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 Leads Creation of Tech Industry Advocacy Group

Facebook is a founding member of American Edge, an emerging political advocacy group. Because it is registered as a non-profit, American Edge can raise money and publish ads without disclosing its donors. “We’re working with a diverse group of stakeholders to help build support for our industry, and while we’re leading an effort to start this coalition, it’s one of many we are contributing to and supporting,” said spokesperson Andy Stone. The group, however, has not yet officially launched. Continue reading Facebook Leads Creation of Tech Industry Advocacy Group

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

Big Tech Companies Acquire Significant Number of AI Startups

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the purchase of hundreds of small startups made by Big Tech companies Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft to determine if they have become too powerful. In 2019, a record-breaking 231 artificial intelligence startups were snapped up, which in many cases ended public availability of their products. According to CB Insights, that number compares to 42 AI startups acquired in 2014. Apple has been the No. 1 buyer of these startups since 2010. Continue reading Big Tech Companies Acquire Significant Number of AI Startups

Bipartisan Bill Would Further Regulate Online Content for Kids

Senators Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) introduced the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act, which would regulate how companies such as YouTube and TikTok handle what is accessible to children online, including advertising, app design and potentially harmful content. One of the main targets of the new bill are so-called unboxing videos, such as YouTube channel “Ryan’s World,” which can get millions of views. The KIDS Act would not ban the content, but prohibit the platform from recommending it to kids, curbing its distribution. Continue reading Bipartisan Bill Would Further Regulate Online Content for Kids

TikTok Now Political Forum For Youth, Tech Execs Decry App

The younger demographic that gravitates to TikTok is turning it into a political force, forming political coalitions — called hype houses — for their favored candidates, fact-checking others, posting news updates and commenting in real-time. Hype houses come in conservative, liberal, bipartisan and undecided flavors, and are amassing hundreds of thousands of followers. Reddit chief executive and co-founder Steve Huffman, however, is concerned about TikTok’s privacy policies, calling the app “fundamentally parasitic.” Continue reading TikTok Now Political Forum For Youth, Tech Execs Decry App

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

FTC Looks Into Acquisition Strategies of Big Tech Companies

The Federal Trade Commission is focused on acquisitions made by Big Tech companies, ordering Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft to turn over information on such past deals. Specifically, the FTC wants to know about the smaller deals — many less than $100 million — that the companies were not required to report to regulators, in hopes of learning more about potential antitrust abuses. FTC chair Joseph Simons noted that if they find “problematic transactions,” they can conceivably “initiate enforcement action.” Continue reading FTC Looks Into Acquisition Strategies of Big Tech Companies

DOJ’s Probe Into Google Focuses on Third-Party Ad Tools

The Justice Department is advancing its antitrust probe of Google with a more specific focus on how its third-party advertising business works with advertisers and publishers. The DOJ is also posing more detailed questions to executives inside the company, its rivals, advertising agencies, ad technology companies and publishers among others. Those questions center around Google’s integration of its ad server with its ad exchange, and Google’s requirement for advertisers to use its tools to buy ad space on YouTube. Continue reading DOJ’s Probe Into Google Focuses on Third-Party Ad Tools

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

CES 2020: The High-Wire Tension of Innovation and Privacy

CTA director of regulatory affairs Rachel Nemeth, who moderated a CES panel on innovation and privacy, asked Baker Botts co-chair, antitrust group Maureen Ohlhausen to put the topic in historic context. “The Congressional debate on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (1970) brought forward many of the same issues we’re discussing today,” said Ohlhausen, who also served as a commissioner and acting chair of the FTC. “People were worried about computers and the use of their data. The FTC has long enforced privacy statutes, and began to apply them to the Internet once it became consumer-oriented.” Continue reading CES 2020: The High-Wire Tension of Innovation and Privacy

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

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