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Flipkart to Create 70,000 New Jobs in India Ahead of Festive Season

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By Reuters | Updated: 15 September 2020

Walmart’s Flipkart said on Tuesday it would create 70,000 new jobs and employ many more as delivery partners and in other roles as it prepares for a surge in online shopping during the busy Indian festive season.

Flipkart, Amazon’s Indian unit and Reliance’s fledgling e-commerce business are vying for a share of the booming online retail market, which received a big boost from the COVID-19 pandemic as more Indians used their smartphones to shop for groceries and other items.

Flipkart’s “Big Billion Days”, styled on the lines of Amazon’s Prime Day, rakes in its biggest sales for the year. The four- or five-day long sale usually starts around October to tap India’s festive season, which ends with Diwali.

The company said it would also sign up more than 50,000 kiranas, or small grocery stores, for last-mile delivery.

“While creating direct job opportunities across Flipkart’s supply chain, that include delivery executives, pickers, packers and sorters, there will also be additional indirect jobs created at Flipkart’s seller partner locations and (local corner stores),” the company said in an emailed statement.

Earlier this month, the e-commerce company launched an online wholesale service, Flipkart Wholesale, for mom-and-pop stores and other small businesses.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Amazon Prime Day Global Mega-Sale to Be Held on October 13-14

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 29 September 2020

Amazon on Monday announced the new date for its annual global mega-sale, which it said aims to promote small and medium-sized businesses despite accusations by numerous lawmakers and trade associations that the retail giant is trying to crush competition.

“Prime Day,” named for the Amazon subscription service that offers users free delivery and other perks, will be held on October 13-14, the company said.

Launched in 2015, the wildly popular sale is normally held in July but had to be pushed back this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Because of lockdowns, Amazon has faced a huge surge in demand for online shopping and delivery of household goods, forcing its warehouses and supply teams into overdrive.

In its statement, the group said it would spend more than $100 million (roughly Rs. 737 crores) in new promotions to benefit small and medium-sized businesses and help them win new clients.

The company has played a crucial role during lockdowns around the world, enabling people to stay at home by providing them with food deliveries, cloud services and entertainment on their screens.

In the second quarter, Amazon pulled in $5.2 billion (roughly Rs. 38,350 crores) in net profit, double the previous year, and in spite of the $4 billion (roughly Rs. 29,500 crores) it invested in managing the crisis.

“During the COVID-19 crisis, we hired an additional 175,000 employees, including many laid off from other jobs during the economic shutdown,” Amazon chief Jeff Bezos said in July.

“Third-party sales now account for approximately 60 percent of physical product sales on Amazon, and those sales are growing faster than Amazon’s own retail sales,” he said.

“Selling in Amazon’s stores has enabled hundreds of thousands of smaller companies to sustain and even grow their sales despite the COVID-19 crisis,” Amazon said in a statement.

Amazon’s dominance has been questioned by some lawmakers.

During a hearing in July on big tech companies including Amazon, Democratic congressman David Cicilline argued that Amazon’s dual role as both platform operator and a seller on the very same platform was essentially anti-competitive.

“These companies as they exist today have monopoly power,” Cicilline said.

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Google Says Will Block US Election Ads After November 3

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By Reuters | Updated: 26 September 2020

Alphabet’s Google will block election ads on its platform after the US election on November 3, a company spokeswoman said on Friday.

Axios, which first reported the news, said Google mailed advertisers saying they will not be able to run ads “referencing candidates, the election, or its outcome, given that an unprecedented amount of votes will be counted after election day this year.”

Social media companies have been facing growing pressure to stop carrying ads that spread false information and could steer election results.

Facebook also said it would stop accepting new political ads in the week before the election and would reject ads that seek to claim victory before the results of the election are declared.

Twitter banned political ads last year, while Google has previously limited the ways election advertisers could micro-target voters.

Google’s new policy will target ads that are explicitly election-related as well as any other types of ads that reference federal or state elections, or ads that run based on targeting election-related search queries, the Axios report said.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Google Parent Alphabet Settles Sexual Misconduct Lawsuit

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 26 September 2020

Alphabet on Friday announced moves to address sexual misconduct at Google and its other operating divisions, putting in place changes worked out to settle a lawsuit filed by shareholders.

