Google rejects Australian regulator’s call for scrutiny, denies market power

Google has a 94 percent share of web searches in Australia. (Reuters)
Updated 04 March 2019

Google rejects Australian regulator’s call for scrutiny, denies market power

  • The global giant was responding to recommendations made late last year by the Australian watchdog
  • Australia ordered the inquiry into tech companies’ influence as part of wider media reforms in 2017

SYDNEY: Alphabet’s Google has rejected calls by Australia’s competition regulator for tougher scrutiny of its operations, denying that it enjoys market power in online searches and advertising, documents published on Monday showed.
The global giant was responding to recommendations made late last year by the watchdog, such as increased scrutiny and a new regulatory body to monitor the dominance of tech giants in online advertising and news markets.
“The preliminary report bases many of its recommendations on the mistaken premise that Google has market power in search, search advertising, and news media referrals,” Google wrote in a Feb. 18 statement published by the regulator.
“Google faces fierce competition from other providers, including vertical search sites like Amazon, Expedia, Domain and Carsales.com, many of which users access directly through mobile apps.”
The regulator had said the enormous market power of firms such as Google, which has a 94 percent share of web searches in Australia, and their opaque methods for ranking advertisements, gave them the ability and incentive to favor their businesses over advertisers.
In preliminary recommendations that are subject to change, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) also said the new regulator should have powers to investigate how the companies rank advertisements and news articles.
Google rejected such a measure as “unnecessary.”
It said the regulator had provided no evidence that regulatory review of Google’s algorithms and potential recommendations for more disclosure about its news ranking would lead to higher quality search results.
“We support transparency for our customers and partners in a fragmented space, but we disagree with the appropriateness of price monitoring as a solution,” Google said in the statement.
Australia, which has passed laws forcing tech companies to help police access user data amid growing concerns about the distribution of so-called “fake news,” ordered the inquiry into their influence as part of wider media reforms in 2017.


Indian video-sharing apps surge in popularity on TikTok ban

Updated 03 July 2020

Indian video-sharing apps surge in popularity on TikTok ban

  • Ban follows a confrontation between India and China at a disputed Himalayan border site
  • With 200 million Indians users, TikTok a burgeoning force in the nation’s social media scene

NEW DELHI: Indian tech and entertainment firms are looking to capitalize on sudden opportunities arising from a government ban on Chinese owned apps, including the wildly popular TikTok, with one rival video app saying it had added 22 million users in 48 hours. India this week outlawed 59 Chinese-owned apps including TikTok and Tencent’s WeChat, in what was described as a “digital strike” against China by the country’s technology minister.
The move followed a confrontation between India and China at a disputed Himalayan border site, which left 20 Indian soldiers dead.
With 200 million Indians users, TikTok, which features a simple user interface, background music options and various special effects, was a burgeoning force in the nation’s social media scene and the ban left its fans scrambling for options.
Roposo, an Indian video-sharing social media app similar to TikTok that been around since 2014, saw its user base jump by 22 million in the two days after India banned the Chinese apps, the company’s founder Mayank Bhangadia told Reuters.
“In the last few days I’ve slept for a total of five hours, and it’s the same for our entire team,” Bhangadia said. “The load is so much and we’re just ensuring that the experience is as smooth as possible.”
Roposo’s downloads on Google’s Android now total over 80 million, and Bhangadia expects that to reach 100 million in just a few days. Before the ban, Roposo had roughly 50 million installs on Android devices, which account for a bulk of India’s nearly 500 million smartphones.
Based in the southern Indian tech hub of Bengaluru, the company has just 200 staff now but is planning to hire as many as 10,000 people over the next two years and may take the app global, Bhangadia said.
Other home-grown TikTok alternatives such as Chingari and Mitron are also finding favor with users, with many taking to social media to echo Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for “atma-nirbhar” or self-reliant India.
MyGov, the federal government’s citizen engagement website, last month created its account on Roposo.
“We have to create our own ecosystem, every country has done this, this is our atma-nirbhar program,” said a government minister.
New players are also jumping into the fray. Mumbai-based Zee Entertainment Enterprises is set to launch an ad-supported, short-video platform, named HiPi, in the next two months, Rajneel Kumar, the product head for its digital unit Zee5 said.
He hoped that former TikTok users would “find a home within Hipi to be able to continue to enjoy the content they enjoyed.”