Tag: google

Who is Lina Khan, the new US antitrust watchdog?

Leena Khan
Leena Khan. Photo- Weikipedia

By Kristie Pladson

The new head of the US Federal Trade Commission has made a name for herself criticizing Big Tech. At 32, Lina Khan is the youngest commissioner in the agency’s history.

Just weeks after world leaders agreed to support greater taxation of multinational companies, US Big Tech firms now have another reason to sweat.

Last week, prominent Big Tech critic Lina Khan was sworn in as chairwoman of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Just 32 years old, Khan is the youngest US trade commissioner ever. Many are touting her as the agency’s most progressive leader in a generation.

US President Joe Biden appointed Khan to the position, which she will fill until September 2024.

The FTC is responsible for enforcing US consumer protection laws, including defending consumers from fraud and unfair business practices. “It also enforces federal antitrust laws that prohibit anticompetitive mergers and other business practices that could lead to higher prices, fewer choices, or less innovation,” the FTC’s website says.

As its chair, Khan will steer the commission’s focus, setting the agenda and appointing the agency’s staff.

An international past

The appointment comes at a time when both Democrats and Republicans are souring on Big Tech. Once considered the scrappy darlings of the American business scene, companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple are now widely thought to have gained a dangerous amount of unchecked power and influence.

Khan has spent much of her career criticizing tech giants for supposed monopolistic practices. As FTC chairwoman, she’s now positioned to have a potentially transformative effect on the US business landscape.

Khan was born in London to Pakistani parents. The family immigrated to the US when she was 11 years old. In her twenties, she spent a few years at a think tank in Washington D.C. before obtaining her law degree at Yale University. She then worked at the FTC and again in Washington, providing legal counsel for a congressional investigation into the powers of Big Tech. She helped author a 449-page report that called for greater regulation of these companies.

In 2020, she became an Associate Professor of Law at Columbia Law School in New York City.

Rise to fame

In 2017, the then unknown law student rose to prominence after publishing a standout paper in the Yale Law Journal, which criticized the lack of regulation applied to e-commerce giant Amazon. Titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” the paper challenged traditional interpretations of antitrust law which focused on securing low prices for consumers. Khan argued that Amazon’s ability to undercut competitor prices does not justify the overall harm caused by the monopoly that it creates.

“The ability to dominate one market gives companies, in some instances, the ability to expand into adjacent markets,” she said at her Senate confirmation hearing in April.

Data privacy advocate

Khan has said she plans to carry her scrutiny of the Big Tech players over into her role as FTC chair.

At the Senate confirmation hearing, she also voiced concerns over the harm data mining could pose to consumers. Targeted online advertising relies on user data, giving businesses a big incentive to collect it.

“In some cases, companies may think it’s worth the cost of doing business to risk violating privacy laws,” she said at the time.

The FTC has the ability to block mergers of corporations or influence the terms of such agreements. It can also take companies to court for violating fair competition rules, which the agency has the power to set.

The commission consists of Khan and four other commissioners — two Democrats and two Republicans — who vote on all major decisions and changes. The decisions must also be held up in court.

A friend across the pond

Khan’s appointment drew praise from many who have worked with her over the years.

“If she chose to be a doctor, she would have been a star doctor. If she’d chosen to go to Wall Street, she’d be running a very powerful fund,” Barry Lynn, director of the think tank Open Markets Institute and Khan’s former boss, told The New York Times. “I am thrilled that she chose this path because she has the ability to transform America’s political economy.”

Voices from the tech industry were less enthused.

“Lina Khan’s antitrust activism detracts from the Federal Trade Commission’s reputation as an impartial body that enforces the law in a nondiscriminatory fashion,” Carl Szabo, vice president of tech industry lobby group NetChoice, whose members include Amazon and Google, said in a statement.

Khan will have a powerful ally in Margrethe Vestager, the EU antitrust watchdog who for years has sought to rein in tech giants’ influence in the bloc.

With a similarly minded counterpart in the country where these companies are headquartered, Big Tech will be facing one of its greatest challenges yet.

Source- dw.com, 22 June., 2021

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Will Australia’s media framework code for Google & Facebook to pay for news content solve the issue?

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By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 26 February 2021: The passing of the Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020 by the Australian Parliament is a landmark law that creates a voluntary framework for Google and Facebook to pay selected Australian media houses for their content used on their platforms. Google already has moved in this direction and Facebook after its unprecedented ban on Australian content on its platform reached an agreement with the government, which agreed to some amendments to the then-proposed law. Facebook has, meanwhile, started restoring its services in Australia, but it is taking time.

The new law says it will “..establish a mandatory code under which registered Australian news business corporations and designated digital platform corporations must comply with requirements including provision of information and non-differentiation and may bargain about the amount to be paid for making available certain news content on designated platform services.” (Bills Digest, Parliament of Australia, 15 February 2021).

