Antitrust probe of Facebook may be first step against Big Tech

Antitrust probe of Facebook may be first step against Big Tech
New York Attorney General Letitia James. (File/AP)
Updated 07 September 2019

Antitrust probe of Facebook may be first step against Big Tech

Antitrust probe of Facebook may be first step against Big Tech
  • The case may be the first in a series of antitrust actions against Big Tech firms

WASHINGTON: A coalition of US states unveiled on Friday an antitrust investigation of Facebook, the first of what is expected to be a wave of action against dominant technology firms.
New York state Attorney General Letitia James announced the action on behalf of seven other states and the District of Columbia to probe “whether Facebook has stifled competition and put users at risk.”
The case may be the first in a series of antitrust actions against Big Tech firms and highlights growing “techlash,” based on worries about platforms which control the flow of online information and dominate key economic sectors.
“We will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising,” James said.
Joining the action were attorneys general of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee, said James.
Earlier this year the US Justice Department said it would launch a “review” of major online platforms to determine if they have stifled innovation or reduced competition.
It was not immediately clear if the states would be working in coordination with federal officials.
Facebook offered no immediate comment, but in the past it has claimed it is not a monopoly and that consumers have many choices for how to connect with people online.
The new probe “shows how unease with large tech companies is spreading beyond Congress and the federal government agencies to the states,” said Michael Carrier, professor of antitrust law at Rutgers University.
“With each passing day, there are greater fears about these companies controlling our online lives.”
Yet the legal basis for an antitrust action remains unclear, said Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University.
“It remains to be seen if the (attorneys general) have any merit to their complaints or if they will be conducting a fishing expedition hoping to find some damning evidence,” Goldman said.
“Companies as large as Google or Facebook probably have minor problematic practices the AGs could target, but I’m still waiting for any evidence that would support more structural challenges to the Internet giants’ practices.”
A separate coalition of states was set to launch another antitrust initiative, with Google reportedly a target.
The office of the Texas attorney general scheduled an event Monday in Washington with a “broad coalition of states” to unveil a probe into “whether large tech companies have engaged in anticompetitive behavior that stifled competition, restricted access, and harmed consumers.”
Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said the company’s services “help people every day, create more choice for consumers, and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the country” and pledged to “work constructively with regulators.”
Maurice Stucke, a University of Tennessee law professor, said he expects one of the areas being investigated will be online advertising markets, which are dominated by Google and Facebook.
“This is a great area to look at because the market has been criticized as being opaque,” Stucke said.
Stucke said the investigations may go further by looking at how tech platforms control data, potentially examining “the intersection between competition law and privacy.”
Amazon and Apple may also be in the crosshairs. Critics have complained that Amazon wields too much power in online retail, and that Apple may disadvantage rivals offering services in its app store.
In the European Union, Google has faced a series of antitrust actions and Amazon is now being targeted by enforcers.
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has made a breakup of the big tech firms a part of her campaign platform.
But some analysts say the case against the tech firms faces challenges because the companies have in many cases provided services for free and brought prices down, making it hard to prove they harmed “consumer welfare,” a longstanding judicial precedent.
Jessica Melugin of the Competitive Enterprise Institute said the state officials are stretching the limits of antitrust.
“This sort of high-profile activism may benefit state AGs’ political ambitions, but impose harmful costs on consumers, businesses, and the economy,” she said in a statement.
But Stucke said it would be wrong to view antitrust law as solely focused on consumer prices, and that it may be applied to questions of competition and innovation.
The probes could end up with a variety of outcomes including fines, restrictions on conduct or a breakup, Stucke maintained.
“You’d have to show how the remedy would address the concerns,” he said.


Erdogan replaces Turkish trade minister, forms two new ministries

Erdogan replaces Turkish trade minister, forms two new ministries
Updated 12 min 29 sec ago

Erdogan replaces Turkish trade minister, forms two new ministries

Erdogan replaces Turkish trade minister, forms two new ministries
  • In a presidential decree Ruhsar Pekcan was replaced as trade minister by Mus, who has been a lawmaker for Erdogan’s AK Party since 2011

ISTANBUL: President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a prominent member of Turkey’s ruling AK Party, Mehmet Mus, as trade minister on Wednesday and split the Family, Labour and Social Policies Ministry into two ministries.
In a presidential decree Ruhsar Pekcan was replaced as trade minister by Mus, who has been a lawmaker for Erdogan’s AK Party since 2011 and served as the party’s deputy chairman in charge of the economy.
The decree, published in the Official Gazette, gave no reason for the change, but it comes after opposition politicians accused Pekcan’s ministry of buying supplies from her family-owned company and called on her to resign.
The Trade Ministry confirmed that the purchase of sanitisers had been made, but said in a statement on Tuesday the choice was based on price alone and not due to “the name of the company making the sale.”
It said that the sale, worth some 500,000 lira ($62,000), had been carried out in line with relevant regulations.
Erdogan’s overnight changes come amid speculation over a wider cabinet reshuffle, after he changed the country’s top economic management in November, including the central bank governor.
The president established two new ministries by splitting the Family, Labour and Social Policies Ministry into two separate ministries, according to the decree.
He appointed Derya Yanik as Family and Social Policies Minister and Vedat Bilgin as the Labour and Social Security Minister, replacing Zehra Zumrut Selcuk.