Under terms of the settlement, the internet giant will spend $310 million (roughly Rs. 2,284 crores) on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and let employees use courts instead of private arbitration to resolve disputes over treatment.

“Over the past several years, we have been taking a harder line on inappropriate conduct, and have worked to provide better support to the people who report it,” Alphabet vice president Eileen Naughton said in an email to workers.

“Protecting our workplace and culture means getting both of these things right, and in recent years we’ve worked hard to set and uphold higher standards for the whole company.”

Shareholders filed a lawsuit against Alphabet early last year, not long after thousands of Google employees joined a coordinated worldwide walkout to protest the US tech giant’s handling of sexual harassment.

The company has since implemented policy changes and other steps to address concerns.

A practice instituted after the protests of not giving severance packages to executives fired for misconduct will be expanded to include those being looked at in pending investigations of sexual misconduct or retaliation claims, according to the settlement.

The shareholder lawsuit argued that Alphabet’s board and senior executives improperly awarded multi-million-dollar severance packages to several male executives accused of sexually harassing female employees, even after internal investigations found accusations to be credible.

The suit cited a $90 million (roughly Rs. 663 crores) severance package given to Andy Rubin, considered the “father of Android” for his role in the creation of the widely used mobile operating system backed by Google.

The suit said that an internal investigation confirmed sexual harassment allegations against Rubin, who has consistently denied doing anything inappropriate.

Some demonstrators who streamed across the Mountain View campus during the walkout in late 2018 waved signs bearing messages such as “Happy to quit for $90 million — no sexual harassment required.”

The protest took shape after Google said that it had fired 48 employees in the previous two years — including 13 senior executives — as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct.

The concerns at Google were part of a chorus of voices denouncing the existence of a sexist culture in male-dominated Silicon Valley.

In the email to employees, Naughton said Alphabet is setting up a diversity, equality and inclusion advisory council that will include members from outside the company, and outlined guiding principles being instituted.

Changes included refining Alphabet’s policy about excessive drinking of alcohol at work-related events to curb chances of inappropriate behaviour.

The settlement includes Google and Alphabet’s “Other Bets” divisions which include the Waymo autonomous car unit and Verily life sciences initiative, among others.

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Apple Tax Case: EU Appeals Bloc Court’s Rejection of Case

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 25 September 2020

The EU on Friday appealed a major setback at a European court that annulled a Brussels order that Apple repay Ireland EUR 13 billion (roughly Rs. 1,11,435 crores) in back taxes.

The commission “respectfully considers that in its judgment the General Court has made a number of errors of law,” Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, said in a statement.

The decision by the EU’s lower court now goes to the top European Court of Justice, with a decision expected no earlier than 2021.

The commission’s historic order that Ireland recoup taxes from Apple was delivered in August 2016 by Vestager in a shock decision that put Europe on the map as a scourge of Silicon Valley.

The iPhone-maker and Ireland challenged the order, which Apple CEO Tim Cook slammed at the time.

In a statement, Apple said it will “review the Commission’s appeal when we receive it.”

“However, it will not alter the factual conclusions of the General Court, which prove that we have always abided by the law in Ireland, as we do everywhere we operate,” it said.

The EU in 2016 accused Ireland of allowing Apple to park revenue earned in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and India and sparing it almost any taxation.

Brussels said this gave Apple an advantage over other companies, allowing it to avoid Irish taxes between 2003 and 2014 of around EUR 13 billion.

EU officials argued that constituted illegal “state aid” by Ireland.

“If member states give certain multinational companies tax advantages not available to their rivals, this harms fair competition in the European Union in breach of State aid rules,” Vestager said.

“There’s more work ahead, including to make sure that all businesses, including digital ones, pay their fair share of tax where it is rightfully due.”

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Flipkart Wholesale Expands to Ghaziabad, Meerut, 10 More Cities Ahead of Festive Season

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By ANI | Updated: 24 September 2020

Flipkart Wholesale, the digital B2B marketplace of homegrown Flipkart Group, on Thursday announced the expansion of its operations into 12 new cities, enabling a one-stop digital marketplace solution for the retail ecosystem.