The controversial law was contested by big-tech saying Australia does not understand the business model they follow. Big Australian media companies have been seeing their advertising revenue shifting drastically to Google and Facebook over the years. The rationale behind the code is ” The Bill seeks to address a bargaining power imbalance that exists between digital platforms and Australian news businesses which was identified in the Final Report of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Digital Platforms Inquiry, ” says the Bills Digest, Parliament of Australia.

It now remains to be seen whether the new law will cruise the traditional media out of its revenue blues created by the rise of social media platforms. The new law is an outcome of the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry which took three years of public
inquiry and debate about the relationship between news media, audiences, advertising, and the platform companies. The issue is important and is likely to expand as at present Google and Facebook have a monopoly on advertising revenue and they are not considered media companies. So, media companies will and are in competition with social media platforms that deal with media content in many ways but are not media companies. In fact, there is much more to the story.

Interestingly, the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) are included in the news media code. But the ethnic media and other smaller media are not part of the code, despite widely catering to the Australian people in English and different languages and being very much connected to Google, Facebook, and other social media platforms. Are they not investing in news content being used and accessed through Google, Facebook and Twitter? This may look like a bit overreach attempt but is a potent view.

READ FULL DIGEST AND INFORMATION ABOUT THE MEDIA CODE FROM THE PARLIAMENT LIBRARY HERE.

News bargaining code remains essential to support small media outlets: MEAA

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BY SAT Newsdesk

MELBOURNE, 18 February 2021: The decision of Facebook to stop news through main Australian media outlets, after the House of Representatives passed the News Media Bargaining Code that will force high-tech companies to pay media houses for content has drawn a sharp reaction from the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), the organization representing Australian journalists.

Content deals reportedly struck between major publishers and Google in recent days should not deter Federal Parliament from passing News Media Bargaining Code laws this week, says the union for Australia’s journalists.

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance says the reported deals between Google and both Nine Entertainment Co. and Seven West Media are welcome developments, but Parliament must proceed with the bargaining code legislation to ensure that all media operators – including AAP, regional and local organisations, and others regardless of their size – are compensated by digital platforms for the use of their content.

MEAA Media Federal President Marcus Strom said the laws were essential because smaller publishers and broadcasters did not have the same ability to negotiate directly on relatively equal terms with Google and Facebook as did media conglomerates like Nine and Seven.

“The deals which have been reported in the past 48 hours only came about because of the threat of arbitration under the proposed news bargaining code,” Mr Strom said.

“Media companies have a moral obligation to demonstrate that the millions they will receive from Google will be spent on news gathering and not on share dividends.

“Any monies from these deals need to end up in the newsroom, not the boardroom. We will be pressing the case for transparency on how these funds are spent.

“But it should be noted it is only Google who has been willing to negotiate. Facebook continues to resist compensating media outlets.

“The news bargaining code is still needed to ensure both of these global digital platforms contribute to the cost of all the journalism that they benefit from, and that smaller players are also compensated for their content, especially community, regional and rural outlets.

“It must also be mandated that when media companies are able to negotiate commercial agreements with digital platforms, they must commit to allocating the funds to journalism, and not other parts of their organizations.”

Mr. Strom said the Morrison Government also must assure Australians that any commercial agreements negotiated by the ABC or SBS will not be used as an excuse for further funding cuts at the two national broadcasters.

The media code is yet to be passed by the Australian Senate.

Holistic reforms needed to address dominance of digital platforms: ACCC

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By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 29 July: Australia needs dynamic reforms to take care of the dominance of digital platforms, says the recently released report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The ACCC’s ‘Digital platforms inquiry – final report’ (June 2019) considered the impact of online search engines, social media and digital content aggregators (digital platforms) on competition in the media and advertising services markets. In accordance with the Terms of Reference, the ACCC has examined the implications of these impacts for media content creators, advertisers, and consumers, focussing, in particular, on the impact on news and journalism.

The report contains 23 recommendations, spanning competition law, consumer protection, media regulation, and privacy law, reflecting the intersection of issues arising from the growth of digital platforms.

A media release from the ACCC says: “During the course of its Inquiry, the ACCC identified many adverse effects associated with digital platforms, many of which flow from the dominance of Google and Facebook.

These include:

The market power of Google and Facebook has distorted the ability of businesses to compete on their merits in advertising, media and a range of other markets
The digital advertising markets are opaque with highly uncertain money flows, particularly for automated and programmatic advertising

Consumers are not adequately informed about how their data is collected and used and have little control over the huge range of data collected News content creators are reliant on the dominant digital platforms, yet face difficulties in monetizing their content Australian society, like others around the world, has been impacted by disinformation and a rising mistrust of news.

“The dominant digital platforms’ response to the issues we have raised might best be described as ‘trust us’,” Mr Sims said.

“There is nothing wrong with being highly focused on revenue growth and providing increasing value to shareholders; indeed, it can be admired. But we believe the issues we have uncovered during this Inquiry are too important to be left to the companies themselves.”

