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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Big Tech
Posted: November 25, 2021 at 12:24 pm
European ministers on Thursday green-lit their versions of two new, massive EU rulebooks to tame Big Tech and tackle illegal content online.
Economy ministers from across the bloc rubber-stamped common positions on the digital competition and content moderation laws known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Digital Services Act (DSA), at a Competitiveness Council meeting in Brussels. The ministers' approval paves the way for the EU Council and Parliament to hammer out final texts next year.
The regulatory crackdown comes after years of revelations of excesses and harmful practices on Big Tech's online platforms, ranging from terrorist footage gone viral to massive sharing of child sexual abuse material and anti-competitive practices of some the most popular global platforms.
The new rules are also a key priority for policymakers in Paris. The French government takes over the presidency of the EU Council in January and is keen to clinch a final deal on the new laws ahead of the country's presidential election in April.
"Today is a very important, almost historical day," France's Digital Minister Cdric O said ahead of Thursday's discussion, calling the two draft laws "potentially the most important in the history of digital regulation, both when it comes to the economic side and content side."
Presented by the Commission in December 2020, the legal texts lay out rules to force tech companies to better police content on their platforms and to boost digital competition by limiting the sprawling power of tech giants such as Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft.
Companies that would violate the new laws could face fines of up to 10 percent of their global revenues.
The final version of the two texts could be adopted as early as the first half of 2022.
We need these regulations and we have needed them for years now, Denmark's Minister of Industry Simon Kollerup told POLITICO ahead of the meeting. It is an important milestone in democracy to be able to take back power for the future of the societies we live in.
POLITICO breaks down what ministers will agree on at Thursday's meeting.
The Digital Services Act is a revamped version of e-commerce rules drafted over twenty years ago. It will lay out rules for how internet players manage content affecting everyone from small registrars managing websites' names to massive social media firms like Facebook and online marketplaces like Amazon.
The aim is to crack down on child sexual abuse images, terrorist content and dangerous products but also to force online platforms to open up the black boxes of how their technology functions.
What's new for Big Tech?
EU countries supported much of the Commissions initial proposal but clarified some rules, including specifically mandating internet giants to disclose publicly how many staff are moderating content and the languages they speak. Recent revelations by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen highlighted the lack of resources the social media firm devotes to tackling harmful content in languages other than English.
Officials in Council also added some new ideas. One is to force Big Tech to take measures to protect children through age verification and parental controls; another to ban the use of misleading or manipulative design tricks known as dark patterns to nudge users to give their consent to be tracked on platforms to get personalized recommendation of content.
Capitals also bolstered a rule for tech companies to notify law enforcement of their suspicions of a criminal offense, expanding the rule to cloud companies, which host troves of images.
What's in it for users?
Users of online platforms would also be given new rights, including that a platform should tell them if it restricted the visibility of certain posts or suspended monetary payments a boon to influencers and online "creators" that make a living from social media posts on sites like TikTok and YouTube.
Online marketplaces such as Amazon, AliExpress and eBay would also be forced to invest more efforts to check who is selling goods on their platforms a way to combat the spread of illegal and dangerous products online. Online buyers would get better access to redress.
Who will enforce the rules?
Countries' most drastic change to the text has been to empower the European Commission to hold Big Tech accountable, rather than authorities in Ireland, the EU country where most of the Big Tech firms have their European headquarters. Many countries including France and Germany have been frustrated with Dublin over its enforcement of the bloc's privacy law, known as the GDPR, against companies like Facebook.
When will this come into effect?
EU governments want to give tech companies a year and a half before the content moderation rulebook applies, instead of three months as initially proposed, meaning the DSA would be first applied in 2024 at the earliest.
The second part of ministers' agreement is on the EUs bid to rebalance the digital economy and temper the market power of platform giants under a new Digital Markets Act.
The bill would impose a series of prohibitions and obligations on so-called "gatekeeper" platforms firms that hold a lot of market power in the digital economy like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft.
How will they be 'reined in'?
These tech behemoths would be prohibited from combining personal data from different sources and bundle digital services. Users would also be granted the right to remove pre-installed apps on their devices.
What qualifies as a 'gatekeeper'?
A major sticking point in upcoming negotiations with EU Parliament lawmakers will be how many other, smaller firms get caught up in the scope based on where the EU puts the threshold to call a company a "gatekeeper."
The Commission wants the rules to cover firms with an annual turnover of at least 6.5 billion in the last three years in Europe and a market capitalization of at least 65 billion in the last financial year. A firm would also need to have more than 45 million monthly EU end-users and more than 10,000 yearly active business users in the EU to be considered a gatekeeper.
The French government, which will shepherd negotiations with the European Parliament on the plans in 2022, has favored that the rules target the largest players first and foremost.
The German government this week also called for the Digital Markets Act to focus on the "largest" gatekeepers, asking for the draft law's definition to be further narrowed down, in a diplomatic note seen by POLITICO.
The Commission meanwhile has a dozen firms in mind that would fall under the new rules.
