Apple, Google’s Mobile Browser Dominance to be Investigated, Says UK Watchdog CMA
By Reuters | Updated: 11 June 2022
Britain’s competition watchdog said it was planning to investigate the market dominance of Apple and Google’s mobile browsers, as well as the iPhone maker’s restrictions on cloud gaming through its app store.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said on Friday it was also taking enforcement action against Alphabet’s Google over its app store payment practices.
It said the two tech giants had an “effective duopoly” on mobile ecosystems that gave them a stranglehold on operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices.
“When it comes to how people use mobile phones, Apple and Google hold all the cards,” CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said following the publication of a report on mobile ecosytems.
“As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the British tech sector and limiting choice.”
It said 97 percent of all mobile Web browsing in Britain last year was powered by either Apple’s or Google’s browser engine, and in addition Apple banned alternatives to its own browser on iPhone.
The CMA said it was concerned this severely limited the potential for rival browsers to differentiate themselves from Apple’s Safari, for example on features such as speed and functionality.
Apple said in a statement it had “created a safe and trusted experience users love and a great business opportunity for developers” through its ecosystem.
“We respectfully disagree with a number of conclusions reached in the report, which discount our investments in innovation, privacy and user performance — all of which contribute to why users love iPhone and iPad and create a level playing field for small developers to compete on a trusted platform,” a spokesperson said.
“We will continue to engage constructively with the CMA to explain how our approach promotes competition and choice, while ensuring consumers’ privacy and security are always protected.”
Google said smartphones using its Android operating system offered people and businesses more choice than any other mobile platform, and its Google Play app store has been the launchpad for millions of apps.
“We regularly review how we can best support developers and have reacted quickly to CMA feedback in the past,” a Google spokesperson said.
“We will review the report and continue to engage with the CMA.”
The regulator said it was also worried about Apple blocking the emergence of cloud gaming services, which allow high-quality games to be streamed rather than individually downloaded.
“By preventing this sector from growing, Apple risks causing mobile users to miss out on the full benefits of cloud gaming,” it said.
The CMA said its proposed investigation would further assess its concerns and could result in legally binding orders requiring changes to be made to Apple’s and Google’s practices.
The consultation on the proposed the market investigation reference will close on 22 July.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
Brands Could Further Pull Back From Elon Musk’s Twitter After Paid Blue Ticks Fuel Imposters
By Reuters | Updated: 2 May 2023
Twitter’s attempt to implement a paid account verification service has attracted imposters spreading misinformation, which experts said could lead major brands to further pull back from the social media platform owned by billionaire Elon Musk.
On April 20, Twitter moved to boost profits by removing the once-coveted blue check marks from accounts and charging $8 (roughly Rs. 655) a month to users who wish to buy a Twitter Blue subscription to retain their verified status.
Musk’s latest initiative was met with a wave of imposter accounts sharing harmful misinformation. Some organizations have already stopped using Twitter, including the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) with 1.3 million followers. Both AT&T Inc and Volkswagen AG told Reuters they had paused Twitter ads and had not yet resumed as of April.
Twitter has been hit by a massive decline in advertising since the acquisition but Musk told the BBC last month most of the advertisers are returning to the platform.
Data from outside research firms and statements from several advertisers show Twitter’s ad business may not be bouncing back that quickly.
“Twitter Blue is a mess. This is more chaos and confusion for brands who were already wary of impersonation. They don’t want to remain on a platform where they feel vulnerable,” said Jasmine Enberg, principal analyst at Insider Intelligence.
Since Musk bought Twitter in October and began making rapid changes, brands have been debating whether they should keep advertising on the platform. Enberg said Twitter’s removal of legacy checkmarks could prompt some companies to stop tweeting and maintaining their profile.
“There’s little incentive for brands to keep an organic presence when they think their brand is at risk, and especially on a platform where it’s not going to drive any meaningful impact,” she said.
Rachel Moran-Prestridge, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, said Twitter’s checkmarks for years gave users confidence an account was legitimate.
“Without this verification, users have to do much more heavy lifting to try to ascertain whether the account is who they say they are,” she told Reuters in an email.