Ahead of the festive season, the platform will now be operational in Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Mysore, Chandigarh Tricity, Meerut, Agra, Jaipur, Thane-Bhiwandi-Ulhasnagar, Greater Mumbai, Vasai-Virar-Mira-Bhayanadar, Thane (Kalyan-Dombivli), and Thane (Navi Mumbai).

“From trendy Jaipuri kurtis to evergreen Mysore silk saris, we aim to help small businesses embrace the digital transformation and emerge as more robust businesses,” said Adarsh Menon, Senior Vice President and Head of Flipkart Wholesale.

“We are excited to see our initiative contributing to the prosperity of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), kiranas, and creating lakhs of new and exciting livelihood opportunities in India,” he said in a statement.

By this year-end, Flipkart Wholesale also plans to expand into categories like home and kitchen, and grocery.

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US Justice Department Proposes Changes to Internet Platforms’ Immunity

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By Reuters | Updated: 24 September 2020

President Donald Trump met with nine Republican state attorneys general on Wednesday to discuss the fate of a legal immunity for internet companies after the Justice Department unveiled a legislative proposal aimed at reforming the same law.

Trump met with attorneys general from Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

Also Wednesday, the Justice Department, which is probing Google for potential breaches of antitrust law, held a call with state attorneys general’s offices to preview a complaint to be filed against the search and advertising giant, perhaps as soon as next week, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

It is normal for the department to seek support from state attorneys general when it files big lawsuits.

Critics have accused Google, owned by Alphabet, of breaking antitrust law by abusing its dominance of online advertising and its Android smartphone operating system as well as favoring its own businesses in search.

The Justice Department is expected to wait at least another week before filing the lawsuit as states review its case and decide whether to join, people familiar with the matter said.

The White House said the legal immunity discussion involved how the attorneys general can utilise existing legal recourses at the state level, in an effort to weaken the law known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects internet companies from liability over content posted by users.

After the meeting, Trump told reporters he expects to come to a conclusion on the issue of technology platforms within a short period. It was not immediately clear what conclusion he was referring to.

He said his administration is watching the performance of tech platforms in the run-up to the November 3 presidential election.

“In recent years, a small group of powerful technology platforms have tightened their grip over commerce and communications in America,” Trump said. “Every year countless Americans are banned, blacklisted and silenced through arbitrary or malicious enforcement of ever-shifting rules.”

Trump, who himself frequently posts on Twitter, said Twitter routinely restricts expressions of conservative views.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Justice Department unveiled a legislative proposal to reform Section 230. It followed through on Trump’s bid earlier this year to crack down on tech giants after Twitter placed warning labels on some of Trump’s tweets, saying they have included potentially misleading information about mail-in voting.

The Justice Department’s proposal would need congressional approval, and is not likely to see action until next year at the earliest. Unless the Republicans win control of the House of Representatives and maintain control of the Senate in the November elections, any bill would need Democratic support.

The Justice Department proposal primarily states that when internet companies “willfully distribute illegal material or moderate content in bad faith, Section 230 should not shield them from the consequences of their actions.”

It proposes a series of reforms to ensure internet companies are transparent about their decisions when removing content and when they should be held responsible for speech they modify. It also revises existing definitions of Section 230 with more concrete language that offers more guidance to users and courts.

It also incentivises online platforms to address illicit content and pushes for more clarity on federal civil enforcement actions.

Attorney General William Barr said in a statement the administration was urging “Congress to make these necessary reforms to Section 230 and begin to hold online platforms accountable both when they unlawfully censor speech and when they knowingly facilitate egregious criminal activity online.”

The Internet Association, which represents major internet companies including Facebook, Amazon and Google, said the Justice Department’s proposal would severely limit people’s ability to express themselves and have a safe experience online.

The group’s deputy general counsel, Elizabeth Banker, said moderation efforts that remove misinformation, platform manipulation and cyberbullying would all result in lawsuits under the proposal.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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