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

Microsoft Closes $69 Billion Acquisition of Activision Blizzard

Right on schedule and after a rocky start, Microsoft has closed the $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard that regulators in the U.S. and UK had challenged. Big Tech is celebrating the move as a signal that their cash reserves can still be used to target expansion. The deal is consumer tech’s largest since AOL purchased Time Warner in a 2000 deal valued at more than twice that. Until now, Microsoft’s games unit, built around Xbox, has been a modest part of the company’s immense portfolio — representing just over 7 percent of total sales, or revenue of about $15 billion. Continue reading Microsoft Closes $69 Billion Acquisition of Activision Blizzard

Feds Escalate Urgency Around AI, Biden Meets with Experts

President Biden heralded the “enormous promise” of artificial intelligence while pointing out that we must manage risks to society and our economy. These include misinformation and job loss. Meeting with experts in San Francisco, Biden said AI is already fueling “change in every part of American life, often in ways we don’t notice.” Citing social media and its potential harms, Biden called for proper AI guardrails. The Bay Area visit was part of Biden’s 2024 reelection fundraising campaign, and included an event co-hosted by venture capitalist Reid Hoffman, who was integral to the launches of LinkedIn and PayPal. Continue reading Feds Escalate Urgency Around AI, Biden Meets with Experts

ByteDance Video Editing App ‘CapCut’ Gains Traction in U.S.

A video editing app from China’s ByteDance is gaining in popularity in the U.S. even as the parent company comes under fire for its viral video app TikTok potentially threatening national security. App-tracking firms including Shanghai-based Diandian show CapCut has more U.S. downloads than TikTok in recent weeks. CapCut lets users quickly create online memes and videos using templates and filters that include music and visual effects. Users say the app helps them achieve professional-looking results that are more likely to go viral on TikTok, as well as Facebook, Meta’s Instagram and Google’s YouTube. Continue reading ByteDance Video Editing App ‘CapCut’ Gains Traction in U.S.

ByteDance Must Sell Chinese TikTok Stake or Face U.S. Ban

The Biden administration has reportedly come to the conclusion that ByteDance must sell its stake in TikTok or face the possibility of a U.S. ban. The decision comes as Congress turns up the heat on action against TikTok, which is suspected of compromising U.S. data and potentially manipulating news feeds to influence opinion. It follows a quiet, years-long assessment by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS), which The Wall Street Journal says “made the sale demand recently.” The Treasury Department, which oversees CFIUS, declined to comment. Continue reading ByteDance Must Sell Chinese TikTok Stake or Face U.S. Ban

How the DOJ Antitrust Publishing Lawsuit Relates to Amazon

The nation’s largest publisher, Penguin Random House, was in federal court this week to defend itself against the Justice Department, which filed an antitrust lawsuit to block its acquisition of Simon & Schuster. The DOJ has been increasingly focused on antitrust and is hiring more trial lawyers in preparation for an action against Alphabet’s Google for its dominance in search and digital advertising. Although ostensibly on trial for threatening to shrink the number of American mass-market publishers from five to four, the Penguin suit also involves examination of the retail power of Amazon. Continue reading How the DOJ Antitrust Publishing Lawsuit Relates to Amazon

Legislators Continue Their Scrutiny of Big Tech, Social Media

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) has introduced a new bill, the Digital Platform Commission Act, which proposes the establishment of a five-person commission to protect consumers in the Big Tech era. This, even as attorneys for groups representing Facebook and Twitter on Friday filed with the U.S. Supreme Court an emergency request to block Texas House Bill 20. The companies argue the law compels social platforms to disseminate propaganda and misinformation, including racist and pro-Nazi screeds. Calling HB 20 “an assault on the First Amendment,” the companies claim its implementation could undo billions in development. Continue reading Legislators Continue Their Scrutiny of Big Tech, Social Media

Clearview to Limit Sales After Settling Illinois Privacy Lawsuit

Facial recognition software company Clearview AI has agreed to limit U.S. sales of its identity database to businesses and other private actors as part of a lawsuit settlement. The case, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups, was filed in state court in Illinois, where the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) is considered the nation’s strongest data privacy law. The lawsuit alleged that Clearview routinely scraped images of state residents from the Internet without obtaining their permission or making them aware of the practice. Continue reading Clearview to Limit Sales After Settling Illinois Privacy Lawsuit