In a move that furthered confusion, Twitter on April 22 appeared to give some high-profile users a verification mark.
Within the next 48 hours, all but 110 of the most-followed Twitter accounts suddenly had verification through Twitter Blue, indicating Twitter likely gifted the check marks, independent researcher Travis Brown told Reuters.
Neither Twitter nor Musk has commented on the return of the verification marks for a select few users.
An emailed request for comment to Twitter returned an automated reply with a poop emoji.
Reuters is a partner of Twitter’s Community Notes fact-checking project.
A fake account posing as Disney Junior UK, now a defunct TV channel, last week was issued a gold checkmark used for “verified organizations”. The Walt Disney Co told Reuters it contacted Twitter and the account was suspended.
New York’s MTA said last Thursday it “does not pay tech platforms” and would stop tweeting service alerts and information.
“The reliability of (Twitter) can no longer be guaranteed,” the MTA said in a statement.
Since the initial rollout of the Twitter Blue service in November, imposter tweets have spread harmful misinformation.
US drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co watched its stock tumble over 4 percent and was forced to apologize after a Twitter user impersonating its official account posted “insulin is free.”
Imposter Twitter accounts also tarnished the online reputations of Lockheed Martin Corp and Nintendo Co Ltd. Last month, Twitter told advertisers in an email that businesses spending less than $1,000 (roughly Rs. 81,855) per month on Twitter ads must be subscribed to Twitter Blue or pay to be part of the verified organisations program to keep running ads on the platform, according to Matt Navarra, a social media consultant who has worked with Meta and Mozilla.
Eric Yaverbaum, CEO of the New York-based PR agency Ericho Communications, said more brands are likely to pull away if Twitter does not implement a stringent user verification model.
“Brands have already stopped ads on Twitter, many won’t come back, and I have a feeling more companies will put an end to advertising on the platform,” Yaverbaum said in an e-mail to Reuters.
Some brands have already taken countermeasures against online impersonation by retaining the services of brand reputation management companies.
Social Impostor CEO Kevin Long said a number of factors attract online impersonators to a celebrity or brand.
“Just because you had – or will have – a blue verification mark does not deter the imposters from creating accounts,” Long, whose company took down over 8,000 bogus accounts across major platforms, told Reuters in an email.
“The volume of imposter accounts seems to depend on several things — Is the client doing a high profile event that week? Is the client in the news for some reason – good or bad? My experience is this is across all social platforms.”
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Amazon Faces Partial Outage as Thousands of Users Experience Difficulty While Logging In: Report
By Reuters | Updated: 14 June 2022
Amazon’s e-commerce services were down for thousands of users on Monday, according to outage tracking website Downdetector.com.
There were more than 11,000 incidents of people reporting issues with Amazon starting from about 1pm ET/ 10:30pm IST, said Downdetector, which tracks outages by collating status reports from sources including user-submitted errors on its platform.
The outage may be affecting a larger number of users. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In December, a major outage had disrupted the company’s AWS cloud services, temporarily knocking out streaming platforms Netflix and Disney+, Robinhood, a wide range of apps, as well as its own e-commerce website as consumers shopped ahead of Christmas.
Recently, Dave Clark, the executive who made Amazon into a worldwide delivery behemoth, stepped down as chief executive of the online retailer’s consumer business to pursue other opportunities, the company said.
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said he expects to name a replacement in the next few weeks and that the company has work ahead “to get to where we ultimately want to be” in the division Clark ran. Clark’s last day will be July 1, after 23 years with the company.
The departure further solidifies a changing of the guard at Amazon, which for years had veteran ranks under founder Jeff Bezos. A string of management departures including vice presidents and Bezos himself have shaken up the e-commerce and cloud company, though executives have aimed to maintain the customer focus and startup mentality of their founder.
In a statement on Twitter, Clark said he wanted to get back to building. “It’s what drives me,” he said, adding he leaves Amazon with “a solid multi-year plan to fight the inflationary challenges we are facing in 2022.”
© Thomson Reuters 2022
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