October 21, 2020

Dept. of Justice Accuses Google of Illegally Protecting Monopoly

“A significant number of entities — spanning major public corporations, small businesses and entrepreneurs — depend on Google for traffic, and no alternate search engine serves as a substitute,” the report said. The lawmakers also accused Apple, Amazon and Facebook of abusing their market power. They called for more aggressive enforcement of antitrust laws, and for Congress to consider strengthening them.

The scrutiny reflects how Google has become a dominant player in communications, commerce and media over the last two decades. That business is lucrative: Last year, Google brought in $34.3 billion in search revenue in the United States, according to the research firm eMarketer. That figure is expected to grow to $42.5 billion by 2022, the firm said.

In its complaint, the Justice Department said that Google’s actions had hurt consumers by stifling innovation, reducing choice and diminishing the quality of search services, including consumer data privacy. It also said that advertisers that use its products “must pay a toll to Google’s search advertising and general search text advertising monopolies.”

The lawsuit is the result of an investigation that has stretched for more than a year. Prosecutors have spoken with Google’s rivals in technology and media, collecting information and documents that could be used to build a case.

The Justice Department also investigated Google’s behavior and acquisitions in the overall market for digital advertising, which includes search, web display and video ads.

But the search case is the most straightforward, giving the government its best chance to win. To prevail, the Justice Department has to show two things: that Google is dominant in search, and that its deals with Apple and other companies hobble competition in the search market.

The Justice Department said Google estimates that almost 50 percent of its search traffic originated on Apple devices in 2019. Because it is such a large portion of its queries, Google pays the iPhone maker an estimated $8 billion to $12 billion a year to remain the default option on its phones, iPads and Mac computers.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/20/technology/google-antitrust.html

The DOJ’s Google Antitrust Lawsuit: What To Know

In short: We’re not dominant, and competition on the internet is just “one click away.”

That is the essence of recent testimony in Congress by Google executives. Google’s share of the search market in the United States is about 80 percent. But looking only at the market for “general” search, the company says, is myopic. Nearly half of online shopping searches, it notes, begin on Amazon.

Next, Google says the deals the Justice Department is citing are entirely legal. Such company-to-company deals violate antitrust law only if they can be shown to exclude competition. Users can freely switch to other search engines, like Microsoft’s Bing or Yahoo Search, anytime they want, Google insists. Its search service, Google says, is the runaway market leader because people prefer it.

Consumer harm, the government argues, can result in several ways. Less competition in a market means less innovation and less consumer choice in the long run. That, in theory, could close the market to rivals that collect less data for targeted advertising than Google. Enhanced privacy, for example, would be a consumer benefit.

Goods that are free to consumers are not exempt from antitrust oversight. In the landmark Microsoft case of the late 1990s, the software giant bundled its web browser for free into its dominant Windows operating system. Microsoft lost because, using restrictive contracts, it bullied personal computer makers and others to try to prevent them from offering competing web browser software — competition that could have undermined the Windows monopoly.

Unless the government and Google reach a settlement, they’re headed to court. Trials and appeals in such cases can take years.

Whatever the outcome, one thing is certain: Google will face continued scrutiny for a long time.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/20/technology/antitrust-google.html

It’s Google’s World. We Just Live in It.

Outside smartphones, Google is the dominant force on our personal computers. By some estimates, more than 65 percent of us use Google’s Chrome web browser. And in education, our schools have chosen the Chromebook, low-cost PCs that run Google’s operating system, as the most widely used tech tool for students.

This can be brief: YouTube is by far the largest video-hosting platform. Period. About 215 million Americans watch YouTube, spending 27 minutes a day on the site, on average. That’s up from 22 minutes a few years ago, according to eMarketer.

Another way you might watch Google videos is through YouTube TV, a streaming service that offers a modest bundle of TV channels. Released in 2017, YouTube TV had more than two million users last year, according to Google. That’s not far behind Sling TV, a similar bundle service introduced by Dish in 2015, which had about 2.6 million subscribers last year.

If you recently bought an internet-connected gadget for your home, chances are that Google is behind it. After all, the company offers Google Home, one of the most popular smart speakers and powered by Google’s virtual assistant, and it owns Nest, the smart-home brand that makes internet-connected security cameras, smoke alarms and thermostats.

We often interact with Google even when we use an app that lacks a clear connection with it. That’s because Google provides the cloud infrastructure, or the server technology that lets us stream videos and download files, to other brands. If you’re using TikTok in the United States, guess what: You’re in Google’s cloud. (TikTok may soon switch cloud providers under a deal with Oracle.)

Even Mr. Weinberg, who quit Google, said he had been unable to shake its services entirely. He said he still watched the occasional Google-hosted video when there was no alternative.

