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Google Warned Against Limiting Search for Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Centres by Republicans

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By Associated Press | Updated: 22 July 2022

A month after some members of Congress urged Google to limit the appearance of anti-abortion pregnancy centers in certain abortion-related search results, 17 Republican attorneys general are warning the company that doing so could invite investigations and possible legal action.

“Suppressing pro-life and pro-mother voices at the urging of government officials would violate the most fundamental tenet of the American marketplace of ideas,” the attorneys general wrote in a letter Thursday to Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and its parent company.

The effort was led by Republican Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, and the letter was shared with The Associated Press ahead of its public release.

The Republicans took issue with a June 17 letter to the company from U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Michigan, which was co-signed by 19 other members of Congress.

That letter cites research by the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate, which found that Google searches for “abortion clinic near me” and “abortion pill” turned up results for centers that counsel clients against having an abortion.

Some of these places, known as crisis pregnancy centers, also have been accused of providing misleading information about abortion and contraception. Many are religiously affiliated.

“Directing women towards fake clinics that traffic in misinformation and don’t provide comprehensive health services is dangerous to women’s health and undermines the integrity of Google’s search results,” says the June letter, which was authored after the leak of a draft opinion indicating the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The court took that step June 24.

The Democrat-led group asked Google to address what steps it would take to limit the appearance of “crisis pregnancy centers” in its search results, ads and maps results for users who search for “abortion clinic,” “abortion pill” or other similar terms.

The group also asked the company if it would add disclaimers to address whether or not a clinic provides abortions. New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office also raised similar concerns in a June letter to Google.

The letter from the Republican AGs defends the work of crisis pregnancy centers. It notes that such centers often provide services such as free ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and parenting and prenatal education classes. It also argues that “at least some” Google users who search for information about abortion expect to find information about alternatives.

They wrote that if the company complies with “this inappropriate demand” to “bias” its search results, their offices would respond by investigating whether there had been any violation of antitrust or religious discrimination laws. They also pledged to consider whether new legislation would help “protect consumers and markets.”

“We trust that you will treat this letter with the seriousness these issues require, and hope you will decide that Google’s search results must not be subject to left-wing political pressure, which would actively harm women seeking essential assistance. If you do not, we must avail ourselves of all lawful and appropriate means of protecting the rights of our constituents, of upholding viewpoint diversity, free expression, and the freedom of religion for all Americans, and of making sure that our markets are free in fact, not merely in theory,” the letter said.

It asked the California-based company to respond within 14 days and explain whether it has or will take any steps to treat crisis pregnancy centers any differently than before the leak of the draft Supreme Court decision.

The AP sent Google a request for comment on Thursday.

Miyares, who defeated incumbent Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring in November, recently traveled to a Lynchburg crisis pregnancy center that was vandalized after the Supreme Court’s ruling, condemning what he called an act of “political violence.”

Google and other Big Tech companies also have faced recent calls for more stringent privacy controls to address concerns that information about location, texts, searches and emails could be used against people seeking to end unwanted pregnancies.

Google announced this month that it would automatically purge information about users who visit abortion clinics or other places that could trigger legal problems in light of the high court’s ruling.

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Amitabh Bachchan Wins Interim Order for Protection of His Personality Rights

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By ANI | Updated: 26 November 2022

Bollywood legend and veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan filed a suit in Delhi High Court seeking protection of his personality rights, image, voice or any of his characteristics without his consent, following which the court passed an interim ex-parte injunction in his favour.

Eminent lawyer Harish Salve along with Ameet Naik and Pravin Anand, instructed by Anand and Naik, appeared for Bachchan in the High Court. The matter was heard before Justice Navin Chawla.

Salve submitted that there is a complete misuse of Amitabh Bachchan’s name, image, voice or any of his characteristics without his consent.

“The misuse of his name, image and voice, especially by the mobile application developers, and people conducting lottery by illegally associating with KBC, book publishers, T-shirt vendors and various other businesses, has prompted Mr Amitabh Bachchan to approach the High Court, seeking a restraining order against the use of his personality traits,” Salve said.

The lawyer for Amitabh Bachchan also brought to the notice of the Delhi High Court that alleged infringers have illegally registered Bachchan’s name as web-domain names such as www.amitabhbachchan.com and www.amitabhbachchan.in.

Delhi High Court’s Justice Navin Chawla noted that the plaintiff/Amitabh Bachchan alleges a violation of his publicity right as a celebrity.

The court further noted that it could not seriously be disputed that the plaintiff is a very well-known personality and is aggrieved by the usage of his name, image voice etc without his consent.

“I am of the opinion that the plaintiff has been able to make out prima facie case in his favour. The defendants appear to be using celebrity status without his authorization, permission and consent,” the HC judge said.

Justice Navin Chawla in his interim order passed an interim ex-parte injunction in favour of the Plaintiff/ Amitabh Bachchan and against the defendants.

The plea stated that there is an infringement of the Plaintiff’s personality through various manners like digital means, instant messaging apps, physical means etc.

The digital means include several websites and mobile apps that have been found misappropriating the plaintiff’s photographs and/or other characteristics, to create popularity amongst the public and to entice members of the public to download such mobile apps.