Member states each have their own idea of how many firms will come under the scope, one EU diplomat involved in the talks said. We believe that there will be 11 companies that, as things stand, qualify as gatekeeper platforms.
How does Washington feel?
Not very happy. Such a narrow definition could anger the U.S. government, however, because the rules may disproportionately impact U.S. companies when compared to other regions.
How does France feel?
The French government is confident about finding common ground between EU nations.
"There still work to do in terms of refining the names of the platforms," France's Digital Secretary Cedric O told POLITICO on the sidelines of Thursday's Competitiveness Council.
"However there is a form of consensus for identifying the real gatekeepers," he added.
This article is part of POLITICOs premium Tech policy coverage: Pro Technology. Our expert journalism and suite of policy intelligence tools allow you to seamlessly search, track and understand the developments and stakeholders shaping EU Tech policy and driving decisions impacting your industry. Email [emailprotected] with the code TECH for a complimentary trial.
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Posted: at 12:24 pm
In a groundbreaking 2017 Yale Law Journal study, Amazons Antitrust Paradox, the legal scholar Lina Khan sized up the online giant.
Amazon is the titan of twenty-first century commerce, she wrote. In addition to being a retailer, it is now a marketing platform, a delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, an auction house, a major book publisher, a producer of television and films, a fashion designer, a hardware manufacturer, and a leading host of cloud server space.
Let me be very clear: capitalism without competition isnt capitalism. Its exploitation.
The company, she continued, has positioned itself at the center of e-commerce and now serves as essential infrastructure for a host of other businesses that depend upon it, adding, Elements of the firms structure and conduct pose anti-competitive concernsyet it has escaped antitrust scrutiny.
That was then, this is now: In March, President Joe Biden nominated Khan to the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC. Opposition to her appointment was fast and furious. The Wall Street Journal published a half-dozen pieces opposing her nomination, including a July 5 editorial that dismissed her as a thirty-two-year-old academic who has no experience running anything.
On June 30, after Khan became chair, Amazon filed a petition asking that she recuse herself from any antitrust investigation, adjudication, litigation or other proceedings in which Amazon is a subject, target, or defendant. It said this was necessary because Khans prior statements create the appearance for her having prejudged facts and/or legal issues relevant to the proceedings. No action was taken on the petition; she has not recused herself.
Congress, the media, and the U.S. public are concerned about the ever-growing power of the Big Five tech companiesAmazon, Apple, Meta (Facebook), Google, and Microsoft. The recent revelations about Facebook made by whistleblowerFrances Haugen, a former data scientist for the company, give insight into just how insidious Big Tech companies can be in their efforts to manipulate market power in order to maximize profit. Her testimony before Congress fueled calls for the breakup of Big Tech companies.
In 2019, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, introduced the Monopolization Deterrence Actthat would give the U.S. Department of Justice and the FTC the authority to seek civil penalties for companies that engage in anti-competitive practices. Although it had strong Democratic support, the bill was never brought to the floor for a vote and died.
In October 2020, following a sixteen-month investigation, the House Judiciary Committee released a 400-page report on the challenges posed by Big Tech companies. And in June 2021, five bills were introduced in the House to reign in the tech behemoths.
From Amazon and Facebookto Google and Appleit is clear that these unregulated tech giants have become too big to care, said one of the bills sponsors, Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington State. On the other side of the political aisle, Representative Lance Gooden, Republican of Texas, said, Big Tech companies are stifling American innovation with their monopolistic behavior. Unfortunately, the Houses efforts seem destined to suffer the same fate as the Senate bill.
For more than a century, the United States has witnessed repeated efforts to break upif not outlawmonopolies, cartels, and trusts. The 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act and 1914 Clayton Antitrust Act led to the breakup of Standard Oil and other monopolies. While those promoting the current anti-monopoly efforts share much in common with earlier advocates, todays efforts face a very different economic situation.
One difference is that Lina Khan is now the FTC chair, and shes undertaking the monumental task of bureaucratic reform to meet the challenges posed by twenty-first century corporate capitalism.
Khan, thirty-two, was born in London to Pakistani parents and migrated with them to the United States when she was eleven years old. She is a former Columbia law professor who also served as legal director for the Open Markets Institute, a political advocacy group. She is the youngest person to be appointed FTC chair.
The FTC was established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. But since the 1980s, under the presidency of Ronald Reagan, it hasin the words of Matt Stoller from the American Economic Liberties Project, an anti-monopoly groupbeen defanged, to the point where economists [are] in charge and made it an agent of monopolists.
I agree with Matt, Sascha Meinrath of Penn State University told The Progressive.Reagan is an inflection point promoting the deregulatory era. The FTC adopted a policy to not unduly burden legitimate business and everything elsefostering competition, consumer protectionbecame subservient to it.
For decades, the FTC operated under a consumer welfare standard, focusing on anti-competitive practices that harmed consumers (i.e., pricing practices). The Big Tech giants are all creations of those shifts, Stoller told Politico. What Lina is doing is going back to the pre-1980s model.
