Google rejects Australian regulator’s call for scrutiny, denies market power

Google has a 94 percent share of web searches in Australia. (Reuters)
Updated 04 March 2019
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Google rejects Australian regulator’s call for scrutiny, denies market power

  • The global giant was responding to recommendations made late last year by the Australian watchdog
  • Australia ordered the inquiry into tech companies’ influence as part of wider media reforms in 2017

SYDNEY: Alphabet’s Google has rejected calls by Australia’s competition regulator for tougher scrutiny of its operations, denying that it enjoys market power in online searches and advertising, documents published on Monday showed.
The global giant was responding to recommendations made late last year by the watchdog, such as increased scrutiny and a new regulatory body to monitor the dominance of tech giants in online advertising and news markets.
“The preliminary report bases many of its recommendations on the mistaken premise that Google has market power in search, search advertising, and news media referrals,” Google wrote in a Feb. 18 statement published by the regulator.
“Google faces fierce competition from other providers, including vertical search sites like Amazon, Expedia, Domain and Carsales.com, many of which users access directly through mobile apps.”
The regulator had said the enormous market power of firms such as Google, which has a 94 percent share of web searches in Australia, and their opaque methods for ranking advertisements, gave them the ability and incentive to favor their businesses over advertisers.
In preliminary recommendations that are subject to change, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) also said the new regulator should have powers to investigate how the companies rank advertisements and news articles.
Google rejected such a measure as “unnecessary.”
It said the regulator had provided no evidence that regulatory review of Google’s algorithms and potential recommendations for more disclosure about its news ranking would lead to higher quality search results.
“We support transparency for our customers and partners in a fragmented space, but we disagree with the appropriateness of price monitoring as a solution,” Google said in the statement.
Australia, which has passed laws forcing tech companies to help police access user data amid growing concerns about the distribution of so-called “fake news,” ordered the inquiry into their influence as part of wider media reforms in 2017.


India court reverses TikTok app restrictions

Updated 25 April 2019
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India court reverses TikTok app restrictions

  • It is already banned in neighboring Bangladesh and was hit with an enormous fine in the US
  • The case against TikTok was launched by an activist group that said the app encouraged paedophiles and pornography

NEW DELHI: An Indian court has reversed a decision that ordered Google and Apple to take down Chinese-owned video app TikTok over the spread of pornographic material, local media said.
The controversial but wildly popular app allows users to upload and share short 15 second clips from their phones and claims to have 500 million users worldwide — more than 120 million of them in India.
It is already banned in neighboring Bangladesh and was hit with an enormous fine in the United States for illegally collecting information from children.
The Wednesday ruling by the Madras High Court in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state requires the popular platform to prevent “obscene videos” from being posted.
“(The court) warned if any controversial video violating its conditions were found uploaded using the app, it would be considered a contempt of court,” a report by the Press Trust of India agency said.
On April 16, India’s government demanded Google and Apple remove the service from its app stores, though the order did not stop those who had already downloaded the app from using it.
The case against TikTok was launched by an activist group that said the app encouraged paedophiles and pornography.
India’s government told the court on Wednesday that they had formed a committee to suggest ways to regulate apps like TikTok, PTI said.
TikTok told the court that they had removed around six million controversial videos from the platform since the order was announced banning new downloads last week.
The app hit the headlines in India earlier in April after a 19-year-old man was accidentally shot dead by a friend in Delhi as they posed with a pistol to make a video on the platform.
TikTok has become a major rival to Facebook, Instagram and other social network sites among teenaged smartphone users in the past year.
Bangladesh banned TikTok in February as part of a clampdown on Internet pornography.
The same month, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said a $5.7 million fine ordered against the company was the largest imposed in a child privacy investigation.
The social network failed to obtain parental consent from underage users as required by the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, FTC officials said.