Saudi Arabia to raise $800m from privatization of two flour mills.

Saudi Arabia to raise $800m from privatization of two flour mills.
Updated 53 min 29 sec ago

Saudi Arabia to raise $800m from privatization of two flour mills.

Saudi Arabia to raise $800m from privatization of two flour mills.
  • The National Center for Privatization & PPP (NCP) said it completed the sale of the two mills (MC2 and MC4) to private sector investors

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is set to generate about SR3 billion ($800 million) in proceeds from the privatization of two flour mills.
The National Center for Privatization & PPP (NCP) said it completed the sale of the two mills (MC2 and MC4) to private sector investors.
A consortium that includes Abdulaziz Alajlan & Sons Company for Commercial and Real Estate Investment, Al Rajhi International for Investment, National Agricultural Development and OLAM International acquires the second milling company (MC2) for about SR2.14 billion, according to a stock exchange filing on Wednesday.
Meanwhile a consortium that includes Abdullah Al-Othaim Markets Company, Allana International Company and United Feed Manufacturing Company secured the fourth milling company for SR859 million.
Saudi Arabia is accelerating plans to privatize key infrastructure in an effort to modernize the economy, speed major infrastructure works and develop its financial services sector.


AirTag or purple iPhone? Where and when can I buy Apple’s latest launches?

AirTag or purple iPhone? Where and when can I buy Apple’s latest launches?
Updated 57 min 10 sec ago

AirTag or purple iPhone? Where and when can I buy Apple’s latest launches?

AirTag or purple iPhone? Where and when can I buy Apple’s latest launches?
  • Good news for Apple fans in the Gulf – all the new products will be available in the region as early as the end of April

DUBAI: Apple just held its first keynote event of the year – announcing new products such as a button-like accessory to help people keep track of their belongings, as well as updates for existing models including a purple iPhone 12.
Good news for Apple fans in the Gulf – all the new products will be available in the region as early as the end of April.
Here are the new products launched during the Apple event in its Cupertino headquarters, and their prices and availability status in the UAE:

AirTag
Price: Starting 129 dirhams
Availability: Pre-order starts on April 23; product is available on April 30


24-inch iMac (available in seven different colors)
Price: Starting 5,499 dirhams
Availability: Pre-order starts on April 30; product is available in the second half of May

Apple TV 4K
Price: Starting 729 dirhams
Availability: Pre-order starts on April 30; product is available in the second half of May

iPad Pro with M1 chip
Price: Starting 3,199 dirhams
Availability: Pre-order starts on April 30; product is available in the second half of May

Other announcements:
The new purple iPhone 12 has no other updates other than the color – it will be the same price as the other iPhone 12 models.
The new iOS 14.5 will be launched next week. It comes with the biggest privacy changes Apple will introduce so far, according to a statement.


More jobs advertised for Saudis by Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu

More jobs advertised for Saudis by Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu
Updated 21 April 2021

More jobs advertised for Saudis by Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu

More jobs advertised for Saudis by Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu
  • The Kingdom has stepped up efforts to secure more jobs for its citizens in line with similar localization efforts underway elsewhere in the region

RIYADH: The Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu (RCJY) has advertised 96 jobs for Saudis on its website, in Riyadh, Jazan, Jubail and Yanbu.
They cover administrative, engineering and health roles.
Among the advertised positions are a financial planning specialist, director of transportation and equipment department, director of buildings department, and director of public facilities department.
The Kingdom has stepped up efforts to secure more jobs for its citizens in line with similar localization efforts underway elsewhere in the region.
The Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu (RCJY) was established by royal order in 1975 to kickstart the Kingdom’s petrochemicals industry.


WH Smith to open at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah

WH Smith to open at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah
Updated 21 April 2021

WH Smith to open at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah

WH Smith to open at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah
  • Airport retail may rebound on travel resumption
  • Pandemic culls names across retail sector

DUBAI: British retailer WH Smith is coming to King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah.
Tihama Advertising, Public Relations and Marketing Company has agreed a deal with the General Authority of Civil Aviation to lease two units at the airport, it said in a Saudi stock exchange filing.
Tihama Education, a unit of the Tadawul-listed company, will operate two outlets under the WH Smith brand franchise, covering arrivals and departures.
Tihama has an existing partnership with WH Smith at Riyadh Airport and in the UAE.
WH smith did not respond to a request for comment.
Founded in 1792, WH Smith is one of the oldest names on the British high street and has also become one of the world’s leading travel retailers operating over 1,100 stores in 31 countries.
Retailers have suffered from the impact of more than a year of intermittent lockdowns worldwide but the transport-focused end of the retail business may stand to benefit from a resumption of international air travel.
Analysts at RBC upgraded WH Smith to ‘outperform’ from ‘sector perform’ last week and lifted their price target on the stock to 2,200p from 2,100p.