“Action on consumer law and privacy issues, as well as on consumers’ data,” Mr. Sims said.”

The ACCC recommendations include:

- Requiring designated digital platforms to each provides the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) with codes to address the imbalance in the bargaining relationship between these platforms and news media businesses and recognize the need for value sharing and monetization of content

- Addressing the regulatory imbalance that exists between news media businesses and digital platforms, by harmonizing the media regulatory framework

- Targeted grants to support local journalism of about AU$50 million a year
Introducing measures to encourage philanthropic funding of public interest journalism in Australia

- ACMA monitoring the digital platforms’ efforts to identify reliable and trustworthy news

- Requiring the digital platforms to draft and implement an industry code for handling complaints about deliberately misleading and harmful news stories

- Introducing a mandatory take-down ACMA code to assist copyright enforcement on digital platforms.

The report also recommends about digital platforms’ impact on Australian media businesses and how Australians access news, empowering consumers, protecting privacy, continued scrutiny of digital platforms and expert regulators and agencies to play complementary roles.

A BBC report says: “A 12-week consultation process on the proposals is now under way, after which the Australian government can act on it.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the regulator was currently running five separate investigations into Facebook and Google.

He called for “a lot more transparency and oversight” of the two companies and added that breaking them up remained a possibility.

Both firms said they would engage with regulators.”

“The Morrison government labeled the world-first findings “groundbreaking” and said Facebook and Google needed to be held to account for their activities,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).

The SMH further says: “The DIGI, the industry body representing Google, Facebook, and other tech companies operating in Australia, called on the government to assess the ACCC’s recommendations against an “innovation test”, warning about impacts on Australia’s “global standing as a place to invest in technology”.

DIGI managing director Sunita Bose said the sector was closely examining the recommendations to “ensure they don’t bring unintended consequences to all digital businesses and the choice of digital products available to Australian consumers”.

The full ACCC report can be accessed at – https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/holistic-dynamic-reforms-needed-to-address-dominance-of-digital-platforms

- The report has been prepared using the ACCC media release, BBC report and Sydney Morning Herald report as sources.

Wikileaks: Pak hoaxed by fake & dubious anti-India cables, papers retract stories

Pakistani newspapers have admitted they were hoaxed after publishing reports based on fake Wikileaks cables containing anti-Indian propaganda.

US diplomatic cables were reported on Thursday as confirming many right-wing Pakistani views and conspiracy theories about their regional arch-foe.

They claimed US envoys thought one Indian general was “rather a geek”, and accused India of genocide in Kashmir.

The fake cables are believed to have been planted by Pakistani intelligence.

The Guardian, a British newspaper which has all of the 250,000 leaked Wikileaks cables, said that an extensive search of the database had found nothing to match any of the claims in the Pakistani media.

‘Deep regret’
A spokesman for the Indian High Commission in Islamabad said they were “appalled” such a baseless story had attracted such wide exposure.

According to the fake cables, Indian spies were said to be supporting Islamist militants in Pakistan’s north-western tribal region of Waziristan and the south-western province of Balochistan.

US diplomats were also said to believe the Indian Army was faction-ridden; a “Bosnia-like genocide” was happening in Indian-administered Kashmir; and the Indian military was supporting “Hindu fanatic groups”.

On further inquiries, we learnt the story was dubious ”

The bogus messages also referred to the confession of Ajmal Qasab, the only surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, calling it funny and “shockingly immature”.

US diplomats were said to have referred to former Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor as “an incompetent combat leader and rather a geek”.

“His war doctrine, suggesting eliminating China and Pakistan in a simultaneous war front, was termed as ‘much far from reality’,” reported the News, a daily newspaper.

Another army chief had apparently been described as “an egotist, self-obsessed, petulant and idiosyncratic general, a braggadocio and a show-off, who has been disliked (and barely tolerated) by all his subordinates”.

‘Without verification’
The report also said that US diplomats had compared yet another Indian general in Indian-administered Kashmir to “General Milosevic of Bosnia with regard to butchering Muslims through war crimes”.

The News said on Friday: “On further inquiries, we learnt from our sources that the story was dubious and may have been planted.”

The English-language Express Tribune newspaper, a Pakistani affiliate of the International Herald Tribune, published a front-page retraction.

The daily said it “deeply regrets publishing this story without due verification and apologises profusely for any inconvenience”.

But Jang, which had reported the fake Wikileaks story on its front page, did not mention it on Friday.

And the Nation newspaper still appeared to believe the story, claiming in an editorial that the report had exposed “India’s true face”.

The hoax is said to have originated from the Islamabad-based Online wire agency.

The BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi says Online is known for its close links to the Pakistani intelligence services.

The agency gained notoriety in 2002 when one of its correspondents tried to sell a video of US journalist Daniel Pearl’s murder to US diplomats.
- BBC