UK needs to meet Facebook, Google competition with new rules — report

In this Jan.31, 2019 file photo, a trunk full of fake bank notes is displayed as activists from anti-globalization organisation Attac stage a protest at Google's Paris headquarters to criticize the company's tax evasion policies, in Paris. (AP)
Updated 13 March 2019
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UK needs to meet Facebook, Google competition with new rules — report

  • France, Italy, Britain and Spain have also proposed new digital taxes to narrow loopholes that allow large multinational firms to cut tax bills
LONDON: Britain needs to overhaul its competition rules to tackle the dominance of tech giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon, and increase consumer choice, a government review said on Wednesday.
A new competition unit with expertise in the sector should be set up, the independent review said, and innovation should be encouraged by giving people control over their own data so they could switch between rival services and platforms easily.
Smaller companies should also have access to the data that social media platforms hold on their users, it recommended.
Big tech has been criticized by politicians in the United States and in Europe in recent years over issues ranging from Facebook losing track of users’ data to how Google ranks the results of searches.
France, Italy, Britain and Spain have also proposed new digital taxes to narrow loopholes that allow large multinational firms to cut tax bills.
Harvard professor Jason Furman, who chaired the British government review, said the digital sector had created substantial benefits but they had come at the cost of the increasing dominance of a few companies.
“My panel is outlining a balanced proposal to give people more control over their data, give small businesses more of a chance to enter and thrive, and create more predictability for the large digital companies,” he said on Wednesday.
“These recommendations will deliver an economic boost driven by UK tech start-ups and innovation that will give consumers greater choice and protection.”
UK finance minister Philip Hammond, who will deliver a half-yearly update on the budget later on Wednesday, said he would set out government measures to ensure digital markets are competitive later this year.
TechUK, which represents more than 900 tech companies that collectively employ 700,000 people, said the report contained some positive suggestions, but it needed further detail on what any proposed code of conduct for big tech might look like.
It also said there had to be a full assessment of the risks and benefits of opening up data sets.
“Bad regulation can be as big a barrier to competition and innovation as monopoliztic activities,” TechUK CEO Julian David said.
“The UK must remain a welcoming place for digital business from around the world, and ensure that the UK competition and wider regulatory framework is not in conflict with the other leading digital economies with which we must compete.”


First artificial intelligence Google Doodle features Bach

Updated 22 March 2019
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First artificial intelligence Google Doodle features Bach

  • Google says the Doodle uses machine learning to “harmonize the custom melody into Bach’s signature music style”
  • Bach’s chorales were known for having four voices carrying their own melodic line

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California: Google is celebrating composer Johann Sebastian Bach with its first artificial intelligence-powered Doodle.
Thursday’s animated Google Doodle shows the composer playing an organ in celebration of his March 21, 1685, birthday under the old Julian calendar. It encourages users to compose their own two-measure melody.
Google says the Doodle uses machine learning to “harmonize the custom melody into Bach’s signature music style.” Bach’s chorales were known for having four voices carrying their own melodic line.
To develop the AI Doodle, Google teams created a machine-learning model that was trained on 306 of Bach’s chorale harmonizations. Another team worked to allow machine learning to occur within the web browser instead of on its servers.
The Doodle will prompt users who are unsure of how to interact with the animated graphic.