“If somebody’s sending a video that I need to watch and it’s only on YouTube, then that’s just the reality,” he said.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/20/technology/doj-google.html

Apple iPhone 12 Review: Superfast Speed, if You Can Find It

That led me to conclude that Verizon’s coverage map was unreliable.

Still, I drove to three other locations in the city’s Marina, Presidio Heights and South of Market districts. There, I finally found the fabled superfast 5G — and I was blown away.

Standing in front of a camera store in South of Market, I got 5G speeds reaching 2,160 megabits a second, which was 2,900 percent faster than 4G. Even where it was a tad slower — behind the Safeway parking lot in the Marina district — the 5G iPhone drew speeds of 668 megabits a second, which was 1,052 percent faster than 4G.

These were odd places to have blazing fast speeds, though. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, these areas did not have much foot traffic. The carriers have said ultrafast 5G speeds would be great for data-heavy tasks like streaming video, but I had no desire to do much streaming while standing on those street corners.

Why the nondescript locations? Karen Schulz, a Verizon spokeswoman, said the company ran into complex engineering tasks in San Francisco. While ultrafast 5G relies on access to light poles, most of the city’s utilities infrastructure is underground. Verizon’s progress to deploy 5G has run into red tape, she said.

When I tested the new iPhones on the vanilla 5G network, any speed improvement was hardly noticeable. In the best cases, vanilla 5G was twice as fast as 4G, or 209 megabits a second compared with 103 megabits on 4G. But in some locations, 5G was slower than 4G. In one part of the Mission district, for instance, 5G speeds reached 28 megabits a second compared with 39 megabits on 4G.

Ms. Schulz said that customers should initially expect the 5G Nationwide network to perform like 4G, and that performance and coverage would grow over time.

I’m not sure that’s good enough. I’ve reviewed phones over the past 12 years and covered the transition from 2G to 3G, and from 3G to 4G. I have never seen a network rollout this confusing and spotty — 5G, simply, is a mess.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/20/technology/personaltech/apple-iphone-12-review.html

Trump and Biden Will Be Muted for Parts of Their Next Debate

The president’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, said Mr. Trump was “committed to debating Joe Biden regardless of last-minute rule changes.” But he also accused the commission of adopting the microphone rule to aid Mr. Biden, part of a days-long effort by the Trump campaign to undermine the integrity of the commission and to paint it as biased toward the Democratic candidate.

Earlier on Monday, Mr. Stepien — who mockingly referred to the nonpartisan commission as the “Biden Debate Commission” in a tweet — claimed that the commission had “promised” that the debate on Thursday would be about foreign policy and asked for it to discard the six subjects announced last week by the moderator, Ms. Welker. (The topics are the coronavirus, climate change, national security, leadership, “American families” and “race in America.”)

In fact, the debate organizers did not announce such a plan to focus on foreign policy, saying that the third debate would mirror the format of the first, with six subjects selected by the moderator. (It is true that in some campaign years, the third presidential debate has focused on foreign policy.)

A Biden spokesman, T.J. Ducklo, said on Monday that Mr. Stepien had sent the letter “because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response,” adding: “The campaigns and the commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics.”

Mr. Stepien’s letter did not mention Mr. Trump’s baseless accusations that Ms. Welker, a respected White House correspondent, is biased. Mr. Trump’s aides, including a top adviser, Jason Miller, have previously spoken warmly about Ms. Welker, calling her “a very good choice” to oversee the debate.

The debate commission has had a tumultuous year. Its attempt to hold a virtual debate in Miami over coronavirus concerns prompted Mr. Trump to withdraw; that debate was eventually canceled, and the candidates held separate televised town hall events instead.

Alan Schroeder, an emeritus professor of journalism at Northeastern University who wrote a history of presidential debates, said on Monday that the microphone change “sounds good in theory, but I don’t see it as solving the problem.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/19/us/politics/trump-biden-muted-debate.html

Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ Returns to the Top 10, Thanks to TikTok

The last time Fleetwood Mac’s classic LP “Rumours” was in the Top 10 of the Billboard album chart, in February 1978, Jimmy Carter was president, disco was king and the prime-time soap opera “Dallas” was still more than a month away from its premiere.

But thanks to a viral TikTok video, “Rumours” has climbed back to the chart’s upper rungs for the first time in 42 years, landing at No. 7 with the equivalent of 33,000 sales in the United States, including more than 30 million streams, according to Nielsen Music.

Its return was set in motion late last month, when Nathan Apodaca, a potato worker in Idaho, filmed himself languidly singing along to “Dreams” while skateboarding down a road and sipping from a bottle of Cran-Raspberry juice. The clip caught on in the way that random, joyful TikTok videos do — it has been viewed more than 60 million times — and began spurring streams and downloads for “Dreams.” Before long, Mick Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks responded with their own videos.

