Category: Law

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Defending Gawker

What do you say about milk-curdling success? Dilbert-creator Scott Adams liked one of the tweets (posted by another team member) on our Frak That Twitter today. I am less enthused and disagree with Scott’s blog post spotlighting similar topic: Billionaire backing third-party lawsuit against a news organization; Peter Thiel’s previously secret assault on Gawker Media.

“Gawker’s business model is built around destroying the lives of innocent people to attract clicks”, Scott Adams writes. “How awful is Gawker? Imagine if revenge porn and cancer decided to get married and have an ugly baby with fangs. That would be Gawker. Pure evil…I see Thiel’s campaign against Gawker as a public service, and a valuable one”. I couldn’t disagree more

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Be Careful What You Wish For, Mr. Thiel

A report available today from Pew Research Center finds that 62 percent of American adults “get news on social media, and 18 percent do so often”. Those statistics should frighten new and old media, but more so critics like billionaire Peter Thiel, who bankrolled wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker; the blog and news site lost. Depending on the outcome of a court hearing, Gawker could be shuttered or sold, if forced to put $50 million in escrow during the appeals process. The amount exceeds yearly advertising revenues.

Thiel admittedly put up about $10 million, if not more, to support Hogan’s lawsuit and unnamed others. Destroying Gawker might seem like an enviable outcome for one of Silicon Valley’s tech elite—he is a PayPal cofounder and early Facebook investor—but, as they say, nature abhors a vacuum, which replacement isn’t waiting around. Social media increasingly fills the niche that Gawker vacates. 

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European Trustbusters fight the Android Army’s Advances

Once again, as it has done in the past, Google makes the classic monopolist defense for its competitive—or anticompetitive, depending on perspective—behavior with respect to Android. Yesterday, the European Union’s Competition Commission formerly charged Alphabet and its major subsidiary, which has 12 weeks to provide satisfactory legal response before the Commission issues corrective sanctions.

Simply stated, the EC finds that the company abused its dominant position, in part by contracts compelling Android licensees to preload Google apps and related services, including search. Microsoft ran into similar bundling headaches starting in the late 1990s with respect to Windows. Responding, Kent Walker, Google general counsel, claims that licensees and consumers can choose to install third-party apps. Microsoft made like-claims during its antitrust defense here and in Europe; they fell flat. 

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Tim Cook’s Defining Moment

Some documents are historically significant. They mark moments, comment on them, in manner demanding future citation and even use in courts or classrooms. That’s how I read Apple CEO Tim Cook’s “Open Letter to Our Customers“, about breaking iPhone encryption  His exposition spotlights seminal moment in the United States of America: Government’s further expansion of powers encroaching indiviuals’ rights to privacy and one company standing up and saying “No”.

Some people will scoff at my comparison, but it truly is what I see. Cook is like Rosa Parks, refusing to take a seat at the back of the bus—or in this instance behind one court judge and the FBI. Cook and Apple stand up for us all. I applaud law enforcement’s efforts to protect us from terrorism but tyranny shouldn’t be the means; taking away Constitutionally-given freedoms to protect them. Tim Cook is right. 

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The Android Army Rises

January 2010. Briefly, my attention turns away from rumors about an Apple tablet (true) and (then) Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s Consumer Electronics Show keynote. On this fifth day of the new decade, Google debuts a new smartphone. I see the launch as a watershed event—and order Nexus One for myself. Made by HTC, but codesigned by Google and carrying its brand, the self-described, so-called “superphone” is the stone that later sets off an Android avalanche sweeping across the planet.

Things that matter about the N1:

  • Google sells it direct, unlocked, with no contract required
  • Voice interaction is as important as, if not more than, touch
  • Operating system and core features tightly tie to Google search
  • Hardware is a baseline reference design for manufacturing partners
  • Platform provides software developers the foundation for making Android apps
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What’s Behind Android Antitrust?

I can’t confirm Bloomberg’s report that the the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department allegedly are beginning a joint investigation into Google’s Android licensing agreements. But I can explain what it means. Striping to the bones, from an antitrust perspective, there are two pivot points: Monopoly position and exclusive contracts. Then there is the broader regulatory agenda: Correcting (or preventing future) consumer harm.

Globally, Android is unquestionably a monopoly in the market for smartphone operating systems. However, its dominance in the United States is comparably muted by competition from iPhone. Based on smartphone subscribers, Android’s share was 51.4 percent for the three months ending July 31, 2015, according to comScore. iOS ranked second with 44.2 percent. By cell phone manufacturer, Apple leads the market, with the same share, followed by Samsung (27.3 percent). Android is leading but declining—down 0.8 points, while iOS is up 1.1 points, from April to July. 

