Archive for the ‘Competition’ Category

Cases against Facebook are reportedly coming… when FTC decides how

November 30th, 2020
Giant monitors displaying the Facebook logo hang from the ceiling of an empty convention center.

Enlarge / All Facebook, no matter which way you look. (credit: Michael Short | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

After well over a year spent investigating Facebook, state and federal regulators are more than ready to start launching a slate of cases against Facebook, new reports say—that is, as soon as the agencies can agree on how they actually want to do it.

New suits against Facebook should come before the end of January, The Wall Street Journal writes. Both the Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of attorneys general for 47 states and territories are expected to take some kind of action.

The state and the federal probes are basically looking into two overall buckets of potentially anticompetitive behavior. The first has to do with Facebook's effects on other businesses that could or do compete with it. That's the investigation that delves into mergers and acquisitions, both large and small, as well as Facebook's behavior toward companies that refuse a buyout.

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Posted in antitrust, Competition, department of justice, DOJ, Facebook, Federal Trade Commission, FTC, google, Instagram, Justice Department, lawsuits, Policy, Whatsapp | Comments (0)

Amazon’s use of marketplace data breaks competition law, EU charges

November 10th, 2020
A sign outside an Amazon warehouse in Germany.

Enlarge / A sign outside an Amazon warehouse in Germany. (credit: Thorsten Wagner | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

Europe's top competition regulator filed charges today against Amazon, alleging that the company has abused its size, position, and access to data to gain an unfair advantage over the competition.

The European Commission's statement of objections against Amazon is centered on the firm's "dual role" in e-commerce, where it is both a retailer and also a platform for third-party retailers. As a platform, Amazon has access to proprietary data about all those other merchants' online business, which it then gathers and uses anticompetitively to get a leg up in its own retail operations, the EU alleges.

This is not just an infrequent or occasional lapse, the EC determined, finding instead that "very large quantities of non-public seller data" are available to Amazon and "flow directly into [Amazon's] automated systems." Amazon then allegedly uses that data to make its own determinations, "to the detriment of the other marketplace sellers."

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Posted in amazon, antitrust, Competition, europe, european commisison, European Union, Policy | Comments (0)

The tech antitrust problem no one is talking about

October 31st, 2020

After years of building political pressure for antitrust scrutiny of major tech companies, this month Congress and the US government delivered. The House Antitrust Subcommittee released a report accusing Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook of monopolistic behavior. The Department of Justice filed a complaint against Google alleging the company prevents consumers from sampling other search engines.

The new fervor for tech antitrust has so far overlooked an equally obvious target: US broadband providers. “If you want to talk about a history of using gatekeeper power to harm competitors, there are few better examples,” says Gigi Sohn, a fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy.

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Posted in AT&T, broadband, Charter, Comcast, Competition, Policy, verizon | Comments (0)

Solve coding challenges at online competition, Nov. 6-9

October 30th, 2020
Shozoku and ninjato are encouraged, but not strictly required, in order to compete.

Enlarge / Shozoku and ninjato are encouraged, but not strictly required, in order to compete. (credit: RunCode)

Annual programming competition is back again in its fourth year, beginning Friday, November 6. RunCode is a nonprofit organization staffed by volunteers working in their spare time and focused on providing educational opportunities for coders and infosec folks. The online event allows programmers of all experience levels to tackle a wide array of challenges, using any of 14 supported programming languages.

This year, the competition theme is "all things web"—which means that most challenges will have something to do with websites; although the "something" can vary pretty drastically, from user interaction to server log analysis. The event will have more than 30 available challenges, grouped into easy, intermediate, and hard, for competitors to find and upload solutions for.

For each challenge, competitors will be given a problem description, a sample data set, and an expected output to make the desired order and formatting clear. Competitors are expected to generate more test data of their own and thoroughly verify the correctness of their code against all the corner cases they can think of; solutions tested against only the sample data provided will likely fail the challenge. Uploaded code is run in a sandboxed Docker container and its output tested for correctness.

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Posted in Biz & IT, challenge, coding, Competition, contest, Programming, runcode, Tech | Comments (0)

Justice Dept. files long-awaited antitrust suit against Google

October 20th, 2020
Will the sun ever set on the Google empire?

Enlarge / Will the sun ever set on the Google empire? (credit: 400tmax | Getty Images)

The Department of Justice today filed a landmark antitrust suit against Google, alleging that the company behaved anticompetitively and unfairly pushed out rivals in its search businesses.

A company does not have to be a literal monopoly, with no available competition of any kind, to be in violation of antitrust law. The law is instead primarily concerned with what a company does to attain dominance and what it does with that dominant position once it's at the top. And according to the DOJ's complaint (PDF), Google did indeed abuse its outsized market power to tilt the playing field in its favor and keep potential rivals out.

"Google is the gateway to the Internet," Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a call with reporters. "It has maintained its power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition."

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Posted in Alphabet, antitrust, Competition, department of justice, DOJ, google, Justice Department, lawsuits, Policy | Comments (0)

Microsoft thumbs its nose at Apple with new “app fairness” policy

October 9th, 2020
Microsoft sign at the entrance of their Silicon Valley campus in Mountain View, California.

