All posts by Alex Spencer

EU and UK launch antitrust investigation into Google and Meta’s adtech dealings

Antitrust regulators in the EU and UK are looking into “Jedi Blue,” a contract between Google and Meta that critics believe prevented smaller tech businesses from entering the online ad industry.

EU and UK launch antitrust investigation into Google and Meta’s adtech dealings

the September 2018 arrangement “may be part of efforts to exclude ad tech businesses competing with Google’s Open Bidding programme, so restricting or distorting competition in marketplaces for online display advertising.” So it’s launching an antitrust probe.

“We’re concerned that Google may have linked up with Meta to put impediments in the way of competitors that supply essential online display advertising services to publishers,” said CMA chairman Andrea Coscelli.

15 state attorneys general have filed lawsuits against the two firms over the Jedi Blue agreement. Because of this, information concerning the deal and the prosecutors’ allegations has been slow to emerge. According to court documents, Google and Meta leaders including Sundar Pichai, Sheryl Sandberg, and Mark Zuckerberg evaluated and authorised Jedi Blue.

In 2017, Meta (then Facebook) decided to support an adtech system to compete Google’s. According to US lawsuits, Meta abandoned the technology in 2018 when Google granted it preferred access to its online ad bidding system. As part of the transaction, Meta gained first dibs on Google ad space and stopped investing in competitors.

Despite the convoluted history, US authorities claim the two corporations collaborated to save money and keep competitors at bay.

No one knows if it was a Google-only thing or if they were in it together.
While regulators are looking into both Meta and Google, the European Commission believes only Google is to blame. “We haven’t decided yet if it’s a Google issue or if they were in it together,” said EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. We need to determine whether Meta was aware of the deal’s consequences.

Meta and Google told Reuters the EU and UK probes were flawed.

“The allegations made concerning this arrangement are false,” Google added. This is a transparent, pro-competitive arrangement that allows Facebook Audience Network (FAN) to join dozens of other organisations in our Open Bidding programme.”

“Meta’s non-exclusive bidding deal with Google, and similar agreements we have with other bidding platforms, have helped enhance competition for ad placements,” Facebook added.

For any EU competition law violation, Meta or Google might be penalised up to 10% of their global annual turnover. The probe is likely to take years to complete, giving both corporations enough opportunity to challenge any findings.

Russia will ban Instagram on March 14th

A week after banning Facebook, Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor declared it will also prohibit Instagram. This time, instead of “discrimination against Russian media,” the government blames a Meta decision directing moderators to allow messages calling for violence against Russian military from particular nations, including Ukraine.

Russia will ban Instagram on March 14th

“This decision will cut 80 million Russians off from each other, and from the rest of the world,” stated Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri in a post. “Wrong.”

Google translated from Russian, the agency’s statement says the following:

The decision to allow the publication of information containing demands for violence against Russian nationals on Meta Platforms’ Facebook and Instagram social networks was taken on March 11.

The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office demanded that Roskomnadzor block access to Instagram due to messages promoting and inspiring violent acts against Russians.

Because active Instagram users would need time to transfer their photos and videos to other social networks and notify their contacts and subscribers, Roskomnadzor decided to end the process at 00:00 on March 14, giving users an extra 48 hours to prepare.

The government’s decision makes no mention of the fact that Russian oligarchs have taken to social media to express their opposition to the invasion. As a result, children of oligarchs who have gained significant social media followings, such as Sofia Abramovich, the daughter of billionaire Roman Abramovich, have been accused of spreading propaganda that “the biggest and most successful lie of Kremlin’s propaganda is that the majority of Russians stand with Putin.” Oleg Tinkov, a banker who was once the 15th wealthiest person in Russia, is one of the most prominent opponents, having written a blog post that concluded, “We are against this war!”

If you’re wondering about the “unprecedented” step taken by Meta in terms of content moderation last summer, a report from Vice last summer noted that a similar decision was made to temporarily allow content such as “death to Khamenei” calls and slogans that went up during a period of protests in Iran’s southwest region of Khuzestan.

Reggie Fils-Aimé doesn’t believe in Meta’s verse

Reggie Fils-Aimé, who managed Nintendo of America before Bowser, is unimpressed with Facebook and its metaverse concept. During a South by Southwest interview with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang, he slammed Mark Zuckerberg, stating Meta isn’t innovative and buys or copies almost all of its interesting ideas.

Reggie Fils-Aimé doesn’t believe in Meta’s verse

During his interview, Fils-Amié defined the metaverse as “a digital area where you interact with your friends in a social and game type of environment.” (For more information, see our wonderful explainer here.) In general, Fils-Amié isn’t too harsh on it, citing Roblox as an example of something where metaverse aspects already exist.