On assuming office, Khan noted her priorities in a memo to her employees: American consumers, workers, and honest businesses depend on the Commission to champion a fair and thriving economy for all, and I am confident that we can deliver. One top priority, she added, is taking on a massive wave of proposed mergers and other forms of rampant consolidation.
Khan repealed an Obama-era policy that limited the commissions ability to challenge anti-competitive behavior. And she rescinded Trump-era guidelines favorable to vertical mergers that enable companies in the same industry that arent direct competitors to merge (e.g., AT&Ts acquisition of Time Warner or Amazons proposed acquisition of MGM Studios.)
Khan faces another, often overlooked challenge: an FTC culture fueled by the revolving door between regulators and the companies they regulate.
In a 2020 article, the tech news website Protocol noted that dozens of former commission lawyers now work for big and small companies across the tech industry. The publication found that of the nearly 700 lawyers and other employees who left the FTC between 2015 and 2018, at least forty now work for tech companies. At least seventy-two work for private law firms, and at least eighty-two hold other government jobs. Apple, for example, has at least three former FTC attorneys on its high-powered legal team.
Today, we are witnessing the reemergence of the old Robber Baron cartels. Standard Oil and Ma Bell have been replaced by Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Rockefeller, Carnegie, and J. P. Morgan have been superseded by Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffet. It is a transformation where nothing fundamental really seems to have changed; instead, its gotten worse.
In 2020, Applebecamethe first American company to be valued at $2 trillion; with the other big dogs (Google, Amazon, and Microsoft) topping $1 trillion valuations.
But Khans FTC has only a limited number of tools that can be deployed against Big Tech. She could pursue the August 2021 refilling in the U.S. District Court of the December 2020 antitrust suit against Meta, originally initiated by President Donald Trumps FTCtogether with a coalition of attorneys general from forty-eight states and territoriesto break-off two of its major acquisitions, Instagram (2012) and WhatsApp (2014).
Khan could also pursue some low-hanging fruitcases similar to its recent victory against Amazon over $60 million in tips that the company failed to pay Flex drivers. Or she could follow the advice of Stacy Mitchellco-director of the Institute for Local Self-Relianceand try to break up Amazon, Google, or Meta along business lines.
Khans options depend on whether the Democrats hold onto Congress in 2022 and Biden or another Democrat is re-elected in 2024. Otherwise, corporate interests and an increasingly conservative federal court system will constrain her efforts. For now, she has support from Biden, who argued, Let me be very clear: capitalism without competition isnt capitalism. Its exploitation.
The big question in my mind is whether the FTC is going to wield the power that it was granted in 1914, says Meinrath.I would argue that Lina Khan is much more likely to wield the powers the agency has than has been done in recent history.
The Irish DPC Slapped With Corruption Allegations; South Korea Place Big Tech Under the Microscope – ExchangeWire
Posted: at 12:24 pm
In todays ExchangeWire news digest: The Irish DPC are slapped with a corruption complaint filed by noyb; Apple and Google could face fines of 2% under new Korea laws; and Niantic receive a hefty USD$300m (224.5m) investment from Coatue.
The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) has come under fire, having been accused of corruption and even bribery in a complaint filed by the non-profit organisation noyb. The organisation are alleging that the Irish commission have presented them with an ultimatum in the form of a letter: sign an illegal NDA within one working day or be removed from the Facebook procedure. noyb have declared this quid pro quo as procedural blackmail.
Vienna-based noyb filed the complaint to the Austrian Office for the Prosecution of Corruption. Subsequent to the filing, noyb published the letters they received, describing the request as unlawful: only if we shut up, the DPC would 'grant' us our legal right to be heard. The writing also shows the DPC demanding the not-for-profit to take down existing documents relating to the draft decision, once again without a legal basis.
It has been reported that Facebook (now Meta) would significantly benefit from a signed NDA, as new documents could compel EU regulators to find their GDPR bypass illegal. This would result in major implications for the tech giant if regulators were to declare their use of personal data since 2018 unlawful.
Max Schrems, chairperson of noyb.eu, comments, "the DPC acknowledges that it has a legal duty to hear us, but it now engaged in a form of 'procedural coercion'. The right to be heard was made conditional on us signing an agreement to the benefit of the DPC and Facebook. It is nothing but an authority demanding to give up the freedom of speech in exchange for procedural rights."
App store operators, such as Apple and Google, could face fines of up 2% of sales for forcing their own in-app payment methods, under the amended Telecommunications Business Act. The Korean Communications Commission (KCC) drafted the amendments on Wednesday (17 November), in order to protect app developers and provide further clarity when determining illegality of new prohibited acts. App store owners could also see an additional fine of 1% of their revenue for delays in reviewing apps.
Within the document, the KCC describe the forcing of certain payment methods as a serious illegal act which will result in penalty surcharges. The move has come to allow a fairer mobile ecosystem for developers, in an attempt to limit app store operators power within the industry. Obstructions against in-app billing policies were first introduced in August when South Korea made amendments to the Telecommunications Business Act. The challenge caught media attention when Epic filed a lawsuit against them for monopolistic behaviours back in 2020. South Korea were the first country to introduce restrictions on payment policies.