Enlarge / Microsoft sign at the entrance of their Silicon Valley campus in Mountain View, California. (credit: Nicolas McComber | Getty Images)

Microsoft this week adopted a whole slew of "fairness principles" for its Windows app store. The list of principles does look like a decent set of guidelines for both consumers and developers—but it also looks a whole lot like Microsoft is taking the metaphorical ball, throwing it at Apple's face, and daring their iCompetitor to make the next move.

The principles, which Microsoft listed in a corporate blog post, essentially promise that Windows will keep on doing what it already does with regard to app distribution, interoperability, payment systems, and everything else.

The first item, for example, promises that developers may choose whether to distribute Windows programs through the Microsoft Store or through their own competing app storefronts. This has always been the case, and it's why Steam, the Epic Games store, and every other Windows software distribution method exist. Windows also promises not to block an app from Windows "based on a developer's choice of which payment system to use" for processing in-app purchases which, again, is why and how both Web-based and app-based digital software storefronts for Windows exist.

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Posted in antitrust, App Store, apple, Biz & IT, Competition, microsoft, Policy | Comments (0)

Here’s what we learned from that massive House antitrust report

October 7th, 2020
The United States Capitol Building, the seat of Congress, on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / The United States Capitol Building, the seat of Congress, on the National Mall in Washington, DC. (credit: Omar Chatriwala | Getty Images)

Last June, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law began an in-depth investigation into four major firms—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. The subcommittee wanted to answer one key question: did Big Tech get big playing by the rules, or does it cheat to stay at the top? After 16 months of hearings, research, and analysis, the panel's findings are out... and the results look really bad for every company involved.

The tech sector does indeed suffer from abuses of "monopoly power," the subcommittee concluded in the mammoth 450-page report (PDF) published late yesterday afternoon.

"As they exist today, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook each possess significant market power over large swaths of our economy. In recent years, each company has expanded and exploited their power of the marketplace in anticompetitive ways," Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and antitrust subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said in a joint statement. "Our investigation leaves no doubt that there is a clear and compelling need for Congress and the antitrust enforcement agencies to take action that restores competition, improves innovation, and safeguards our democracy."

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Posted in Alphabet, amazon, anticompetitive behavior, antitrust, apple, Competition, congress, Facebook, google, house, House of Representatives, Policy | Comments (0)

Draft EU data rules target Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon

September 30th, 2020
Draft EU data rules target Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon

Enlarge (credit: Walter Zerla | Getty Images)

European regulators once again have the behavior of the biggest US tech companies—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google among them—squarely in their sights as they move forward with a proposal to reform how digital marketplaces and data sharing operate.

An early draft of the Digital Services Act, under consideration by the European Parliament, would not only require tech forms to share data with smaller rivals but would also limit the ways companies can use customer data they've already collected, the Financial Times was first to report.

Under the proposal, tech firms with the potential to act as gatekeepers "shall not pre-install exclusively their own applications nor require from any third-party operating system developers or hardware manufacturers to pre-install exclusively gatekeepers' own application," according to Reuters. The draft also mandates that gatekeeper companies will also not be permitted to use data collected on their platforms to target users unless that data is also shared with rival firms.

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Posted in antitrust, Competition, europe, European Commission, European Parliament, European Union, laws, Policy, regulation | Comments (0)

Apple apologizes to WordPress, no longer requires free app to add purchases

August 24th, 2020
Screenshot of App Store icon.

Enlarge (credit: Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images)

WordPress for iOS is a free app that connects to the company's free open source content management system, which millions of sites around the Web use for some part of their structure. WordPress the company also sells domain names and an array of personal, business, and enterprise Web hosting packages. Apple, unfortunately, seems to have mixed the two up over the weekend and briefly forced WordPress to add in-app purchases that it otherwise wouldn't have, so it could take a cut.

"Heads up on why @WordPressiOS updates have been absent... we were locked by App Store," WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg explained in a series of Tweets on Friday. "To be able to ship updates and bug fixes again, we had to commit to support in-app purchases for .com plans. I know why this is problematic, open to suggestions."

WordPress opted for the path of least resistance, as The Verge reported, and agreed to add paths inside their iOS app for users to purchase premium offerings including domain names. Because of the agreements developers make with Apple to have their apps approved for the App Store, 30 percent of any purchases made through the WordPress app after that functionality was added would have gone to Apple.

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Posted in antitrust, App Store, apple, Biz & IT, Competition, iOS, Policy, WordPress | Comments (0)

Epic files suit against Apple after Fortnite pulled from iOS App Store [Updated]

August 13th, 2020
<em>Fortnite</em> seen in the App Store on an iPhone on May 10, 2018.

Enlarge / Fortnite seen in the App Store on an iPhone on May 10, 2018. (credit: Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

Update 4:05pm ET: In a video message premiering in Fortnite's own Party Royale mode, Epic wrote that it has "defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming '1984.'"

The video directly parodies Apple's famous 1984 Macintosh advertisement, down to an Apple executive stand-in saying that users have "given us their songs, their labor, their dreams. In exchange we have taken our tribute, our profits, our control. This power is ours and ours alone. We shall prevail."

The movie ends with the hashtag #FreeFortnite.

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Posted in Android, antitrust, App Store, apple, Biz & IT, Competition, epic, Epic Games, fortnite, Gaming & Culture, google, google play, in-app purchases, iOS, Policy | Comments (0)