Germany opens antitrust probe against Apple

Tech giants including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple face antitrust investigations in Germany, France and the US. (File/AFP)
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Updated 21 June 2021

Germany opens antitrust probe against Apple

  • Germany launches investigation against Apple over anti-competition practices, shortly after similar probes against Amazon, Google and Facebook.
  • Germany and France have joined calls from the US to impose a global minimum corporate tax of at least 15 percent on companies like Amazon and Facebook.

BERLIN: Germany on Monday opened an investigation against Apple over anti-competition practices, making the iPhone maker the fourth US tech giant to be hit by such probes.
The antitrust authority had in recent weeks opened similar investigations against Amazon, Google and Facebook under a new law that took effect in January giving regulators more powers to rein in big tech companies.
The watchdog said it has initiated the first stage of the probe to determine if Apple has “cross-market significance.”
“An ecosystem extending across different markets can be one indication of such a position held by a company,” said the authority. “Such positions of power can make it very hard for other companies to counter it.”
Andreas Mundt, who heads the Federal Cartel Office, said his service will look at whether Apple has established such a digital ecosystem across several markets around the iPhone with its proprietary operating system iOS.
“A key focus of the investigation will be the operation of the App Store, because in many cases, it empowers Apple to have an influence on the business activities of third parties,” he added.
An Apple spokesperson underlined the company’s contribution to the employment market in Germany, saying its iOS app economy supported 250,000 jobs.
“We look forward to discussing our approach with the FCO and having an open dialogue about any of their concerns,” said the spokesperson in a statement.

Following the first stage of the probe, the cartel office said it might then look at other specific issues after it received complaints from “several companies against potential anticompetitive practices.”
This included a complaint against the company’s alleged tracking restrictions of users in connection with the introduction of the iOS 14.5 operating system.
It added that complaints had also been filed by app developers disputing the usage of Apple’s system for in-app purchases.
Germany’s tougher stance against the digital giants came after new EU draft legislation unveiled in December aimed at curbing the power of the Internet behemoths that could shake up the way Silicon Valley can operate in the 27-nation bloc.
The push to tighten legislation comes as big tech companies are facing increasing pressure around the globe, including in the United States, where Google and Facebook are facing antitrust suits.
Besides looking at the reach of the companies, scrutiny often extends to privacy issues.
In its investigation targeting Google, for instance, the German cartel office said it was examining if consumers who wish to use the search engine giant’s services “have sufficient choice as to how Google will use their data.”
The multinationals are also facing a crackdown from Western governments seeking to claw back taxes which they fear had been channeled unfairly into tax havens.
Germany and France have joined calls from the United States to impose a global minimum corporate tax of at least 15 percent, a move which targets multinationals like Amazon and Google.
Critics have repeatedly warned that many of the world’s biggest companies use tax havens or exploit loopholes to pay far less in taxes than some individuals.


Musk says Twitter deal should go ahead if it provides proof of real accounts

Updated 08 August 2022

Musk says Twitter deal should go ahead if it provides proof of real accounts

  • Twitter on Thursday dismissed Musk’s claim that he was hoodwinked into signing the deal to buy the social media company

LONDON: Elon Musk said that if Twitter Inc. could provide its method of sampling 100 accounts and how it confirmed that the accounts are real, his $44 billion deal to buy the company should proceed on its original terms.
“However, if it turns out that their SEC filings are materially false, then it should not,” Musk tweeted early on Saturday.
In response to a Twitter user asking whether the US SEC was probing “dubious claims” by the company, Musk tweeted “Good question, why aren’t they?.”
Twitter declined to comment on the tweet when contacted by Reuters.
Twitter on Thursday dismissed Musk’s claim that he was hoodwinked into signing the deal to buy the social media company, saying that it was “implausible and contrary to fact.”
“According to Musk, he — the billionaire founder of multiple companies, advised by Wall Street bankers and lawyers — was hoodwinked by Twitter into signing a $44 billion merger agreement. That story is as implausible and contrary to fact as it sounds,” the filing released by Twitter on Thursday said.
Musk filed a countersuit Twitter on July 29, escalating his legal fight against the social media company over his bid to walk away from the $44 billion purchase.


Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube

Updated 05 August 2022

Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube

  • Google said it already has measures to address the Nigerian government’s concerns including a system for trained users to flag troublesome content

ABUJA: Nigeria asked Google to block the use of YouTube channels and livestreams by banned groups and terrorist organizations in the country, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said on Thursday.
Nigeria has been exploring ways to regulate social media usage in the country, Africa’s most populous. The country is home to millions of Internet users and platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Tiktok are popular. YouTube “channels and emails containing names of banned groups and their affiliates should not be allowed on Google platforms,” Mohammed said he told Google executives in Abuja, the country’s capital.
Charles Murito, Google’s sub-Saharan African director for government affairs and public policy, in a statement said the company already has measures to address the Nigerian government’s concerns.
Those measures include a system for trained users to flag troublesome content, he added. “We share the same goals and objectives,” Murito said. “We do not want our platform to be used for ill purposes.”
The minister said the government was particularly concerned with online activities by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The government has labeled IPOB, a group campaigning for the secession of a southeastern region of Nigeria, a “terrorist organization.”
The YouTube concerns are part of an effort by the government, the minister said, to protect Nigerian Internet users from harmful effects of social media, especially ahead of a presidential election next year.
Nigeria suspended Twitter in June 2021 and blocked access to users after the social media giant removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari threatening to punish regional secessionists.
The government lifted the Twitter ban six months later.

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Twitter says Elon Musk making up excuses to breach deal

Updated 05 August 2022

Twitter says Elon Musk making up excuses to breach deal

  • Musk wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but in July announced he was ending the agreement
  • The Tesla boss has accused the firm of misleading him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts

SAN FRANCISCO, US: Twitter on Thursday said the notion Elon Musk was “hoodwinked” into inking a $44 billion buyout deal defies reason and the facts.
In a filing, Twitter rejected counter claims made by Musk as he fights to walk away from the deal he inked in April to buy the San Francisco-based company.
“According to Musk, he — the billionaire founder of multiple companies, advised by Wall Street bankers and lawyers — was hoodwinked by Twitter into signing a $44 billion merger agreement,” Twitter said.
“That story is as implausible and contrary to fact as it sounds.”
Musk last week filed a countersuit along with a legal defense against Twitter’s claim that the billionaire is contractually bound to complete the takeover deal.
“The counterclaims are a made-for-litigation tale that is contradicted by the evidence and common sense,” Twitter argued in the filing.
A five-day trial that will consider Twitter’s lawsuit against Musk has been scheduled for October 17.
The Tesla boss wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but then in July announced he was ending their agreement because the firm had misled him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts.
Twitter, whose stock price closed at $41.06 on Thursday, has stuck by its estimates that less than 5 percent of the activity on the platform is due to software “bots” rather than people.
Twitter told the court that Musk’s claim that the false account figure tops 10 percent is “untenable.”
The company also disputed Musk’s assertion that he has the right to walk away from the deal if Twitter’s bot count is found to be wrong since he didn’t ask anything about bots when he made the buyout offer.
“Musk forwent all due diligence — giving Twitter twenty-four hours to accept his take-it-or-leave-it offer before he would present it directly to Twitter’s stockholders,” the filing said.
The company accused Musk of contriving a story to escape a merger agreement that he no longer found attractive.
“Twitter has complied in every respect with the merger agreement,” the company said in the filing made to Chancery Court in the state of Delaware.
“Musk’s counterclaims, based as they are on distortion, misrepresentation, and outright deception, change nothing.”
The social media platform has urged shareholders to endorse the deal, setting a vote on the merger for September 13.
“We are committed to closing the merger on the price and terms agreed upon with Mr. Musk,” Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal and board chairman Bret Taylor said in a letter to investors.
Billions of dollars are at stake, but so is the future of Twitter, which Musk has said should allow any legal speech — an absolutist position that has sparked fears the network could be used to incite violence.
 