KCC Chairman Han Sang-hyuk commented, considering that this issue is receiving attention both at home and abroad, we will proceed swiftly with follow-up measures so that the law is enacted smoothly in order to create a fair and sound app market ecosystem.
Augmented reality (AR) platform, Niantic, have received a hefty investment of USD$300m (224.5m) from Coatue, valuing the company at USD$9bn (6.7bn). The software development company have announced that they will use the fund to build their vision for the real-world metaverse.
John Hanke, Niantics Founder and CEO, commented in a blog post announcing the news, were building a future where the real world is overlaid with digital creations, entertainment and information, making it more magical, fun and informative. He adds, this will take a significant investment of talent, technology and imagination, and were thrilled that Coatue is on this journey with us.
Niantic recently launched a platform enabling developers to understand and enhance their ideas for AR and the metaverse. The Lightship Platform is the core for the San Francisco-based companys own products, such as Pokmon GO.
In further metaverse-related news, Vietnamese startup VerseHub closes a silent fundraise of USD$1m (748,383) from an angel investor. The metaverse platform will use the funds, raised without going through the formal process, to enhance their ongoing projects. Co-founder and CTO of VerseHub, Canh Ho, explains, the team incubated the project 6 months ago and rejected many investment invitations, for cooperating with other Vietnamese partners in the industry, with the desire to contribute to the development of blockchain technology in our home country.
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Posted: at 12:24 pm
It may have taken congressional hearings, but America is starting to wake up to the negative effects the unexamined use of technology has on our society particularly our young people.
From the Facebook Papers to the ongoing Elizabeth Holmes trial, were facing a clear reminder that in the tech industry, there is a pervasive preference for slick marketing over real results. But then why, when it comes to solving big issues, from healthcare to education, are we still so willing to trust Big Tech?
Having moved from corporate America to the tech industry to my current role leading advocacy efforts supporting racial justice in the education space, Ive seen firsthand the harm in prioritizing flashy promises over real, measured impact and neglecting to engage existing expertise.
I also know all too well that we need to reimagine our education system particularly in the STEM fields to effectively prepare our next generation for the world they will inherit. But Im not sold on the seemingly given fact that the tech industry should be the ones leading this effort. Supporting it? Yes.
With the seemingly exponential demand for individuals who can fill skilled tech jobs, major tech companies have a natural talent-building agenda to increase tech education. This has resulted in high-profile efforts to get coding and computer science education to K-12 students from Tim Cook pressuring the White House to make coding mandatory for school curricula to early investors in Facebook and Dropbox founding Code.org to get computer science into public schools. In the past 10 years, over 100 million students around the world have participated in the Hour of Codeand about 70% of parents now say its important for their children to study computer science.
But we need to be careful not to treat a powerful vision as an accomplishment in itself, such as rewarding Elizabeth Holmes with significant investment dollars as she donned a Steve Jobs turtleneck and accepted accolades for promises yet to be kept.
Right now we have some of the worlds most brilliant tech minds backing innovative efforts to boost access to tech education. And yet the populations that stand the most to benefit from new pathways to opportunity are still being left behind. Since 2009, the percentage of women computer science (CS) undergraduates in the U.S. declined from 20.7% to 18.7% and African-American CS undergraduates dropped by 3%.
Short-term educational interventions the orgs creating free online coding modules, mentorship event series or global hackathons have been very successful in accumulating private-sector attention and donor investments with eye-catching branding.
But when I was a young student passionate about STEM, while Im sure I would have enjoyed these engagements immensely, momentary resources did not sustain my journey from initial interest to a masters degree in mechanical engineering at one of the top institutions in the country.
To accomplish that feat, I needed relatable and accessible educators and professionals who radiated a belief in my potential. It was having a community of peers who could reassure me during challenging periods and validate my frustration when facing constant othering in predominantly white spaces. And then, at minimum, I needed access to a continued and rigorous STEM education and the technical resources to complete assignments.
For communities of color, breaks in the tech pipeline arent restricted to access to laptops or the availability of AP computer science courses. With gaps appearing from secondary education to college admissions to hiring practices in techs top companies, disjointed interventions are just Band-Aids, even when applied at scale.
If the current scrutiny facing social media giants tells us anything, its that tech doesnt erase cultural differences or societal problems: It amplifies them. For the tech industry to make a meaningful investment in improving our education system, it needs to heed this lesson and seek to understand not just whats missing, but how to meaningfully support the existing work underway.
At SMASH, a STEM justice education nonprofit founded in Oakland to close the opportunity gap in tech, 79% of our scholars graduate the program to complete a bachelors degree in STEM. Our national average for the same demographic is 39%.
