US House panel pushes legislation targeting Big Tech’s power

A US House panel pushed ahead on Wednesday with ambitious legislation that could curb the market power of tech giants Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
A US House panel pushed ahead on Wednesday with ambitious legislation that could curb the market power of tech giants Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Short Url
Updated 24 June 2021

US House panel pushes legislation targeting Big Tech’s power

A US House panel pushed ahead on Wednesday with ambitious legislation that could curb the market power of tech giants Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Legislation could curb market power of tech giants

WASHINGTON: A US House panel pushed ahead on Wednesday with ambitious legislation that could curb the market power of tech giants Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple, and force them to sever their dominant platforms from their other lines of business.

Conservative Republican lawmakers haggled over legislative language and pushed concerns of perceived anti-conservative bias in online platforms, but could not halt the bipartisan momentum behind the package.

The drafting session and votes by the House Judiciary Committee are initial steps in what promises to be a strenuous slog through Congress.

Many Republican lawmakers denounce the market dominance of Big Tech but do not support a wholesale revamp of the antitrust laws.

Work on the massive bipartisan legislation stretched into the night. The session pushed beyond the 12-hour mark as lengthy debate ensued over a complex bill that would require online platforms to allow users to communicate directly with users on rival services.

Proponents said the measure would also give consumers more power to determine how and with whom their personal data is shared.

Earlier, the Democratic-majority committee made quick work of arguably the least controversial bills in the package, which were approved over Republican objections.

A measure that would increase the budget of the Federal Trade Commission drew Republican conservatives’ ire as an avenue toward amplified power for the agency.

The legislation, passed 29-12 and sent to the full US House, would increase filing fees for proposed tech mergers worth more than $500 million, and cut the fees for those under that level.

A second bill would give states greater powers over companies in determining the courts in which to prosecute tech antitrust cases.

Many state attorneys general have pursued antitrust cases against big tech companies, and many states joined with the US Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in their antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook, respectively, last year. The measure drew many Republican votes and was approved 34-7.

The advance of the legislation comes as the tech giants are already smarting under federal investigations, epic antitrust lawsuits, near-constant condemnation from politicians of both parties, and a newly installed head of the powerful FTC who is a fierce critic of the industry.

The legislative package, led by industry critic Rep. David Cicilline, targets the companies’ structure and could point toward breaking them up, a dramatic step for Congress to take against a powerful industry whose products are woven into everyday life.

If such steps were mandated, they could bring the biggest changes to the industry since the federal government’s landmark case against Microsoft some 20 years ago.

The Democratic lawmakers championing the proposals reaffirmed the case for curbing Big Tech as the committee began digging into the legislation.

It “will pave the way for a stronger economy and a stronger democracy for the American people by reining in anti-competitive abuses of the most dominant firms online,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the Judiciary Committee chair.

“Each bill is an essential part of a bipartisan plan to level the playing field for innovators, entrepreneurs and startups — and to bring the benefits of increased innovation and choice to American consumers.”

Conservative Republicans laid down their markers. They insisted that the proposed legislation does not truly attack anti-competitive abuses by the tech industry because it fails to address anti-conservative bias on its social media platforms.

And they previewed a fight over legislative definitions. The legislation as drafted would apply to online platforms with 50 million or more monthly active users, annual sales or market value of over $600 billion, and a role as “a critical trading partner.”

The new proposals “make it worse,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, the panel’s senior Republican. “They don’t break up Big Tech. They don’t stop censorship.”

The legislation’s definition of which online platforms would fall under stricter antitrust standards could mean that companies such as Microsoft, Walmart and Visa would soon be included, Jordan suggested. “Who knows where it will end?” he said.

President Joe Biden’s surprise move last week elevating antitrust legal scholar Lina Khan to head the FTC was a clear signal of a tough stance toward the tech giants. It was top of mind for the conservative Republicans objecting to the new legislation.

Khan played a key role in the Judiciary Committee’s sweeping 2019-20 investigation of the tech giants’ market power.

The four companies deny abusing their dominant market position, and assert that improper intervention in the market through legislation would hurt small businesses and consumers.

Lauded as engines of innovation, the Silicon Valley giants for decades enjoyed minimal regulation and star status in Washington, with a notable coziness during the Obama administration, when Biden was vice president.

The industry’s fortunes abruptly reversed about two years ago when the companies came under intense federal scrutiny, a searing congressional investigation, and growing public criticism over issues of competition, consumer privacy and hate speech.

Biden said as a presidential candidate that dismantling the big tech companies should be considered.

He also has said he wants to see changes to the social media companies’ long-held legal protections for speech on their platforms.

The legislative proposals would also prohibit the tech giants from favoring their own products and services over competitors on their platforms.

The legislation was informed by the 15-month Judiciary antitrust investigation, led by Cicilline, which concluded that the four tech giants have abused their market power by charging excessive fees, imposing tough contract terms, and extracting valuable data from individuals and businesses that rely on them.

The legislation also would make it tougher for the giant tech companies to snap up competitors in mergers, which they have completed by scores in recent years.