The instant messaging apps include several unscrupulous parties that have been found using Bachchan’s photograph along with his name, and the representation of a TV Show Kaun Banega Crorepati (which is associated with Bachchan), to scam the public into believing that Kaun Banega Crorepati is offering lottery prizes to the members of the public.

The physical means include the cases where dishonest traders physically affix the actor’s images and posters on their places of business, on billboards or even on products that they engage in the manufacture and sale of, with the aim to unlawfully show a nexus/affiliation/sponsorship/association with the plaintiff, so as to boost their illegal profits.

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Amazon Said to End Two EU Antitrust Probes by Year-End to Avoid Fine

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By Reuters | Updated: 26 November 2022

US online retail giant Amazon may be able to end two EU antitrust investigations by the end of the year after tweaking concessions to address concerns over its use of sellers’ data, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Settling the EU investigations means the company will avoid a fine of as much as 10 percent of its global turnover.

Faced with charges of using its size, power and data to push its own products to gain an unfair advantage over rival merchants that also use its platform, Amazon in July offered to refrain from using sellers’ data for its own competing retail business and its private label products.

The European Commission then sought feedback from rivals and customers and subsequently said the company needed to improve its concession.

Amazon has increased the range of data which it cannot use, one of the people said.

“It is possible an EU decision will come by the end of the year,” the person said.

The EU competition enforcer declined to comment.

Asked for comment, Amazon reiterated that it had engaged constructively with the Commission to address their concerns.

The company’s other concession is equal treatment of sellers when ranking their offers for the “buy box” on its website that generates the bulk of its sales.

It has offered to set up a second buy box for a rival product if it differs substantially in price and delivery from the product in the first box.

Bloomberg was the first to report the possibility of an EU decision by the end of the year.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Google May Use Performance Management System to Lay Off Underperforming Workers in 2023: Report

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By ANI | Updated: 23 November 2022

Amidst layoffs and a slowing down of the hiring process being seen by large companies as an avenue to strengthen their revenues, global tech major Google has introduced a new performance management system, which could push out thousands of underperforming employees, according to reports.

As per a report by The Information, a new performance management system, which once implemented early next year, could make way for human resource managers to push out underperforming Google employees.

The tech publication also said Google’s managers could also use the performance ratings to avoid paying employees bonuses and stocks.

“Under the new system, managers have been asked to categorise 6 percent of employees, or roughly 10,000 people, as low performers in terms of their impact on the business,” The Information reported quoting people with knowledge of the new system.

In the previous performance review system, managers were expected to put 2 percent of employees in that bucket, the reports said.

Recently, some of the global tech leaders -Amazon, Twitter, and Meta have laid off thousands of employees.

Twitter head Elon Musk after having taken over the micro-blogging site was set to cut roughly half of Twitter’s 7,500-person global workforce.

Further, the New York Times last week reported that Amazon too was planning to lay off approximately 10,000 employees in corporate and technology roles. The report said the cuts would be the largest in the company’s history.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has announced that it was laying off about 11,000 employees, or 13 per cent of its global workforce. It’s the first mass redundancy exercise for the 18-year-old social media behemoth.

Reports also said Microsoft too has enforced job cuts.

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NPCI Said to Be in Talks With RBI on Implementing 30 Percent UPI Volume Cap Deadline

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By Press Trust of India |  Updated: 21 November 2022

National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), which runs the UPI digital pipeline, is in talks with the Reserve Bank on implementation of its proposed December 31 deadline for limiting the volume cap of players to 30 percent. At present, there is no volume cap. So, two players, Google Pay and PhonePe, account for a market share of about 80 per cent. NPCI in November 2022 had proposed a 30 percent volume cap for third-party app providers (TPAP) in a bid to avoid concentration risk.

In this regard, sources said, a meeting was convened to comprehensively look at all aspects. Besides NPCI officials, senior officials of the finance ministry and RBI also participated in this.

At the moment, NPCI is evaluating all the possibilities and no final decision has been taken to extend the December 31 deadline, the sources said.

NPCI has also received representations from industry stakeholders to extend the deadline and they are being examined, they added.

According to the sources, NPCI is likely to decide on the issue of UPI market cap implementation by this month-end.

NPCI in 2020 came up with a directive to cap the share of transactions a third-party application provider (TPAP) could process at 30 percent of the volume of transactions handled on UPI, effective January 1, 2021, which is to be calculated on the basis of the volume of transactions processed during the preceding three months.

NPCI has also received representations from industry stakeholders to extend the deadline and they are being examined, they added.

According to the sources, NPCI is likely to decide on the issue of UPI market cap implementation by this month-end.

NPCI in 2020 came up with a directive to cap the share of transactions a third-party application provider (TPAP) could process at 30 percent of the volume of transactions handled on UPI, effective January 1, 2021, which is to be calculated on the basis of the volume of transactions processed during the preceding three months.

The government later issued a statement noting that UPI is a digital public good with immense convenience and productivity gains for the economy, and there are no plans to levy any charges for UPI services.