Beirut blast: Annahar and Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad launch campaign to restore hope in Lebanon

Updated 04 August 2022

Beirut blast: Annahar and Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad launch campaign to restore hope in Lebanon

  • Murad creates dress design using mesh cut directly from Annahar building’s exterior

LONDON: Veteran Lebanese newspaper Annahar and Dubai-based marketing group Impact BBDO are collaborating with Lebanese fashion designer Zuhair Murad on a campaign to restore hope to the crisis-affected country. 

As part of the campaign, launched under the hashtag “Restore Lebanon,” Murad  repurposed blue mesh fabric used in reconstruction work after the 2020 Beirut port explosion — transforming it into a dress and a symbol of hope. 

Murad worked on a dress design using mesh cut from the Annahar building’s exterior. 

The Lebanese designer said that he is seeking to highlight the resilience, beauty and willpower of the Lebanese people in the face of the country’s worsening economic and social crisis. 

The deep-blue dress features newspaper headlines printed on a satin belt, which is tied with a shiny red sequined heart.

Additionally, Annahar published a special Aug. 4 edition, which included testimonials by families of port blast victims and their hopes for a better Lebanon. The edition was sold or delivered wrapped in the same building mesh.

The campaign also launched an initiative to sell 10,452 non-fungible tokens of the design, a reference to Lebanon’s land area. 

All proceeds are expected to go to Idraac, a nonprofit organization that supports mental health initiatives in Lebanon. 

The campaign was launched on Thursday to coincide with the two-year anniversary of the Beirut port explosion, which killed 220 people, injured more than 6,000 and caused billions of dollars of damage.

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Elon Musk’s Twitter countersuit due by Friday as acrimony grows

Updated 04 August 2022

Elon Musk’s Twitter countersuit due by Friday as acrimony grows

  • Twitter has this week issued dozens of subpoenas to banks, investors and law firms that backed Musk’s bid, while Musk issued subpoenas to Twitter’s advisers at Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan

LONDON: Twitter Inc. and Elon Musk, who are suing each other over the world’s richest person’s effort to exit their $44 billion merger, couldn’t even agree on how much to tell the public about their dispute.
The presiding judge, Chancellor Kathleen McCormick of Delaware Chancery Court, ruled on Wednesday that Musk’s countersuit shall be made public by the afternoon of Aug. 5, two days later than Musk wanted.
Musk’s countersuit may be released as soon as Thursday, according to a person familiar with but not authorized to discuss the case.
McCormick ruled after San Francisco-based Twitter accused Musk of trying to release his 163-page countersuit on Wednesday without giving it a chance to redact, or black out, confidential information about the company.
Hours later, Musk’s lawyers shot back, accusing Twitter of trying to bury “the side of the story it does not want publicly disclosed” and undermine the public’s First Amendment constitutional right to know what both sides are arguing about.
Twitter had received a copy of the countersuit on July 29, and said court rules allowed it five business days to work on redactions. Musk said three business days were enough.
The dispute highlights the acrimony between Twitter and Musk, who is also chief executive of the electric car company Tesla Inc.
Musk agreed to buy Twitter on April 25, but sought to back out on July 8 without paying a $1 billion breakup fee, citing Twitter’s failure to provide details about the prevalence of bot and spam accounts.
Twitter sued him four days later, accusing him of sabotaging the merger because it no longer served his interests, and demanding he complete the merger.
An Oct. 17 trial is scheduled. Twitter has this week issued dozens of subpoenas to banks, investors and law firms that backed Musk’s bid, while Musk issued subpoenas to Twitter’s advisers at Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan.
Musk had offered to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share, saying he believed it could be a global platform for free speech.
Twitter shares closed up 2 cents at $41.00 on Wednesday.