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Facebook rebukes the UK's CMA over its position on the Giphy acquisition
by Paul Hill
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published a letter it has received from Facebook. It is in response to the CMA’s concerns over Facebook’s purchase of Giphy. The social media firm accused the CMA of failing to show how the Giphy acquisition has lead to a ‘substantial lessening of competition’ and it says that the CMA has failed to list alternatives to address concerns it has.
According to the CMA, Giphy had just started getting into advertising when it was acquired by Facebook, and according to the regulator, this deprived the ad market of a much-needed competitor. Facebook says this is really none of the CMA’s concern though because Giphy’s ads didn’t operate in the UK.
In its letter, Facebook said:
The CMA has not yet responded to Facebook’s letter but it’s very unlikely it'll stop going after Facebook just yet. As Facebook doesn't seem very compliant, this fight between the CMA and Facebook could drag on for a while yet.
UK competition body raises concerns over Facebook's Giphy merger
by Paul Hill
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has raised concerns over Facebook’s acquisition of the internet’s largest provider of GIFs, Giphy. According to the CMA, the merger could negatively impact competition between social media platforms and also deprive the internet of another advertising player as Giphy was engaged in the ads space until Facebook stopped these operations.
One of the CMA’s two main concerns with the deal is that Facebook’s takeover of Giphy could see it restrict GIFs on the platform from being shared on social media platforms other than Facebook. If Facebook does allow the GIFs to be shared to other platforms, it could attach strings such as requiring access to rival platforms’ user data which it could then go on to use for targeted advertising.
The other concern is that this merger gives Facebook even more control over the digital advertising space. Before the merger, Giphy was offering paid advertising in the United States and was looking into expanding its advertising operations into other markets including the United Kingdom. Had these plans gone ahead, there would have been more competition in the digital ads space, making for a more vibrant ad marketplace. Under the merger agreement, Facebook has terminated Giphy’s paid ad partnerships making its position in ads more monopolistic.
The CMA has been working with other competition bodies in multiple countries to work out what to do on this matter. The CMA says interested parties can submit their responses to the provisional findings by September 2 and their notice of possible remedies by August 25. The submissions will be taken into account as it writes up its final report on the matter which is due by October 6.
By Jay Bonggolto
Google vows to let UK's competition regulators oversee its online tracking changes
by Jay Bonggolto
Google tried to assuage growing online privacy concerns in 2019 by introducing new web standards that would put limits to how advertisers access user data to target their ads as part of the Privacy Sandbox project. The goal was to control third-party cookies that allow unauthorized tracking on the web with new digital advertising tools. Earlier this year, though, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation into the project.
Now, the CMA has announced that it has secured Google's commitments to limit how it uses data in order to address privacy and competition concerns. The competition watchdog is now seeking feedback from interested third parties before it accepts Google’s commitments.
Privacy Sandbox involves assigning users to a cohort based on their interests while keeping their identity private. This method lets a browser analyze the users' habits on-device without sending them to a server. The changes, however, have sparked concerns that Google's replacement for third-party cookies could hamper competition in the digital advertising space.
As part of its commitment, the search giant vows to not access synced Chrome browsing histories once third-party cookies are eliminated. This will presumably prevent Google from favoring its own advertising business or websites at the expense of its rivals.
In addition, the company promised to give regulators a say on the results of its testing of alternatives. The CMA can request a "standstill period" of two months if Google fails to address any of their outstanding concerns. During this period, they can reopen an investigation and implement interim measures.
The CMA and the Information Commissioner's Office will consult on Google's commitments until July 8 with input from third parties. The regulators also noted that these commitments will be legally binding if accepted.
Samsung launches competition to win Xbox Series X, Cyberpunk 2077, and a TV
by Paul Hill
Samsung has announced that it has partnered with Microsoft and CD Project RED to offer winners of a competition a Samsung QLED Limited Edition Cyberpunk 2077 TV, an Xbox Series X, and a copy of Cyberpunk 2077. The competition will be in the form of a scavenger hunt where entrants will be whittled down to five finalists who then face off in a final puzzle.
The hunt is an alternate reality game called Samsung QLEDecode and brings players “on a journey through the corners of the internet.” Players will have to solve mysterious posts, clues and puzzles to work their way through to the final task. Judging by Samsung’s announcement, there are already a few clues in the wild just waiting to be found.
Samsung has not provided an expansive description of the limited edition TV but it says that it’s QLED and supports 4K HDR at 120Hz with a low ms response time, variable refresh rate, and offers sharp graphics and capabilities specifically with the latest generation of games in mind.
According to a countdown on the QLEDecode competition page, it’ll start around mid-November. If you’re lucky enough to win the prize you’ll be saving yourself hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, but you will face a lot of tough competition as Samsung raises awareness of the competition.
Slack has filed a complaint against Microsoft over Teams
by João Carrasqueira
Ever since Microsoft introduced Teams, an enterprise communication tool to rival Slack, the two companies have had something of a back-and-forth regarding the competition between the two services. Upon launching Teams, Microsoft said that "little companies come and go" while referring to Slack, while adding that Microsoft offered a wider range of business products. More recently, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said that Slack doesn't see Teams as a threat.
Despite that, however, Slack announced today that it has filed a complaint to the European Commission, accusing Microsoft of "illegal and anti-competitive" behavior with its approach to Teams. Specifically, the company calls out Microsoft for bundling Teams with its Microsoft 365 suite of products, forcing it to be installed on many machines with no way to remove it by itself, all while "hiding the true cost to enterprise customers".
Jonathan Prince, Vice President of Communications and Policy at Slack, said that the company's product threatens Microsoft's presence in the enterprise space as whole, since it helps replace traditional email, which Slack refers to as "the cornerstone of Office". He added:
David Schellhase, General Counsel at Slack, stated that Slack simply wants competition to be fair and to have a level playing field, while accusing Microsoft of "reverting to past behavior".
With the complaint now filed to the European Commission, it's up to the agency to decide whether it needs to open a formal investigation on Microsoft's practices with Teams.