UK needs to meet Facebook, Google competition with new rules — report

In this Jan.31, 2019 file photo, a trunk full of fake bank notes is displayed as activists from anti-globalization organisation Attac stage a protest at Google's Paris headquarters to criticize the company's tax evasion policies, in Paris. (AP)
Updated 13 March 2019

UK needs to meet Facebook, Google competition with new rules — report

  • France, Italy, Britain and Spain have also proposed new digital taxes to narrow loopholes that allow large multinational firms to cut tax bills

LONDON: Britain needs to overhaul its competition rules to tackle the dominance of tech giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon, and increase consumer choice, a government review said on Wednesday.
A new competition unit with expertise in the sector should be set up, the independent review said, and innovation should be encouraged by giving people control over their own data so they could switch between rival services and platforms easily.
Smaller companies should also have access to the data that social media platforms hold on their users, it recommended.
Big tech has been criticized by politicians in the United States and in Europe in recent years over issues ranging from Facebook losing track of users’ data to how Google ranks the results of searches.
France, Italy, Britain and Spain have also proposed new digital taxes to narrow loopholes that allow large multinational firms to cut tax bills.
Harvard professor Jason Furman, who chaired the British government review, said the digital sector had created substantial benefits but they had come at the cost of the increasing dominance of a few companies.
“My panel is outlining a balanced proposal to give people more control over their data, give small businesses more of a chance to enter and thrive, and create more predictability for the large digital companies,” he said on Wednesday.
“These recommendations will deliver an economic boost driven by UK tech start-ups and innovation that will give consumers greater choice and protection.”
UK finance minister Philip Hammond, who will deliver a half-yearly update on the budget later on Wednesday, said he would set out government measures to ensure digital markets are competitive later this year.
TechUK, which represents more than 900 tech companies that collectively employ 700,000 people, said the report contained some positive suggestions, but it needed further detail on what any proposed code of conduct for big tech might look like.
It also said there had to be a full assessment of the risks and benefits of opening up data sets.
“Bad regulation can be as big a barrier to competition and innovation as monopoliztic activities,” TechUK CEO Julian David said.
“The UK must remain a welcoming place for digital business from around the world, and ensure that the UK competition and wider regulatory framework is not in conflict with the other leading digital economies with which we must compete.”


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.”