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Big tech companies abused their market position – US antitrust subcommittee report

Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook effectively monopolized key market segments

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Last year, the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary initiated an investigation into the supposed monopoly of “big tech” companies. These big tech companies include Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. The investigation reached a climax this year, with CEOs of these companies attending highly-publicized hearings regarding their companies’ market standing.

Now, the investigation has wrapped up. The Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law recently released a report detailing the investigation. In the report, the subcommittee found out that big tech companies abused their market position through monopolies and aggressive market expansion.

SEE ALSO: Everything you need to know about the congressional big tech hearing, Part 1 | Part 2

Key takeaways

The subcommittee report revealed key problems regarding big tech’s common business practices. All companies were found to be acting as an “exclusive gatekeeper” on “key channel of distribution”. That is, these companies acted as monopolies on market segments of their own products. Furthermore, these companies “charged exorbitant fees, imposed oppressive contract terms, and extracted valuable data” from individuals and businesses.

The subcommittee also found on its investigation that companies used their monopolies to maintain market position. Practices identified to maintain dominance include identifying key rivals, buying them, or copying their selling features.

The report also stated that these big tech companies are able to maintain further dominance by abusing their intermediary position. It even named the ways how the abuse was carried out: through “self-preferencing, predatory pricing, or exclusionary conduct”.

Further details about how each big tech companies abused their position were also included.

Facebook

Internal communications obtained by the subcommittee reveals that Facebook used acquisitions to cut off potential startups and business threats. The report’s finding suggests that the company’s growing monopoly towards social networking created further internal divisions. In an obtained memo, it was revealed that the company is more concerned with the “rivalry” between its platforms, specifically Instagram.

In the end, the report noted that Facebook’s monopoly led to the deterioration of its platform over time. This led to the neglect of privacy protections and the eventual rise of misinformation, the report added.

Google

For Google, its rise to dominance in search happened through a string of anti-competitive practices. Documents obtained by the subcommittee revealed that the company misappropriated content from third-party providers. When it became a monopoly, it injected search results with its own ads and content, effectively blurring the distinction between organic results and its own.

Other tactics used by the company to maintain dominance are exclusive contracts and diversification. For the former, the report noted how Google forced Android manufacturers to bundle their own apps and services as the default for users. For the latter, the company exploited market segments such as web browsers (Chrome), navigation (Maps), and internet-of-things (Cloud).

Lastly, it was concluded that Google used massive amounts of data from users to reinforce market dominance and capitalize further on its advertising revenue.

Amazon

For Amazon, the report noted that the company is now the dominant leader in the US for online shopping. Amazon’s dominance meant that small and medium businesses have no other alternatives for reaching out to online consumers. Over the years, the company also brought competitors to cut off any alternative online shopping outlets.

Worse, the subcommittee found that the company engaged in anti-competitive practices with its third-party sellers. Obtained internal documents showed how Amazon treated its partners as internal competitors. The company exploited its seller’s data to improve its own line of products — Amazon Basics.

The subcommittee further noted that Amazon has the potential for abusing the market segments where Alexa (voice assistance) and Amazon Web Services (cloud computing) operates.

Apple

The subcommittee concluded its overview of findings with a look at Apple’s tactics over the mobile market. The company exerts dominance over the mobile market and services, owing to the huge popularity of iOS and iPads. This dominance, the report notes, is apparent with the company’s leverage of the App Store in enforcing barriers and cutting off competition.

The maturation of hardware sales also moved Apple to increase sales of its own apps and services. This even compelled them to raise commissions and fees on the App Store, the report noted. Combined with absolute control over the App Store, the company effectively harmed consumers and businesses and reduced app innovation.

Moving forward

All of the big tech companies have individually put out a response in the wake of the findings. Unsurprisingly, all of the responses denied the report’s allegation.

Finally, the report also gave some recommendations moving forward. These recommendations are: addressing anti-competitive practices in the digital market; strengthening the enforcement of anti-trust laws and regulations; and finally, improving anti-trust regulations through other mechanisms.

These recommendations, however, do not recommend any concrete actions. It will be interesting to see how the US government responds in general to these recommendations. Perhaps, it could affect any future proceedings on anti-trust cases like the one facing Apple now.

Source: US House Committee on the Judiciary

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Dark theme on Google Maps finally available for Android users

What took them so long?

