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EU Fines Google $5.1B for Abuse of Power

Google and the European Union are certainly not on friendly terms right now, and haven’t been for quite some time. That’s because Google’s business practices are being called into question and the search giant isn’t winning any arguments. The latest focus of the EU is Android, and the result is a huge fine and demand for change.

In June last year, the EU fined Google £2.7 billion[1] for illegally steering users toward its comparison shopping website. This week, another fine of £5.1 billion was doled out because Google was found to be abusing its power in the smartphone market. As The New York Times[2] reports, the record fine is a response to the deals Google strikes with handset manufacturers who opt to use the Android operating system.

Google requires that these third-party handsets use Google’s search bar and default to the Chrome browser in return for access to the latest versions of Android. Financial incentives were also being offered to both handset makers and wireless carriers in return. European officials concluded that the signed agreements Google required could not be refused and therefore limited competition.

By doing these deals, Google has broken European antitrust laws and therefore must be punished, but also forced to change its practices. Therefore, alongside the £5.1 billion fine, Google has been given 90 days “to end its practices.” As you’d expect, Google intends to appeal the ruling and in so doing push back the date at which it needs to stop offering and enforcing these agreements that favor its services.

If the ruling stands, consumers within the EU could soon find many more Android smartphones being offered with non-Google web browsers and search engines set as the default.

It could be years before that happens, though.

References

  1. ^ EU fined Google £2.7 billion (uk.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ The New York Times (www.nytimes.com)

You Don't Need to Buy World of Warcraft Anymore

Since its release way back in 2004, World of Warcraft[1] has stuck to a very familiar revenue model. First, you needed to buy the game, which comes with 30 days of free play time. After that, a £14.99 a month subscription was required to keep playing.

Nearly 14 years later, and Blizzard is finally changing that model by dropping the requirement to purchase the game first. Instead, simply subscribing allows access to all currently available content. The one exception to that is future expansion packs including the forthcoming Battle for Azeroth[2].

As Polygon[3] reports, Blizzard isn’t making a big deal of this (yet). The Battle Chest Box[4] has disappeared from Blizzard’s online store and a subscription allows all content to be accessed right up to Legion. So for you £15 each month, you get the base game content as well as The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor, and Legion. I hate to think how much all that cost if you purchased each expansion on release.

By removing the need to buy the game, Blizzard both lowers the barrier to entry and clears up any potential confusion. The game now simply costs £15 a month to play and you get access to all available content by default. The Battle of Azeroth expansion arrives on August 14 and will cost £49.99 for the Standard Edition[5], £69.99 for the Digital Deluxe Edition[6], or £99.99 for the Collector’s Edition[7].

With so much content included in the subscription, though, I’m sure many players will now wait to see if this latest expansion eventually gets added for free as part of the subscription rather than buying it next month.

References

  1. ^ World of Warcraft (uk.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ Battle for Azeroth (uk.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ Polygon (www.polygon.com)
  4. ^ The Battle Chest Box (r.zdbb.net)
  5. ^ £49.99 for the Standard Edition (r.zdbb.net)
  6. ^ £69.99 for the Digital Deluxe Edition (r.zdbb.net)
  7. ^ £99.99 for the Collector’s Edition (r.zdbb.net)

Facebook's Content Moderation is Under Fire in Undercover Report

Is Facebook doing enough to remove bad content from the site? Not according to an undercover investigation in the UK. A new documentary[1] that aired on UK’s Channel 4 is claiming that Facebook moderators are often told to water down their efforts when it comes to removing objectionable content.

That’s opened the door for hate speech, violent videos and Facebook pages from far-right groups to persist over the social networking site, even as the content can violate company policies. “If you start censoring too much then people lose interest in the platform…. It’s all about making money at the end of the day,” an unnamed Facebook moderator allegedly told the filmmakers.

Before the documentary even aired on Tuesday, Facebook issued a statement, admitting it had made mistakes with the company’s content moderation efforts. “We take these mistakes incredibly seriously and are grateful to the journalists who brought them to our attention,” Facebook vice president Monika Bickert wrote[2] in an official post. A company executive was also interviewed on Channel 4, acknowledging the problems.

[embedded content]

Although Channel 4 hasn’t uploaded the full documentary online yet, in a press release[3], the UK broadcaster said that the filmmakers enlisted an undercover reporter to work as a Facebook content moderator in a Dublin office managed by a third-party outsourcing firm called CPL Resources. According to the documentary, Facebook content moderators are trained to ignore some forms of hate speech on the site.

Channel 4 uploaded[4] an example of a racist internet meme that moderators were told to permit.

Dispatches reveals the racist meme that Facebook moderators used as an example of acceptable content to leave on their platform. Facebook have removed the content since Channel 4’s revelations.Warning: distressing content. pic.twitter.com/riVka6LcPS[5]

— Channel 4 Dispatches (@C4Dispatches) July 17, 2018[6]

At one point, the undercover reporter was also told to refrain from deleting a video showing a man punching a toddler, and instead simply mark it as disturbing. The documentary also claims that Facebook’s most popular pages cannot be deleted by an ordinary content moderator.

Instead, the pages must go through a special content moderation process, which tends to leave the pages intact, no matter what objectionable content they’ve posted. “A moderator tells the undercover reporter that the far-right group Britain First’s pages were left up despite repeatedly featuring content that breached Facebook’s guidelines because, ‘they have a lot of followers so they’re generating a lot of revenue for Facebook,'” Channel 4 said. Facebook said it doesn’t agree with all the claims in the documentary, but added: “We have been investigating exactly what happened so we can prevent these issues from happening again.

For example, we immediately required all trainers in Dublin to do a re-training session –and are preparing to do the same globally.” (Facebook also banned[7] the Britain First page in March.) It isn’t the first time watchdog groups have noticed[8] bad content circularing over Facebook, despite the company’s efforts to clean the site up. On the flip side, other groups like Republicans have been accusing[9] the platform of over-censoring content from conservative-leaning voices and media groups.

In its defense, Facebook said its doubling the number of employees devoted to “safety and security” to 20,000 this year. It’s also tapping artificial intelligence to help it remove bad content more quickly. On Tuesday, Facebok added: “It has been suggested that turning a blind eye to bad content is in our commercial interests.

This is not true…

If our services aren’t safe, people won’t share and over time would stop using them.

Nor do advertisers want their brands associated with disturbing or problematic content.”

References

  1. ^ documentary (www.firecrestfilms.com)
  2. ^ wrote (newsroom.fb.com)
  3. ^ press release (www.channel4.com)
  4. ^ uploaded (twitter.com)
  5. ^ pic.twitter.com/riVka6LcPS (t.co)
  6. ^ July 17, 2018 (twitter.com)
  7. ^ banned (uk.pcmag.com)
  8. ^ noticed (uk.pcmag.com)
  9. ^ accusing (www.usatoday.com)