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FIFA 2022: Madras HC Blocks TV Cable, Internet Service Providers From Streaming World Cup Matches

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 21 November 2022

The Madras High Court has restrained the cable and internet service providers in certain countries from telecasting the football matches to be held at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar from November 20. Justice M Sundar granted the injunction on Friday while passing interim orders on an application arising out of a civil suit from Viacom-18 Media.

The petitioner has made out a prima facie case for the grant of the injunction, the judge said. It is the owner of the copyright in the sporting event. It will lead to an irreversible situation and therefore, irreparable injury incapable of compensation parameter has also been satisfied, the judge said.

“Therefore, there shall be an order of interim injunction restraining the respondents herein or any other person or entity from infringing the copyright in the sporting event FIFA World Cup 2022 in any manner so as to prevent copying, transmission, communication, displaying, releasing, showing, hosting, streaming, uploading, downloading, exhibiting, playing and exhibition of the event,” the judge said.

For this purpose, if blocking of websites/web pages becomes necessary, the authorities concerned shall do so. The interim injunction shall operate for a period of four weeks, i.e., upto December 16 on the above terms, the judge added and posted the matter for further hearing on that day.

Earlier, the plaintiff submitted that it was granted licence and various media rights, including exclusive TV and radio, mobile transmission rights for the territories of of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and by the Federation Internationale De Football Association (FIFA) qua FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

In this situation, several cable and internet service providers are involved in illegal activities and unauthorised retransmitting, recording, streaming, audio-visual clips and full sports event that are transmitted by the plaintiff and such activities would cause heavy loss, damage and prejudice to the plaintiff. It has exclusive rights to broadcast the event.

It has invested substantial sums of money in acquiring the licence and exclusive rights, according to the plea.

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Google Fixes Rules for Inviting Guest Speakers to Its Offices After Recent Row Over Indian Speaker

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By Reuters | Updated: 19 November 2022

Alphabet’s Google this week introduced rules for inviting guest speakers to its offices, days after it canceled a talk by an Indian historian who has disparaged marginalised groups and their concerns, according to company emails seen by Reuters.

The policy released Thursday is Google’s latest effort to preserve an open culture while addressing divisions that have emerged as its workforce has grown.

Workers at Google and other big tech companies in recent years have clashed and protested over politics and racial and gender equity. Also, Alphabet, Apple, and Amazon all face union organising drives whose demands include that the companies adopt progressive policies.

The Google speaker rules, seen by Reuters, cite risk to the brand from certain talks and asks workers to “consider whether there’s a business reason for hosting the speaker and if the event directly supports our company goals.”

It calls for avoiding topics that could be “disruptive or undermine Google’s culture of belonging” and reiterates that speakers are barred from advocacy of political candidates and ballot measures.

“We’ve always been proud to host external speakers at Google, as they provide great opportunities for learning and connection for our employees,” Google spokesman Ryan Lamont told Reuters. The updated process will “ensure these events are useful and contribute to a productive work environment.”

An email introducing the policy to managers said it unifies and clarifies a patchwork of guidelines.

Greater scrutiny threatens the free-flowing, university-like culture Google has prized since its inception. But a workplace viewed as more inviting could attract a more diverse workforce that might help Google develop products with broader appeal.

In recent years, internal disputes spilling into public view led Google to increase content moderation on workplace message boards and cut the frequency of company-wide meetings.

Rivals such as Meta also have policies for inviting speakers.

At Google, speakers have included then-US presidential candidate Barack Obama, celebrity chef Ayesha Curry and former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Riled up

Disputes over speakers have roiled Google since at least April, when it said internal rancor prompted it to cancel a talk on India’s socioreligious caste system by author Thenmozhi Soundararajan, who advocates for people disadvantaged by caste prejudice.

Members of an internal Hindu group had complained about Soundararajan, describing her rhetoric as inflammatory, a charge she calls bigoted.

At least one of the critics suggested inviting for balance Rajiv Malhotra, according to an internal message. Malhotra, a tech entrepreneur turned self-described contrarian author, has labeled activists such as Soundararajan as “snakes” and criticised affirmative action policies that promote lower caste groups.

The Hindu group at Google eventually scheduled Malhotra to speak about India’s positive global influence, according to an invitation. But organisers canceled November 10, the day before the planned talk at Google offices in Silicon Valley, according to a follow-up announcement.

Some workers complained to senior management about Malhotra, according to a message soliciting complaints. A linked document organised by Alphabet Workers Union, a labour organisation that has been petitioning Google to name caste in its non-discrimination policies, noted Malhotra had described homosexuality as a medical condition and Islam as a destructive force.

Malhotra told Reuters he supports marginalised communities but opposes “politicising of bias in ways that divide societies and make them vulnerable to foreign colonisation.”

Allowing his speech after canceling Soundararajan’s would have amounted to a contradictory standard, according to messages between employees.

The new speaker policy states that workers “must submit a proposal and have it approved” by a “cross-functional” review team. Requests are due at least 12 weeks before an event.

“Await a response before making contact with the speaker and/or their representative,” it says. “Failure to follow this process is a violation of Google policies.”

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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