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Dark themes or dark modes have been around for years, and pretty much every major platform has adopted the design element. Google rolled out the option gradually to all its apps, but Maps was yet to get the new treatment.

On its blog, Google has confirmed that dark theme will soon be rolling out to all Google Maps for Android users globally. To check for the new option on your phone, simply head to the Settings tab of the app, tap on Theme and then look for the Always in Dark Theme option.

The dark mode is not just an adaptation of operating systems and apps to protect users. It is already an almost natural way to have an interface that consumes less energy and thus, becomes much more interesting to use. AMOLED displays consume significantly low energy, and the greyscale reduces strain.

Android has been at the forefront of this adoption from the start, and Google has done the same with its apps, albeit more slowly. Google says that all users should get the feature soon, and it may take a couple of days for the rollout to complete. For now, there’s no word on when Google Maps for iOS will get the same feature.

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Race For Water is a virtual race and fundraiser for clean water access

Raise funds when you run, walk, or ride your bike

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Clean water is a right, not a privilege. As per United Nations, the average distance African and Asian women walk to collect water is six kilometers, while carrying at least one 20-liter jug.

Waves for Water Philippines, in partnership with Takbo.PH launches Race For Water, in time for Women’s Month and Water Month. The virtual fundraiser is also tribute to World Water Day, addressing the global water crisis we are facing.

Runners and fitness enthusiasts can hit their personal targets through this online event while helping people along the way. This innovative race is designed to ensure social distancing and prioritize safety among participants and beneficiaries.

“I want clean water access for everyone, how do I help?”

Wherever you are in the world, you can join the virtual event, but entitlements and raffle prizes are open to Philippine residents only. To join, you can amp up your support by walking, running, and biking that extra mile.

Sign up at app.takbo.ph and record your progress using any GPS-tracking app of your choice. For every personal target hit, there’s a monetary equivalent. Waves for Water will convert the accumulated distance traveled by all participants into liters of filtered water.

Proceeds of Race For Water will go towards building a gravity-fed water system for an upland indigenous peoples’ community in Porac, Pampanga. This ensures they have water points within meters of their homes.

“When can I sign up and join the race?”

The Virtual Race starts March 1, 2021, and will be ongoing until April 15, 2021. To know more about Race For Water, visit the fundraising page.

Follow @wavesforwaterphilippines and @race4water on Instagram, for updates on giveaways, premium raffle items, and other side events. The event is organized in partnership with H&M Philippines, Aveda Philippines, The Bouldering Hive, and co-presented by TUMI Philippines, San Miguel Corporation, and Atlas.

For more information, visit Race for Water Virtual Run | Race for Water Virtual Ride.

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BPI Foundation’s Breakthrough app teaches personal finance through a digital board game

Your financial choices can either save you or break you!

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BPI Foundation, the social responsibility arm of the Bank of the Philippine Islands, launched its first interactive mobile game. Called Breakthrough: The Financial Choices We Make, the game aims to educate more Filipinos about personal finance in an entertaining manner. For brevity, we’ll be calling the game Breakthrough from hereon.

You can sharpen your financial awareness, understanding, and judgment — from basic to complex financial concepts. Saving, budgeting, insurance, debt management, investments, and retirement planning; your financial choices can either save you or break you.

Walkthrough

Breakthrough utilizes a board game set up like Monopoly, but instead of humans, you’re going against AI opponents. Players roll the dice which travels around the digital board landing on a corresponding tile.

Each tile presents common life events where a player’s decision can affect their score. There’s an opportunity to save, go on vacation, invest in stocks, or purchase insurance. You can even experience mishaps beyond your control like getting scammed, phished, or having emergencies such as car breakdown and home damage.

Overall, you can either amass or lose wealth depending on the path you decide to take. Whoever has the most assets, investments, coins, and highest net worth wins the game.

App development

The development of the app is the Foundation’s response to the World Bank’s study recommending the use of edutainment as a form of teaching financial concepts to the public, as stated by BPI Foundation Executive Director Owen Cammayo.

Apart from the board game, the app included a Financial Wellness journal, quizzes, and tips for players. Moving forward, the BPI Foundations plans to use the app in future runs of financial education webinars and other Foundation activities.

Moreover, the game is planning to scale up, further improving and expanding the gameplay. The Foundation, together with its partner Taktyl Studios, is working on allowing multi-player options, too. Breakthrough is now available on the App Store and Google’s Play Store.

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