Scholars start with SMASH Academy as they begin their high school academic career. This is our flagship program that provides a multiyear, immersive and culturally relevant STEM education year-round and hires predominantly instructors of color who are trained to offer both technical and career mentorship with a focused lens on student voice and choice. These scholars move in cohorts through the pipeline of programs. High school seniors are paired with a college admissions coach and attend essay and financial aid workshops. Once their college admission is locked, students are then placed into paid internships and start building workplace experience with company partners like Raytheon.
Long-term educational interventions like this are more costly, time-consuming, complex to implement and, ultimately, most effective at actually changing student outcomes.
The good news is that countless community-based organizations across the country have already laid the groundwork to complement the long-term investment and holistic approach that our organization takes.
As long-standing racial and socioeconomic divides in STEM education widen, donors now have a critical role to play. The necessary knowledge and talent are in place to effectuate the change we all know our nations future depends on, but we need to redirect available resources to ensure theyre able to deliver the full weight of the results theyre capable of. When determining investments, define and stress test the impact metrics of potential recipients.
What does success look like? How will this programs benefits be relevant in the next six months versus the next four years? Does this initiative substantively address obstacles inhibiting students of color?
The Tim Cooks and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world have a role to play in all this but their biggest impact might actually happen outside of a high school computer lab. If these companies are serious about closing achievement gaps in public education, we need to prioritize tech equity policies and educational programming that offer tangible results and do more than simply create a good narrative.
This not only means sectorwide advocacy but funding education policies and partnering with existing community-based interventions that ensure the over 20 million Black and Latinx students in K-12 public schools are taught culturally relevant computing education and are prepared to materially contribute to a strong, diverse and socially conscious tech workforce.
The future of STEM education wont become more equitable by placing the newest technologies in every students hand or creating a free coding course but by seeing the solutions already before us and acting accordingly. Tech companies driven to help in the education space shouldnt fall back on bad Silicon Valley habits.
For our youth, we cant afford to spend time on solutions that sound good on paper but dont drive real impact. Big Tech leaders, this is not a call out, but a calling in. Lets talk.
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OPINION | Is Big Tech bad at business? | Op-Ed | livingstonparishnews.com – The Livingston Parish News
Posted: at 12:24 pm
Google just suffered a major defeat in its legal battle with Sonos. A judge ruled that Google infringed on five of Sonos' audio patents. If the ruling is upheld, Google could pay hundreds of millions and face a ban on importing everything from Pixel smartphones to Nest speakers.
This isn't a trivial development. It's the latest in a string of lawsuits intended to stop Big Tech from pilfering from smaller companies. In recent years, Big Tech firms have increasingly infringed on smaller rivals' IP. Those smaller firms have started fighting back. Now, the largest tech companies could face tens of billions in damages.
If Big Tech executives continue, their firms could suffer irreparable financial and reputational damage. Stealing rivals' IP is no longer merely unethical it's a business decision so disastrously short-sighted that it constitutes a breach of duties to shareholders.
For a long time, giant technology firms like Apple figured they could freely prey on smaller competitors, who wouldn't have the financial firepower to fight back. That's no longer the case.
Small firms have decided suing is worth the cost and have won big. In three cases this past year, juries awarded small firms more than $1 billion.
In August, Apple was ordered to pay PanOptis $300 million over 4G technology infringement. Last year, a court ordered the company to pay $1 billion to VirnetX, a VPN patent holder. Last October, a federal court ordered Cisco to pay nearly $2 billion to Centripetal Networks, a cybersecurity firm.
IP theft has the potential to put a dent into Big Tech's bottom lines. Cisco's payout cost it 4% of its annual revenue. Apple recently threatened to pull out of the United Kingdom entirely rather than face a $7 billion patent-infringement fee in British courts.
Even if big firms can weather the financial penalties, the reputational damage is considerable. Congressional committees regularly haul executives into their chambers for hearings about anti-trust and privacy infractions. Consumers increasingly regard Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon with distaste. If politicians and customers learn these companies' profits rest on persistent theft, their reputations will take a pounding.
Big Tech executives have a duty to their shareholders. Executives who turn a blind eye exposing their firms to immense legal and reputational risk will eventually find their morally questionable decisions reflected in share prices.
Shareholders, rank and file employees, and other stakeholders should hold executives to account. It's in the interest of investors to pressure Apple and others to settle cases and hash out licensing agreements.
If Big Tech starts operating within the bounds of IP law, they'll prime the entire sector for success. Consumers and shareholders should want both small and large firms to thrive. Smaller firms develop software, applications, and hardware that often end up in consumer-facing products.
But when the big guys bully the little guys, pillage their best ideas without paying, the little guys have no incentive to innovate.
It's time for Big Tech to stop patent theft.
Andrew Langer is President of the Institute for Liberty. This piece was originally published in TechCrunch.
Originally posted here:
Posted: at 12:24 pm
Big Tech companies Google, Amazon, and Microsoft as well as cloud infrastructure platform Oracle are going to battle it out for a multi-billion-dollar government contract and there's a chance they all might win.
The Department of Defense (DoD) said on Friday that it had issued formal solicitations to Microsoft which has just announced plans to build its own metaverse and three other companies regarding the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract.