Democrats control the House, but they would need to garner significant Republican support in the Senate for legislation to pass.

The chamber is split 50-50, with the Democrats’ one-vote margin depending on Vice President Kamala Harris being the tiebreaker.


AlUla features on Samsung’s global content platforms

AlUla features on Samsung’s global content platforms
Updated 31 min 33 sec ago

AlUla features on Samsung’s global content platforms

AlUla features on Samsung’s global content platforms
  • AlUla, in northwest Saudi Arabia, is known for its exceptional natural and cultural heritage

RIYADH: Saudi heritage and cultural destination AlUla are being featured on Samsung’s television lineup around the world this year.

The high-profile exposure on the electronic giant’s global content platforms comes as part of an agreement between Samsung and the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU).

AlUla, in northwest Saudi Arabia, is known for its exceptional natural and cultural heritage and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra, abandoned Hijaz railway station, AlUla Old Town, and Elephant Rock formation are all currently featuring on Samsung’s new ambient 2021 TV app with five artworks and four cinemagraphs.

The AlUla images are also being showcased in demo mode at 20,000 retail outlets in 62 countries around the world.

Additionally, Samsung Galaxy phone owners will be able to choose from AlUla’s stunning desert landscapes including aerials views of the 20-kilometer green oasis and Nabataean tombs, as wallpaper.

The agreement forms part of an ongoing activity between the RCU and Samsung, which is to include a photography competition launched by a group of Samsung influencers who will be visiting AlUla this summer to take pictures through Samsung’s #withGalaxy lens.

With travel starting to resume around the world as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions are eased, Phillip Jones, the RCU’s chief management and marketing officer, said the timing was perfect.

“As an unexplored destination to most people around the world, the exposure that AlUla will achieve through our initiatives with Samsung is unprecedented. We are excited to work with such an innovative brand and hope to continue developing interesting ideas as the past of AlUla connects with the future of tech,” he added.

Hyung Bin Joo, managing director of Samsung Saudi, said: “At the forefront of Saudi Vision 2030, AlUla is a destination with captivating sceneries and a deep-rooted heritage.

“Samsung’s collaboration with AlUla enables our consumers around the world to experience AlUla, Saudi Arabia’s hidden gem, on our latest Samsung TVs with ambient mode.”

AlUla has already received considerable regional and international recognition through events such as Extreme E which staged its first race there. Additionally, the RCU’s film department has signed agreements to shoot three flicks in the governorate — an American and two Saudi movies.

Jones said: “We know people are itching to travel and we also know that as a new and unexpected destination with vast open spaces and deep rich heritage and culture, AlUla will be an exciting prospect for many.”


Rotana signs media partnership deal with Sawt Beirut International, Lebanon’s LBC

Rotana signs media partnership deal with Sawt Beirut International, Lebanon’s LBC
Updated 01 August 2021

Rotana signs media partnership deal with Sawt Beirut International, Lebanon’s LBC

Rotana signs media partnership deal with Sawt Beirut International, Lebanon’s LBC
  • The agreement was signed by Abdullah Al-Shabana, head of the TV sector at Rotana Channels Group, and Jerry Maher, executive director of Sawt Beirut International
  • Maher said the partnership is an opportunity to promote free media in the Arab world

LONDON: Rotana Channels Group on Sunday penned a strategic media partnership with Lebanese channel LBC and Sawt Beirut International, which broadcasts online a wide range of Lebanese programs specializing in arts, music and entertainment.
The agreement was signed by Abdullah Al-Shabana, head of the TV sector at Rotana Channels Group, and Jerry Maher, executive director of Sawt Beirut International.
The partnership includes broadcasting Sawt Beirut International talk shows, entertainment, youth and medical programs on LBC, as well as new programs that will be launched soon. Maher said the partnership is an opportunity to promote free media in the Arab world.
The Rotana radio and TV network provides entertainment, artistic and cultural content for Arab audiences.


YouTube suspends Sky News Australia channel over COVID-19 ‘misinformation’

YouTube suspends Sky News Australia channel over COVID-19 ‘misinformation’
Updated 01 August 2021

YouTube suspends Sky News Australia channel over COVID-19 ‘misinformation’

YouTube suspends Sky News Australia channel over COVID-19 ‘misinformation’
  • Move comes after a review of posts uploaded by the Rupert Murdoch-owned TV channel
  • With 1.86 million YouTube subscribers, the channel has a conservative following well beyond Australia

SYDNEY: YouTube said Sunday it had barred Sky News Australia from uploading new content for one week, citing concerns about COVID-19 misinformation.
The move comes after a review of posts uploaded by the Rupert Murdoch-owned TV channel, which has a substantial online presence.
“We have clear and established COVID-19 medical misinformation policies... to prevent the spread of COVID-19 misinformation that could cause real-world harm,” a YouTube statement said.
With 1.86 million YouTube subscribers, the channel — which is owned by a subsidiary of Murdoch’s News Corp. — has a conservative following well beyond Australia.
Its posts, including some questioning whether there is a pandemic and the efficacy of vaccines, are widely shared on social media forums around the world that spread virus and vaccine misinformation.
The last YouTube upload, from three days ago, features a host claiming that lockdowns have failed and criticizing state authorities for extending Sydney’s current stay-at-home orders.
Sky News confirmed the temporary ban and a spokesperson said “we support broad discussion and debate on a wide range of topics and perspectives which is vital to any democracy.”
“We take our commitment to meeting editorial and community expectations seriously.”
YouTube has a “three strikes” policy on violations, with the first resulting in a one-week suspension, a second strike within 90 days producing a two-week ban, while a third means permanent removal from the platform.
Former US president Donald Trump was temporarily banned under the policy.
YouTube is owned by Google parent company Alphabet.