After a tight race for the top of this week’s album chart, “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon,” a posthumous release by the New York rapper Pop Smoke, who was shot to death in February at age 20, returned for its second slot at No. 1 with the equivalent of 67,000 sales. “Shoot for the Stars,” a steady hit since its release in July, squeezed ahead of 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’s “Savage Mode II,” last week’s top seller, which fell to No. 2 in its second week out with 66,000.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/19/arts/music/fleetwood-mac-billboard-chart.html

Disney Adds Warnings for Racist Stereotypes to Some Older Films

For children of color, it could lead to self-esteem issues, Dr. Shah said. “They may have a sense of, ‘That’s how I am?’” he said.

Though he was skeptical that the disclaimer would have a large impact on children, Dr. Shah said that racist scenes offered learning opportunities when children watched them with their parents at home or in the classroom as part of media literacy education. Disney “ought to also have some sort education program” about the stereotypes in conjunction with the disclaimer, he said.

The revised language was installed over the past week, a Disney spokeswoman said in an email on Sunday, noting that the original advisory had appeared since Disney+ kicked off in November last year.

Disney said in June that it would remake its Splash Mountain theme park ride, which includes characters and songs from the 1946 musical “Song of the South.” Disney has not made the musical available for over three decades because of the racist imagery it includes.

The updated warning comes as other companies have reckoned with racist or otherwise insensitive parts of their brands or products.

Quaker Oats said in June that it would change the name and packaging of its Aunt Jemima brand, which is based on racist imagery. A formerly enslaved person was hired to portray the character in the late 1800s, and in the 1930s a white actress who had performed in blackface played Aunt Jemima in a radio series.

Last month, the company that produces the Cream of Wheat brand of hot cereal said it would discontinue its use of a Black chef as the face of the brand to ensure it did not “inadvertently contribute to systemic racism.” Though the branding may be based on an actual chef from Chicago, the company said, the imagery “reminds some consumers of earlier depictions they find offensive.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/18/business/media/disney-plus-disclaimers.html

Donald Trump Is Losing His Touch. So Is the TV Producer Who Shaped His Image.

But MGM never invested enough in Lightworkers to turn it into more than some scattered programming and a little-watched television channel, Light TV, showing family-friendly reruns. MGM’s biggest bet through Lightworkers, the $100 million 2016 film “Ben Hur,” lost money. Repeated promises of a high-powered streaming service never materialized.

Mr. Burnett’s relationship with Mr. Trump has also shadowed his run at MGM. He had long been part of a kind of media industry kitchen cabinet for the developer, along with CNN’s chief, Jeff Zucker, who had put “The Apprentice” on NBC, and the talent agent Ari Emmanuel. He and Ms. Downey had typically supported Democrats (Ms. Downey wrote a check to Marianne Williamson’s 2014 California congressional campaign), and he said in 2016 that he wasn’t actually supporting his friend’s White House bid.

But although Mr. Burnett promised associates that his friendship with the president would be great for business, he was also intensely sensitive to criticism of his old friend. He objected in particular, two people present at the time said, when an MGM board member, Jason Hirschhorn, began sharply criticizing Mr. Trump in his newsletter, REDEF in 2016. Katie Martin Kelley, MGM’s spokeswoman, said Mr. Hirschhorn’s “public statements at the time caused friction for many people at MGM,” and Mr. Hirschhorn, who left the board in 2017, declined to comment.

Since the 2016 election, Mr. Burnett has gone to great lengths to keep a public distance from Mr. Trump, batting away suggestions that he helped with the Republican National Convention. “They are not in communication and he had no involvement with any of the president’s public activities around his hospitalization for Covid-19,” Ms. Kelley said in an email.

Mr. Trump is just one thread in the internal tension at MGM involving Mr. Burnett. He’s always been a difficult boss, and even before the pandemic, he was a man-about-town deal maker — not an office-bound manager. He’s had so little input in the successes of the company’s scripted division, including “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Fargo,” that the division’s leader, Steve Stark, was recently forced to clarify to The Hollywood Reporter that he still reports to Mr. Burnett. He played a role in the messy 2018 ouster of Mr. Barber, which has left the company operating without a chief executive. Now, MGM is subject to perennial acquisition rumors and dependent on factors it can’t control: It is hoping theaters will be packed for the release of a new James Bond film next year and that the culture will be ready for the return of “Live PD,” a Burnett acquisition that was canceled this summer amid the wave of revolt at police violence.