The news comes after years of legal battles, scrapped programs, and disagreements between tech companies desperate to get their names stamped on the lucrative government program.
In 2017, the Pentagon began to formulate plans for a Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, with the goal to commission a company to build a centralized cloud infrastructure system that could be used to view, manage, and transfer confidential information safely across all security clearance levels, for all employees from the Pentagon to the edge of the battlefield.
The contract ended up being awarded to Microsoft not once, but twice, with the process marred by various lawsuits brought against the Department of Defense and the US government by companies like Amazon, who raised issues with how the contract was awarded.
In July, the Pentagon announced that it was scrapping the $10 billion, decade-long JEDI contract that had previously been awarded to Microsoft, on the grounds it was now obsolete due to long delays.
With the shifting technology environment, it has become clear that the Jedi Cloud contract, which has long been delayed, no longer meets the requirements to fill the DoD's capability gaps. US Department of Defense (DoD).
However, many believe it was then-president Donald Trumps animus towards Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who owns the liberal-leaning paper The Washington Post that played a decisive role in Amazon initially missing out on JEDI and the subsequent decision to scrap it.
The decision left the door open for Microsoft and Amazon to bid for a new contract the JWCC along with other technology companies. However, only Amazon and Microsoft were initially contacted with pre-solicitation bids as they appeared to be the only two companies capable of delivering what the DoD need.
The JWCC is an IDIQ contract which means whoever is awarded it will have to provide an indefinite number of services over a specified time period.
The Pentagon has stiff criteria for what it expects to be developed, including tactical edge devices, pieces of technology used in battle scenarios or crisis environments that can function away from data centers and work for employees at all levels of government.
Whilst the JEDI contract took a winner-takes-all approach and Microsoft and Amazon are still very much favorites in the Pentagons eyes its a possibility that all of the companies in contention may end up with responsibility for at least some part of the project.
The Government anticipates awarding two IDIQ contracts one to Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS) and one to Microsoft Corporation (Microsoft) but intends to award to all Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) that demonstrate the capability to meet DoDs requirements. the US General Services Administration (GSA).
Google has, since July, instituted the security provisions needed to be in the running for a cloud service, but didnt previously bid for JEDI because it was thought the contract would conflict with its AI principles. IBM is also rumored to be interested in playing some part.
The disconnect between the wealthy executives populating Big Techs boardrooms and the staff that make their companies cogs turn has peppered the news over the past few years.
With workers rights and user safety already bones of contention that have been borne out in the public domain, the development of a war cloud may be the frontier upon which disagreement manifests.
Amazon Web Services, for instance, told CNBC that its commitment to supporting our nations military and ensuring that our warfighters and defense partners have access to the best technology for the best value is stronger than ever, illustrating that the company is staunchly in favor of working closely with the military.
And theres plenty of evidence that employees moral compasses tend to point in a different direction. Just recently, for instance, staff at Amazon as well as Google decried the involvement of their employers in Project Nimbus, a cloud service contract with the Israeli government that staff argue will be used to ramp up surveillance on Palestinian civilians.
What's more, dissent on these issues is often widespread the letter referenced above regarding Project Nimbus, which was published anonymously, claims to have over 300 Amazon and 90 Google employee signatures.
Google employees also protested the companys involvement in a drone program that utilized AI to improve accuracy, and a year later, Microsoft employees expressed their concern after their company was awarded a $480 million contract to develop augmented reality headsets for troops in combat zones.
It remains to be seen how the staff-exec relationships at these companies will fare under the strain of new, ethical quandaries like company involvement with military programs, but one thing's for sure: it'll take a lot more than an appeal to the better nature of Big Tech's profit-chasing chiefs to force them to turn down multi-billion-dollar contracts.
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Monday, November 22, 2021
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)recently thwarted an attemptby big tech companies such as Apple, Cisco, Google, and Intel, to rid themselves of discretionary denials under theFintivfactors. While these companies will almost assuredly seek other avenues to dismantle such discretionary denials, last weeks developments are a win for patent owners in the short term. On November 10, 2021, Northern District of California Judge Edward J. Davila dismissed a suit challenging the application of theNHK-Fintivfactors, finding that Supreme Court precedent prevents their challenge under 35 U.S.C. 314(d), stating that decisions to instituteinter partesreviews (IPRs) are final and nonappealable.
The IPR process allows parties to challenge the validity of patents at the USPTOs Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). IPRs are popular with companies accused of infringing patents and are used as tools to invalidate patents, often while fighting infringement claims.
However, these companies have been irked by rejections of IPRs due to the agencysNHK-Fintivrule. This rule, created in two precedential decisions, identifies a six-factor holistic test used by the PTAB to decide when to deny petitions based on the advanced stage of parallel proceedings (among other things). The USPTO states this policy is necessary to preserve their limited resources, especially when another forum may resolve validity first. Precedential decisions are binding on PTAB judges.