SRMG hosts US delegation, discusses media issues

SRMG’s chairman of the board of directors, Abdulrahman Ibrahim Al-Ruwaita, received the delegation. (Supplied)
SRMG’s chairman of the board of directors, Abdulrahman Ibrahim Al-Ruwaita, received the delegation. (Supplied)
Updated 30 July 2021

SRMG hosts US delegation, discusses media issues

SRMG’s chairman of the board of directors, Abdulrahman Ibrahim Al-Ruwaita, received the delegation. (Supplied)
  • The meeting included an introduction about SRMG’s work, its new identity and future plans, and the leading role it plays in the Arab media

RIYADH: The Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG) recently hosted an American delegation from the Middle East Institute headed by president Dr. Paul Salem.

SRMG’s chairman of the board of directors, Abdulrahman Ibrahim Al-Ruwaita, received the delegation in the presence of a number of the group’s leaders and some editors-in-chief of the group’s publications and platforms.

The meeting, which included elite members of the institute’s board of directors, experts, consultants and former US ambassadors, was an opportunity to discuss international media issues and the future of media.

The meeting included an introduction about SRMG’s work, its new identity and future plans, and the leading role it plays in the Arab media.

Topics related to developments in research, studies, publishing, content and technical progress in the media sector were also discussed.

 


Global advertising agency expands roles of 3 regional leaders

Alex Lubar (L), president of McCann Worldgroup APAC - Ghassan Harfouche, group chief executive officer of the Middle East Communications Network - Ji Watson, chief financial officer of McCann Worldgroup APAC. (Supplied)
Alex Lubar (L), president of McCann Worldgroup APAC - Ghassan Harfouche, group chief executive officer of the Middle East Communications Network - Ji Watson, chief financial officer of McCann Worldgroup APAC. (Supplied)
Updated 30 July 2021

Global advertising agency expands roles of 3 regional leaders

Alex Lubar (L), president of McCann Worldgroup APAC - Ghassan Harfouche, group chief executive officer of the Middle East Communications Network - Ji Watson, chief financial officer of McCann Worldgroup APAC. (Supplied)
  • McCann Worldgroup trio Ghassan Harfouche, Alex Lubar, Ji Watson will take on additional responsibilities across markets

DUBAI: Global advertising agency network McCann has expanded the roles of three of its top regional leaders.

Additional responsibilities have been given to Ghassan Harfouche, group chief executive officer of the Middle East Communications Network (MCN), Alex Lubar, president of McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific (APAC), and Ji Watson, chief financial officer of McCann Worldgroup APAC and representative director of McCann Worldgroup Japan.

Bill Kolb, chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup, said: “Alex, Ghassan, and Ji have each demonstrated an impressive ability to drive client growth and create effective marketing solutions before and even during the difficult period of the (coronavirus disease) COVID-19 pandemic.”

The network has added APAC to the remit of Harfouche at MCN, McCann Worldgroup’s and Interpublic Group’s partner network in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey (MENAT), and he will now also serve as president of McCann Worldgroup APAC.

Harfouche, who joined MCN in 2011, leads a network in the MENAT region that encompasses 14 different Interpublic Group advertising, media, and PR agency brands in 15 cities across 13 countries.

Prasoon Joshi, the current chairman in APAC, and CEO and chief creative officer of McCann Worldgroup India, will continue in his roles. Harfouche and Joshi will work together on leadership tasks while continuing to provide vision and direction to the company.

Lubar has been named president of the McCann advertising agency network in North America.

He first joined McCann in New York in 2012 and two years later was promoted to global chief marketing officer, overseeing all integrated new business activity for McCann Worldgroup. He moved to Singapore two years ago to assume his current leadership position.

In his new role, Lubar will drive creativity, growth, and further integration across all McCann brand agencies leading a region that has been highly recognized for its business and creative achievements.

Meanwhile, Watson will take over as CEO of McCann Worldgroup Japan while retaining her other existing roles.

Watson has nearly 30 years of marketing industry experience. She spent the first 20 years of her career in senior management roles on the client side, working for Turner Broadcasting, Coca-Cola, and Samsung. She moved to the agency side with global roles at Ogilvy for seven years before joining McCann APAC in 2016.

“APAC is a region of enormous significance for us as it encompasses the second and third-largest advertising markets (China and Japan). Greater connectivity between the regions will lead to increased opportunities. We have some of our best talent in the network focused on APAC and I’m excited to see what the future holds,” Kolb added.