Alibaba Buys Majority Stake in Big-Box Grocery Store Chain

Alibaba Group, China’s most valuable company with a market capitalization of $800+ billion, is paying $3.6 billion to gain more control of Sun Art Retail Group, which operates 480+ large supermarket stores. As in the U.S. and elsewhere, COVID-19 has seen many consumers shift to online shopping for food and other essentials. In 2017, Alibaba acquired a 36 percent stake in Sun Art for about $2.9 billion. With the latest purchase, Alibaba will own about 72 percent of the company and is positioned to compete with Walmart. Continue reading Alibaba Buys Majority Stake in Big-Box Grocery Store Chain

European Union Alliance Aims to Compete in Cloud Services

In the European Union, 25 countries pledged to provide up to €10 billion over the next seven years to build a cloud computing service to compete with Alibaba, Amazon and Google. Dubbed the European Alliance on Industrial Data and Cloud, the partnership will draw funding from existing EU programs and debut by the end of 2020. EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton stated the declaration is a “foundation stone for the establishment of European cloud technology.” Cyprus and Denmark are the only two EU holdouts. Continue reading European Union Alliance Aims to Compete in Cloud Services

Australia’s Draft Law Bids Facebook, Google to Pay for News

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is drafting a bill that would require Facebook and Google to negotiate with media publishers and pay for content that appears on their sites. Facebook has responded by threatening to block users and news organizations from sharing local and international news stories on its site. Google, which said its free service would be “at risk,” stated that the law would give media companies “special treatment” that would allow them to make demands that would be difficult to meet. Continue reading Australia’s Draft Law Bids Facebook, Google to Pay for News

Facebook Struggles to Contain Health Misinformation, QAnon

According to global civic movement Avaaz, over the past year Facebook enabled 3.8 billion views of misinformation related to health, almost four times the views of sites such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This has occurred despite Facebook’s partnership with these organizations to expose users to reliable information. In another effort to squelch misinformation, Facebook removed 790 QAnon groups and restricted another 1,950 groups, 440 pages and 10,000+ Instagram accounts. Continue reading Facebook Struggles to Contain Health Misinformation, QAnon

Facebook Lures TikTok Creators to Its Reels With Big Payday

Instagram has offered lucrative deals to some of TikTok’s top video creators to switch to its new competing service Reels, which parent company Facebook plans to debut early next month. According to sources, potential payments for some creators could be “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Similar to TikTok, Reels is a platform that allows users to share short-form video content. Some TikTok creators have amassed large followings, and have been paid by brands to promote products, wear branded clothing or use specific songs. Continue reading Facebook Lures TikTok Creators to Its Reels With Big Payday

Spotify, Universal Music Join Forces With New Licensing Pact

Spotify inked a new multi-year global licensing deal with Universal Music Group after being out-of-contract for about a year. Under the terms of the agreement, Spotify has access to UMG’s catalog for streaming and UMG will be part of Spotify’s so-called two-sided marketplace, whereby it will pay for analytics, data and marketing. Spotify, under pressure to prove to investors that it can be more consistently profitable, spends most of its revenue on licensing deals with music publishers and record labels. Continue reading Spotify, Universal Music Join Forces With New Licensing Pact

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

French Law to Fine Social Media Platforms for Hate Speech

France’s National Assembly passed a law that will fine social media companies up to €1.25 million ($1.36 million) for failing to remove “manifestly illicit” hate-speech posts within 24 hours of notification. Companies can be fined up to 4 percent of their global annual revenue if the violations are “serious and repeated.” The law, which will take effect July 1, also gives France’s audiovisual regulator the right to audit these companies’ systems for removing content. Critics claim “pre-emptive censorship.” Continue reading French Law to Fine Social Media Platforms for Hate Speech

Australia and France Seek Changes to Big Tech News Model

Last summer, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission put together a 623-page report that pointed to Facebook and Google as the reason for the precipitous decline in local news and public policy reporting. Commission chair Rod Sims, who wrote the report, stated that, “global tech companies are not beyond national laws, especially when there is so much at stake.” He and French regulator Isabelle de Silva are challenging those two tech behemoths for carrying news organizations’ content without paying them. Continue reading Australia and France Seek Changes to Big Tech News Model

In Europe, Some Film/TV Industries Tweak Release Windows

The film industries in Italy, France and Spain — European countries the hardest hit by the coronavirus — are enduring tough times, with the postponement of dozens of film releases. More worrisome is the future prospects of theaters in markets where indie distributors already contend with the dominance of U.S. content. In France, for example, Hollywood movies accounted for 59 percent of its 213 million theater admissions in 2019. One potential solution is to stream or air indie films on-demand. Continue reading In Europe, Some Film/TV Industries Tweak Release Windows

Europe Attempts to Ease Strain From Increased Internet Traffic

European carriers such as Vodafone are experiencing a spike in data traffic due to increased usage by home-bound consumers. The European Commission, which has net neutrality regulations in place, warned the telcos to avoid blocking, slowing down or prioritizing traffic as they attempt to avoid gridlock. At the same time, the Commission is concerned that crucial services including healthcare and online learning might be impeded. Netflix, Disney+, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Amazon Prime are among the companies cooperating with the European Union to curtail bandwidth usage for the time being. Continue reading Europe Attempts to Ease Strain From Increased Internet Traffic

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

CES 2020: Two Startups Debut Object Detection Solutions

The ETC team found two interesting object detection startups at CES’s Eureka Park: Italian company ARIA Sensing, which claims to manufacture “the world’s smallest UWB [Ultra-Wideband] radar” for offering “unparalleled detection performances” — and French startup Ingenious Things, which is promoting what it describes as “the first IoT tracker for less than $1.” ARIA Sensing has developed a 13mm x 15mm postage stamp size chip that is able to detect small movements, gestures and even breathing at distances up to 10 meters. The $1 Stick Trackr by Ingenious Things is less than 5mm thick and can operate for up to three months before it needs a new battery. Continue reading CES 2020: Two Startups Debut Object Detection Solutions

CES: Fragrance Diffusion System Has Multiple Possibilities

One of the more interesting exhibitors at CES Unveiled was Artiris Parfum, which showcased its Compoz natural fragrance diffusion system. There are a number of vendors offering necklaces and masks that emit synthetic odors for individual scent-enhanced VR and AR experiences. Paris-based Artiris Parfum offers a system that lightly diffuses customized, programmable blends of up to five all-natural fragrances into a room to create a group programmable olfactory experience. Continue reading CES: Fragrance Diffusion System Has Multiple Possibilities

CES Unveiled: Media Gets an Early Peek at Show Innovators

CES Unveiled is the first chance for press and industry analysts to get a look at some of the exhibitors that will be on the CES 2020 show floor when it opens on Tuesday, January 7. Approximately 240 companies demonstrated their products related to smart homes, digital health, gaming and all manner of innovation. At the end of the session of CES 2020 trends, CTA vice president Steve Koenig noted that products aimed at sustainability will also make an impact at the show, particularly at Eureka Park, home to startups. Continue reading CES Unveiled: Media Gets an Early Peek at Show Innovators

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