But he’s not sold on Mark Zuckerberg’s idea. “I don’t buy that idea. I don’t think their present definition will work. First, and I don’t know whether anyone from Facebook is here, but you have to acknowledge, Facebook isn’t a creative company. “No.”

“Either they’ve purchased incredibly intriguing things, like Oculus, or they’ve been a rapid follower of other people’s ideas,” he said after the audience applauded Fils-dunk. Amié’s The company built “the very initial social network many years ago,” but who wants to be renowned for that nowadays? Thus, he said, “I look at the vision that’s been stated so far, and I’m not a believer.”

A virtual reality headgear produced by someone other than Meta, he claimed, would not be used all day. Despite having experienced “just about every VR device and experience,” he believes VR isn’t ready for prime time. This does not mean it will not get there, but I doubt it will be an experience you do 100% of your time, or even 100% of your entertainment time.”

As an example, he mentions the enormously successful Pokémon Go app as a shining example of AR throughout the discussion.

NFTs will be on Instagram soon, according to Mark Zuckerberg

According to Engadget and The Daily Beast, Mark Zuckerberg has stated that Meta will be integrating NFTs into Instagram. However, while he didn’t go into detail about what that might look like, he did say during a session at South By Southwest that “over the next several months, the ability to bring some of your NFTs in, and hopefully over time, be able to mint things within that environment” would be available.

NFTs will be on Instagram soon, according to Mark Zuckerberg

There had been rumblings that something like this was on the way. Last year, Instagram’s head of product, Adam Mosseri, stated that the team was “actively exploring NFTs,” but that there would be no official announcements. According to a report published in January, teams at Facebook and Instagram were hard at work on NFT integrations. According to the article, progress has been made on features that would allow you to use an NFT as a profile and mint NFTs on the platform, as well as discussions about the creation of a marketplace.

However, while the first two features are consistent with what Zuckerberg said onstage, it’s still unclear what it would mean to mint an NFT on Instagram. Is it possible to sell a popular post as a non-fiction book? Alternatively, you may print NFTs that serve as passes to allow individuals to see specific stories. Meta hasn’t said anything yet, but it appears that minting powers will not be available until later in the game’s development. The concept of a marketplace appears to be even further away from reality, as it did not appear to receive a clear endorsement from Zuckerberg, despite the large valuation of sites like OpenSea making it an appealing financial proposition.

There’s also a metaverse angle here. So you can take your avatar’s attire “between your multiple places,” according to Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg has previously stated that he views NFTs and the metaverse as part of the digital world’s governance. Now he seems to be thinking of them as digital objects, as Meta had suggested.

“A bunch of technical stuff need to be sorted out before that’ll actually be smooth,” he said on Tuesday. For starters, Meta would need to ensure the objects worked well across platforms, which is difficult. It’d also have to establish a metaverse for it to happen (which does seem like a small technical hurdle).

Ireland fines Meta for bad record-keeping

Between June and December, Facebook notified the Federal Trade Commission of 12 distinct data breaches that may have affected up to 30 million users, according to TechCrunch. Because of the DPC’s investigation, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, was fined 17 million euros ($18.6 million USD) as a result.

Ireland fines Meta for bad record-keeping

The DPC found after conducting an investigation into the breaches that Meta had violated the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union (GDPR). Between June and December 2018, the DPC recognised 12 data breach alerts, according to a news statement issued by the organisation. Following its investigation, the DPC determined that Meta Platforms had failed to put in place adequate technical and organisational measures that would have enabled it to readily demonstrate the security measures that it had implemented in practise to protect EU users’ data, according to a press release from the DPC.

As previously stated by a Meta spokeswoman in an email to TechCrunch, they reject any suggestion that this sanction is connected with any specific security breach:

This fine relates to record-keeping methods from 2018, which have subsequently been revised, rather than a failure to protect individuals’ personal information. We take our responsibilities under the General Data Protection Regulation seriously, and we will carefully review this choice as our procedures continue to grow in the future.

According to TechCrunch, two government agencies have protested to Ireland’s initial draught ruling. However, it did not specify which authorities had objected or whether their concerns had any effect on the DPC’s final determination.

Meta is quick to point out that this is connected to record-keeping practises, but this isn’t a small issue in this case. In fact, it appears as though adequate record-keeping is a recurring issue for the organisation as a whole. A data leak involving 533 million accounts and users from 106 countries occurred on Facebook last year, with the social media platform at the centre of the controversy. Some time later, Facebook announced that people who had been affected would not be told, stating that they were unsure of which users to tell and that there was little that could be done because their data was already available.