Pai

Following a discussion with FTC chair Joseph Simons, CTA chair/chief executive Gary Shapiro welcomed FCC chair Ajit Pai who has tried unsuccessfully to speak at CES for the last two years. Since the change in net neutrality laws, which met with a lot of pushback, noted Pai, “speeds are up, broadband infrastructure is up, more fiber was laid in 2019 than in any other year.” “We often heard that this was the end of the Internet,” Pai said. “But more Americans get faster Internet than ever before.” Continue reading CES 2020: (Finally) a Fireside Chat With FCC Chair Ajit Pai

YouTube Limits Data Collection, Targeted Ads on Kids’ Videos

This month, Alphabet-owned YouTube will begin limiting the data it collects on children’s videos and stop showing data-driven personalized ads. Video creators will be responsible for designating their content as targeting children and will face Federal Trade Commission fines if they do not do so. The FTC also won’t allow comments or other features such as pop-ups meant to increase viewership. The new data collection limits will likely have negative financial implications for creators of free kids’ content. Continue reading YouTube Limits Data Collection, Targeted Ads on Kids’ Videos

FTC Reportedly Considering an Injunction Against Facebook

The Federal Trade Commission is contemplating a preliminary injunction against Facebook over antitrust issues related to its integration of apps and whether they work with competitors. The injunction could prevent Facebook from further integrating apps, and possibly reverse past integration as a step to breaking up the company. An injunction would require a majority vote of the five-member FTC. Prominent antitrust experts have presented a plan to separate Facebook from recent acquisitions Instagram and WhatsApp. Continue reading FTC Reportedly Considering an Injunction Against Facebook

Facebook Takes Additional Steps to Address Data Concerns

Facebook vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg warned antitrust regulators that data is not a simple resource that can be easily monopolized but a more complicated commodity that can be shared and kept simultaneously. He urged officials to “relinquish” the idea that data is a finite resource that can be used in finite ways. Facebook and Google are facing scrutiny by the U.S. Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission and European Commission. Meanwhile, Facebook is also testing a data portability tool. Continue reading Facebook Takes Additional Steps to Address Data Concerns

Democrats Introduce New Online Privacy Rights Legislation

The Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act (COPRA) is a stalled bipartisan effort to protect consumers’ rights to privacy and prevent companies from hiding what they are doing with user data. To reinvigorate the debate, a group of Democrats, led by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), top Democrat in the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced their version of the federal privacy law. “[Privacy rights] should be like your Miranda rights — clear as a bell as to what they are and what constitutes a violation,” she said. Continue reading Democrats Introduce New Online Privacy Rights Legislation

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