In August 2020, Apple, Google, Cisco, Intel, and others sued, alleging theNHK-Fintivrules vague factors lead to speculative, unpredictable, and unfair outcomes. These critics claim the policy undermines the role of IPRs in protecting a strong patent system by drastically reducing the availability of IPRs.
The USPTO moved to dismiss. CitingCuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC v. Lee, 579 U.S. 261 (2016) andThryv, Inc. v. Click-To-Call Technologies, 140 S. Ct. 1367 (2020), Judge Davila found that under 314(d) of the America Invents Act (AIA), only constitutional challenges and jurisdictional violations related to institution decisions may be appealed. Plaintiffs suit did not fit those categories. More to the point, Judge Davila found that an analysis into the lawfulness of theNHK-Fintivrule would require one to address questions closely tied to IPR institution decisionswhichCuozzoforbids. Judge Davila held that he could not deduce a principled reason why that precedent would not extend to the Directors determination that parallel litigation is a factor in denying IPR.
While it is unclear if the tech companies involved will appeal this particular decision, their attacks on theNHK-Fintivfactors are likely far from over. Congress is also considering legislation that could eliminate most of the USPTO directors discretion to deny IPRs. Finally, where USPTO director nominee, Kathi Vidal, stands on discretionary denials may play an even more important role in this fight. In short, the fight over PTAB discretionary denials, and the PTAB generally, is far from over.
1994-2021 Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 326
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Jen-Hsun Huang, president and chief executive officer of Nvidia Corp., speaks during the company's event at Mobile World Congress Americas in Los Angeles on Oct. 21, 2019.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
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These days, when the world's most important and powerful people gather to talk about matters of global consequence, executives from the world's most powerful tech companies are usually in the room.
Discussions aboutClimate changeare no exception. From power-hungry data centers to planet-spanning supply chains, tech can be a carbon-intensive business if not run correctly. And as the effects of the climate crisis -- fires, floods, hurricanes and droughts -- are being more keenly felt, technology companies have been increasingly vocal in the conversation about how to tackle the climate crisis.
Beyond making commitments to reducing their own carbon footprints, this means showing up at events like COP26, the UN climate summit, which took place in Glasgow, Scotland, the first two weeks of November.
Though world leaders and energy company execs took the most vocal roles at COP26, many of the biggest US tech companies also attended the summit, even though their levels of visibility varied.
Here's what they were up to.
By far the most visible tech figurehead at COP26 was former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos -- perhaps to his detriment. His presence at the UN summit got a mixed reception.
During his brief trip to Glasgow (he attended the two-week-long summit for somewhere between one to two days) Bezos announced that through his climate foundation, the Bezos Earth Fund, he'd donate an additional $2 billion toward landscape restoration and food systems transformation after being inspired to take care of the Earth after seeing it from the edge of space.
This made headlines but failed to impress climate activists, many of whom seemed deeply frustrated by the way Bezos engaged with the summit. It wasn't so much his presence at COP26 that bothered them, but the fact that he used it as a PR opportunity rather than as a chance to listen to the voices of those most affected by the crisis, they said.
"These kinds of people, they shouldn't be here giving speeches, they should be here and being targeted as responsible for these changes,"said Txai Surui, a 24-year-old Indigenous activist from Rondnia in Brazil.
"Why does he have more voice than young people that are suffering, or will suffer the consequences of the climate crisis?" asked Nicki Becker, a climate activist from Argentina. "Of course he has to be included in the conversation because he needs to first change his lifestyle."
She added that billionaires and other top 1% earners like Bezos are most responsible for the climate crisis, so it's hypocritical for them to turn up with purported solutions without making any effort to change their ways (Bezos flew in and out of Glasgow on his private jet).
Throughout the marches and climate protests that took place over the course of the summit, multiple people were carrying signs bearing variations on the words "We're burning the wrong Amazon."
Amazon was a popular target of protestors.
Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates had a quieter presence at the summit than Bezos, attracting less criticism (even though he, too, appeared to fly in and out on a private jet).
Gates addressed world leaders, updating them on the progress of his climate initiative Breakthrough Energy Ventures and calling on them to come together to start a "green industrial revolution."
He said he was spending his three days at the summit trying to encourage people to scale clean technology. "If we're going to avoid the worst effects of a climate disaster, it's not enough to invent zero-carbon alternatives -- we need to make sure they're affordable and accessible enough for people all over the world to use them," he said.
He also urged rich- and middle-income countries to do more to help the areas that've done the least to cause climate change but are most affected by it.
It's not clear, though, whether Gates spent any time at the summit talking with people from these areas. A criticism of many white, male leaders at the summit has been that they spent too much time talking and not enough time listening -- especially to young black and Indigenous women who are leaders in the climate justice movement.
"Everybody brings us a different perspective on this," Microsoft Chief Environmental Officer Lucas Joppa said in an interview, commenting on the role tech figureheads could play at COP. "Some of these individuals, they've grown businesses from nothing not just to global scale," but to a scale that the world's never seen before. "That is exactly what the world needs to do in its transition, when you look at renewable energy penetration in the markets, for instance."