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Google’s European Problem

Three weeks ago, Google filed its expected rebuttal to the European Competition Commission’s statement of objections released in April 2015. The EC alleges unfair competition in online shopping services.

My missive focuses less on the “what it is” and more on the “what does it mean”. Google blogged about the filing, but I haven’t yet seen the document. I choose not to source the blog, which is more about public relations. You can read the post by Kent Walker, general counsel, for yourself or the recap somewhere else. A Google blog recapping the filing is secondary to the legal document. 

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Responsible Reporting Section 2 ‘The New Journalisms’: Chapter II

The second of the five journalisms was a topic on this site long before becoming part of my ebook  Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers. First reference: “Process Journalism and Original Reporting” (July 2009). The concept closely aligns with contextual journalism, which is the topic of the previous chapter published here a week ago.

I wrote the book understanding that the intersection of old and new media presents an opportunity to develop more realistic reporting guidelines. The cultural and ethical differences too often set one against the other, which process journalism demonstrates. However, online reporting demands a different way of thinking about news gathering and what the so-called quest for truth really means. 

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‘Really, Rupert?’ is the Right Question

Today, Rachel Whetstone, Google’s senior vice president of communications and policy, asks what has been on my mind since a stunning scoop set the Wall Street Journal against the Federal Trade Commission and the search and information giant. As I explained in an analysis of the news reporting, the story is flush with insinuation and veiled accusation, bereft of context.

Among my more serious concerns: Journal-parent News Corp’s ongoing tug-a-war with Google’s business model and its impact on paid content. Both entities likely would benefit by any means that trustbusters could crimp Google. The scoop’s timing and tone look like they intend to influence European Union public policy. Rachel’s response is brilliant, because it gets to the point: Conflict of interest taints the Journal’s credibility and impartiality. She rightly observes: “We understand you have a new found love of the regulatory process, especially in Europe”. 

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Google, FTC, and Advocacy Journalism That Stinks Like Landfill

Mac apologist Daniel Eran Dilger posted one of his lopsided-advocacy stories around 8:30 p.m. PDT last night; I saw the ridiculous headline, “Google News buries news of Google’s FTC investigation under Daniel Lyons fluff”, about two hours later, when scanning my RSS feeds. The story within is even worse. Don’t bother rewarding the author with pageviews. Notice I don’t link to the story. (Since we have two Daniels here and out of friendliness I use first names, I choose for this story to refer to Mr. Dilger as DED.)

Here’s the quick recap: DED refers to a Daniel Lyons opinion that ran in an ongoing Washington Post series. I happened to see it last night: “Five myths about Google“. I could have picked better myths, but these aren’t bad. The Post story is dateline March 20, 2015. The previous night, the Wall Street Journal blew out a big scoop regarding the Federal Trade Commission antitrust investigation into Google that closed in January 2013, finding no case. The Journal asserts cause championed by staff but ignored by Commissioners.  Blech! The WSJ report is suspicious as all bloody hell, as I explain in March 19 analysis: “What is Behind the Journal’s Big Google-FTC Scoop?” 

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What is Behind the Journal’s Big Google-FTC Scoop?

Technology industry news scoops rarely offer as much intrigue as Wall Street Journal story “Inside the U.S. Antitrust Probe of Google“. According to reporters Brent Kendall, Brody Mullins, and Rolfe Winkler, the newspaper obtained a years-old Federal Trade Commission staff document, “after the agency inadvertently disclosed it as part of a Freedom of Information Act request”.

Seriously? Is that accidentally, or accidentally on purpose? Applying the question every journalist should ask about anything—Who benefits?—raises reasonable suspicion the release was deliberate. I say that because FTC staff recommended filing antitrust charges against Google, while Commissioners cleared the search and information in a unanimous vote, according to the Journal. The answer to the “Who benefits?” question likely lies in circumstances obvious and not: Intrigue in and around the agency, including staff dissatisfied with the outcome; timing with respect to Google; and competitor lobbying, manipulation, or interference. 

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Let’s Boycott Hershey Chocolates

Yesterday, I saw headlines about a forced legal settlement, involving the Hershey Company. New York Times story “After a Deal, British Chocolates Won’t Cross the Pond” says it all: “Let’s Buy British Imports, or L.B.B., agreed this week to stop importing all Cadbury’s chocolate made overseas”. Hershey insists that Toffee Crisp packaging too closely resembles Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which is ridiculous considering they are very different confections and presented in different shapes.

Same must be said about Yorkie bar, which presumably so resembles York Peppermint Patty that chocolate buyers must confuse one for the other. Of course! People mistake finger-shaped confections with circular patties every day. Don’t you? The argument for Kit Kat is stronger, given name and packaging. But the ingredients are quite different. Have you ever eaten imported chocolate bars? British Kit Kat is creamier—fudgier might be better word—than its U.S. counterpart.