Amazon Closes $8.5B Deal for MGM, FTC Watches in Wings

Amazon completed its $8.5 billion acquisition of MGM late last week. The companies finalized the deal immediately upon expiration of the Federal Trade Commission’s mid-March deadline to object, though the agency let it be known that it can challenge a deal any time it finds cause. Amazon in May announced intent to acquire MGM, which has a library of more than 4,000 films and some 17,000 TV episodes as well as ongoing production in both areas. In August, a group of four labor unions collectively urged the FTC to quash Amazon’s bid. Continue reading Amazon Closes $8.5B Deal for MGM, FTC Watches in Wings

HBO Max, Discovery+ Will Be Combined into a Single Service

Discovery plans to merge Discovery+ and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max into one streaming service shortly after completing the acquisition of AT&T’s entertainment spinoff WarnerMedia. The news was shared by Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels, speaking Monday at Deutsche Bank’s 30th Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference. Wiedenfels said that the transition will likely take “several months” but “an interim solution” will be introduced “in the meantime.” “Building one very, very strong combined direct-to-consumer product and platform, that’s going to take a while,” he said. Continue reading HBO Max, Discovery+ Will Be Combined into a Single Service

Google to Spend $5.4 Billion for Cybersecurity Firm Mandiant

Alphabet has agreed to purchase cybersecurity firm Mandiant in a deal valued at nearly $5.4 billion. Mandiant — which services global enterprises, governments and law enforcement agencies — brings expertise that will fortify Alphabet’s Google Cloud with increased security at a time when businesses worldwide are focused on preventing cyberattacks. The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close later this year. The fact that Mandiant complements, rather than expands, Google’s sphere of influence should prove beneficial as Alphabet faces antitrust lawsuits from the Justice Department and U.S. states. Continue reading Google to Spend $5.4 Billion for Cybersecurity Firm Mandiant

Feds Mine Crypto Trail and Find $3.6 Billion in Stolen Bitcoin

Led by the IRS Criminal Investigation branch, federal agents seized more than $3.6 billion in stolen Bitcoin last week, resulting in its largest seizure ever. Tracking the 119,754 Bitcoin stolen in 2016 from Hong Kong’s Bitfinex currency exchange across several continents, thorough the dark web and many transfer schemes was an amazing feat that says as much about the skill of U.S. law enforcement as it does the breadcrumb trails left by cryptocurrency. Engineered to be traceable (some say transparent), blockchain does offer a degree of anonymity that makes it attractive to crime. Continue reading Feds Mine Crypto Trail and Find $3.6 Billion in Stolen Bitcoin

Microsoft CEO Nadella Details His Vision of Metaverse-for-All

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella thinks the metaverse will be transformative. “Just like the first wave of the Internet allowed everybody to build a website, I think the next wave of the Internet will be a more open world where people can build their own metaverse worlds, whether they’re organizations or game developers or anyone else,” Nadella told analysts on an earnings call last week. The remarks follow Nadella’s January 18 statement that Microsoft’s $69 billion bid for Activision Blizzard “will provide building blocks for the metaverse.” Microsoft expects the deal to close in fiscal 2023, which begins July 1. Continue reading Microsoft CEO Nadella Details His Vision of Metaverse-for-All

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

Treasury Issues Crypto Guidance for Sanctions Compliance

The U.S. Treasury Department has issued guidelines specifying how to ensure virtual currency transactions comply with the government’s sanctions policies, a move by the Biden administration to thwart ransomware attacks, money laundering and other abuses. The new rules emphasize using geolocation tools that block IP addresses from sanctioned countries, ongoing monitoring of sanctioned entities and individuals and periodic review of transactions involving blacklisted virtual currency addresses. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has had virtual currency rules in place since at least 2011, but this update gives the directives new teeth. Continue reading Treasury Issues Crypto Guidance for Sanctions Compliance