Ahead of the summit Apple, Facebook, Google and other companies announced new pledges to further improve their own sustainability credentials. But at the event they kept a fairly low profile.
Apple's VP of Sustainability Lisa Jackson, posted on Twitter about attending COP26 and meeting with USPresident Joe Biden while there. At the summit Apple and Amazon signed on to the World Economic Forum's First Movers Coalition, which aims to scale up emerging technologies essential to transitioning the globe's economy to net-zero carbon by 2050.
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said in a statement that joining the Coalition would "help further accelerate our efforts to decarbonize our operations through real business change and innovation." (Jassy didn't attend COP, but other execs from the company did.)
In an interview, Facebook Director of Global Sustainability Edward Palmieri said his role at the summit was to ensure the company was engaging in the right partnerships and coalitions to tackle the climate crisis.
"Our foundational work on sustainability, if it has taught us anything it's that we not only have to take care of our own house and make sure that we're in order from a sustainability perspective, but that global solutions are going to take us all working together to kind of get it done," he said.
One of Palmieri's focuses at the event was learning more water stewardship, so Facebook is able to meet its goal of restoring more water than it consumes by 2030. Water plays a huge role in cooling and maintaining the right level of humidity in Facebook's global data centers, but the company says it recognizes water is also a shared community resource that needs to be restored so it doesn't become polluted or scarce.
Microsoft also came to the summit hoping to learn as well as contribute, said Joppa. He was spending a portion of his time in Glasgow learning more about carbon removal and carbon accounting.
"The carbon removal markets today are wildly oversubscribed, and we need to fix that for the world and for Microsoft to meet its own goals," he said. "We need much more common kinds of standards and definitions around the way we do accounting."
Microsoft was one of COP26's principal sponsors, so as well as having its logo everywhere, it also had a stand in the "Green Zone" (the part of the summit open to the public). At its booth, it welcomed school children and other attendees to explore the company's different initiatives as it works toward its goal of becoming carbon negative by 2030. The space also provided a platform for smaller companies to showcase their climate tech. These included NCX, a company Microsoft has invested in that uses aerial imagery and AI to survey forests.
Microsoft's Green Zone stand.
Financing these companies is important, said Joppa, but so is giving them exposure to clients and customers via Microsoft's platform. "How you all kind of hold hands and lift each other up is to actually help people become aware of all the solutions that are out there," he said.
Other tech companies also focused their COP26 efforts on trying to use their reach to broaden access to the summit.
Google used its Arts and Culture project to take people from all over the world inside the Green Zone. Meanwhile, Facebook livestreamed conversations about climate science from a small booth within the UN pavilion at the summit.
Public awareness has been growing around COP for several years, and Facebook's platforms can be harnessed to make and keep conversations around what happens at the UN climate summits on a global level, said Palmieri.
Instagram, in particular, has been a crucial platform for young climate activists from all over the world to engage their audiences and educate them about the climate crisis. During COP26, Emma Watson used her own Instagram presence to introduce her followers to many of these activists, who as well as doing vital work in their own communities, form a loosely grouped online activist network.
But one thing Palmieri hopes to see happen is ensuring that information flows in both directions.
"What's really important, and that I'm hoping our platform will be able to do more and more of, is to bring some of the experiences of climate change from certain parts of the world that maybe are less represented to decision makers and communities that are wealthier and have more of a voice," he said.
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Missouri Republican joins 'Kudlow' to explain why Big Tech companies are monopolies that need broken up.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., blasted Big Tech Friday, claiming technology companies thought they were above the law and sought to deny Kyle Rittenhouse the presumption of innocence.
"Big Tech think theyre above the law," he said in a statement provided to FOX Business. "They made up their minds on this case months ago, sought to deny Kyle Rittenhouse the presumption of innocence and censored those who disagreed."
His comments came just hours after a jury announced it had found Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts, including homicide, from his shootings in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last summer.
BIDEN CALLS FOR CALM BUT SAYS RITTENHOUSE NOT GUILTY VERDICT LEAVES HIM ANGRY AND CONCERNED
At the time, Facebook reportedly labeled the event "mass murder" and blocked searches for Rittenhouse's name. Twitter, meanwhile, suspended an account that claimed Rittenhouse did "nothing wrong." More recently, the social media giant censored another post claiming that Rittenhouse did nothing wrong.
Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, Sept. 29, 2021. (Tom Williams/Pool via REUTERS / Reuters)
Twitter and Facebook did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment.
The Rittenhouse verdict prompted many on social media to suggest the teen should sue those who accused him of murder or terrorism.
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Besides Big Tech, legislators like Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., have come under fire for comments about Rittenhouse.
Wendy Rittenhouse, left, talks to her son Kyle Rittenhouse, before the start of his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. (Mark Hertzberg/Pool Photo via AP / iStock)
"A 17 year old white supremacist domestic terrorist drove across state lines, armed with an AR 15," she tweeted. "He shot and killed 2 people who had assembled to affirm the value, dignity, and worth of Black lives. Fix your damn headlines."
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