After Mr. Barber’s ouster, Mr. Burnett announced that he and Ms. Downey would raise $100 million to start a Lightworkers subscription service. But those plans, Ms. Kelley said, have been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, though “conversations have and are expected to continue.” For now, Lightworkers is just producing content for MGM, and recently completed production on a feature film called “Resurrection.” It also scaled back its digital presence in July, taking much of its content off the internet, including articles by Charlotte Pence Bond, the daughter of Vice President Mike Pence. (One had the headline, “Are You Narcissistic? Let’s Find Out.”)

Mr. Burnett didn’t respond to interview requests directly or through an MGM spokeswoman. After years in the headlines, he is keeping his profile low, and his name didn’t even appear in a recent, gloomy Wall Street Journal assessment of MGM’s finances. Some of his old partners, like Les Moonves at CBS and Paul Telegdy at NBC, have been forced out of their positions, and a new generation of network executives doesn’t jump quite so quickly at his calls. But if he’s not quite the producing star he once was, he’s still closing deals. In 2018, Amazon Prime resurrected a show called “Eco-Challenge,” which Mr. Burnett started producing in the 1990s, though Amazon has dropped plans for a second season, MGM confirmed. When I asked MGM’s chief communications officer, Ms. Kelley, about the perception that Mr. Burnett had lost his creative touch, she responded with a litany of his long-running shows.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/18/business/media/burnett-trump-apprentice.html

As Local News Dies, a Pay-for-Play Network Rises in Its Place

Other news organizations have raised concerns about the political bent of some of the sites. But the extent of the deceit has been concealed for years with confidentiality contracts for writers and a confusing web of companies that run the papers. Those companies have received at least $1.7 million from Republican political campaigns and conservative groups, according to tax records and campaign-finance reports, the only payments that could be traced in public records.

Editors for Mr. Timpone’s network assign work to freelancers dotted around the United States and abroad, often paying $3 to $36 per job. The assignments typically come with precise instructions on whom to interview and what to write, according to the internal correspondence. In some cases, those instructions are written by the network’s clients, who are sometimes the subjects of the articles.

The emails showed a salesman for Mr. Timpone’s sites offering a potential client a $2,000 package that included running five articles and unlimited news releases. The salesman stressed that reporters would call the shots on some articles, while the client would have a say on others.

Ian Prior, a Republican operative, was behind the articles about Ms. Gideon, the Senate candidate in Maine, as well as articles promoting Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Roy Blunt of Missouri, according to the internal records. Mr. Prior previously worked for the Senate Leadership Fund, a political action committee that has spent $9.7 million against Ms. Gideon.

Juan David Leal, who has worked in the Mexico office of the Berkeley Research Group, a consulting firm, ordered up articles criticizing the Mexican government’s response to the coronavirus.

And employees at the Illinois Opportunity Project, a conservative advocacy group, requested dozens of articles about specific Republican politicians in Illinois. The group has paid $441,000 to Mr. Timpone’s companies, according to the nonprofit’s tax records.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Collins, the Maine senator, said the campaign answers questions “from media outlets of all stripes and persuasions,” including the Maine Beacon, a local-news outlet funded by a liberal group.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/18/technology/timpone-local-news-metric-media.html

New York Post Published Hunter Biden Report Amid Newsroom Doubts

Ms. Morris did not have a bylined article in The Post before Wednesday, a search of its website showed. She arrived at the tabloid in April after working as an associate producer on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, according to her LinkedIn profile. Her Instagram account, which was set to private on Wednesday, included photos of her posing with the former Trump administration members Mr. Bannon and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as well as Roger J. Stone Jr., a friend and former campaign adviser to Mr. Trump. (In July, the president commuted the sentence of Mr. Stone on seven felonies.)

Ms. Fonrouge had little to do with the reporting or writing of the article, said three people with knowledge of how it was prepared. She learned that her byline was on the story only after it was published, the people said.

The article relied on documents purportedly taken from the hard drive to suggest that the elder Mr. Biden, as vice president, had directed American foreign policy in Ukraine to benefit his son, a former board member of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company.

The article also suggested that the elder Mr. Biden had met with a Burisma adviser, Vadym Pozharskyi. On Wednesday, a Biden campaign spokesman said that Mr. Biden’s official schedules showed no meeting between the former vice president and the adviser. Last month, two Republican-led Senate committees investigating the matter said they had found no evidence of wrongdoing by the former vice president.

“The senior editors at The Post made the decision to publish the Biden files after several days’ hard work established its merit,” Mr. Allan said in an email.

The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have reported that they could not independently verify the data in the Post article, which included hedging language, referring at one point to an email “allegedly sent” to Hunter Biden.

“The story was vetted and The Post stands by its reporting,” a Post spokeswoman said in a statement.

Kenneth P. Vogel contributed reporting.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/18/business/media/new-york-post-hunter-biden.html