Facebook wins antitrust dismissal, surges to $1 trillion value

Facebook shares surged after the decision, lifting the company’s market valuation above $1 trillion for the first time. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 29 June 2021

Facebook wins antitrust dismissal, surges to $1 trillion value

  • US judge dismisses the blockbuster antitrust action against Facebook filed last year by federal and state regulators.
  • The value of Facebook subsequently increased to over $1 trillion for the first time.

WASHINGTON: A US judge on Monday dismissed the blockbuster antitrust action against Facebook filed last year by federal and state regulators, helping lift the value of the social media giant above $1 trillion for the first time.
Judge James Boasberg of the US District Court of Washington, DC dismissed the cases filed in December by the Federal Trade Commission and more than 40 states, which could have rolled back Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and the messaging platform WhatsApp.
The federal lawsuit “failed to plead enough facts to plausibly establish a necessary element... that Facebook has monopoly power in the market for personal social networking services,” the judge said in a 53-page opinion, while allowing authorities the opportunity to refile the case.
In lawsuits filed in December that were consolidated in federal court, US and state officials called for the divestment of Instagram and WhatsApp, arguing that Facebook had acted to “entrench and maintain its monopoly to deny consumers the benefits of competition.”
The judge issued a separate opinion dismissing the case by the states, saying attorneys general had waited too long to bring the case for the acquisition of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014.
The judge said the FTC complaint “says almost nothing concrete on the key question of how much power Facebook actually had... it is almost as if the agency expects the court to simply nod to the conventional wisdom that Facebook is a monopolizt.”
The federal agency based its case on a “vague” assertion that Facebook controlled more than 60 percent of the social networking market, but the FTC “does not even allege what it is measuring.”
Boasberg wrote that “the market at issue here is unusual in a number of ways, including that the products therein are not sold for a price... the court is thus unable to understand exactly what the agency’s ‘60 percent-plus’ figure is even referring to, let alone able to infer the underlying facts that might substantiate it.”
Still he ruled that “this defect could conceivably be overcome by re-pleading,” allowing the federal agency the possibility of refiling the action.
Facebook shares surged after the decision, lifting the company’s market valuation above $1 trillion for the first time.

In a statement, the company said, “We are pleased that today’s decisions recognize the defects in the government complaints filed against Facebook. We compete fairly every day to earn people’s time and attention and will continue to deliver great products for the people and businesses that use our services.”
The ruling comes a week after a US congressional panel advanced legislation that would lead to a sweeping overhaul of antitrust laws and give more power to regulators to break up large tech firms, specifically aiming at Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple.
The actions come amid growing concerns on the power of major tech firms, which have increasingly dominated key economic sectors and have seen steady growth during the pandemic.
Critics of Facebook said the rulings highlight the need to revise antitrust laws for the Internet age.
“This is a setback — not the end — in the FTC’s fight against dominant Big Tech monopolies like Facebook,” said Charlotte Slaiman of the consumer group Public Knowledge.
“The FTC should continue this important work, as the judge has indicated the agency can still file a new complaint if it can address these concerns. At the same time, Congress’ ongoing work to pass new laws and rules to address the power of Big Tech, as well as broader antitrust reforms, is now especially important and urgent.”


Russian journalist who fled house arrest says she is innocent

Updated 05 October 2022

Russian journalist who fled house arrest says she is innocent

  • The 44-year-old was given two months’ house arrest in August over a protest in July
  • How Marina Ovsyannikova left and where she went are still unclear

Russian TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, accused of spreading fake news after staging a series of lone protests against the war in Ukraine, said on Wednesday she had fled house arrest because she had no case to answer.
“I consider myself completely innocent, and since our state refuses to comply with its own laws, I refuse to comply with the measure of restraint imposed on me as of 30 September 2022 and release myself from it,” she said.
In a video posted on Telegram, she sat on a pink sofa and addressed Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service, criticizing President Vladimir Putin over the war.
“Put a tag like this on Putin,” she said, gesturing to what appeared to be an electronic ankle bracelet.
Her lawyer said she was supposed to turn up to a court hearing at 10:00 a.m. Moscow time (0700 GMT), but that investigators had failed to establish her whereabouts.
Investigators had asked the court to convert her initial house arrest order into jail time if she is found, but the court refused to do so, her lawyer said.
Ovsyannikova grabbed world attention in March by walking out in front of studio cameras during an evening news broadcast on state television with a placard that read “Stop the war” and “They’re lying to you.”
The Kremlin at the time denounced her act of protest as “hooliganism.”
The 44-year-old was given two months’ house arrest in August over a protest in July when she stood on a river embankment opposite the Kremlin and held up a poster calling Putin a murderer and his soldiers fascists.
She faced a sentence of up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of the charge of spreading fake news about Russia’s armed forces.
Her house arrest was due to last until Oct. 9, but the state-run news outlet Russia Today reported on Saturday that she had fled along with her 11-year-old daughter, and that her whereabouts were unknown. How she left and where she went are still unclear.
Russia passed new laws against discrediting or distributing “deliberately false information” about the armed forces on March 4, eight days after invading Ukraine.


20th Arab Media Forum begins in Dubai

Updated 05 October 2022

20th Arab Media Forum begins in Dubai

  • The agenda for the two-day event includes presentations, panel discussions and workshops focusing the latest industry developments

DUBAI: The 20th Arab Media Forum began in Dubai on Tuesday, attended by more than 3,000 government officials and leaders from Arab and global media sectors.

The two-day forum, taking place at Madinat Jumeirah under the auspices of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, is described as the largest gathering of Arab media stakeholders, who will explore how new trends and technology, and the sophisticated platforms and tools that could increase the beneficial influence of the media.

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the forum began by honoring prominent figures and organizations in the Arab media the fields of journalism, television and digital media. The agenda for the event includes presentations, panel discussions and workshops focusing on the latest developments within the industry.


GXR sees itself as a facilitator for artists rather than a record label, says its boss

Updated 05 October 2022

GXR sees itself as a facilitator for artists rather than a record label, says its boss

  • Elia Mssawir said the new indie label, which launched two months ago in partnership with Empire, aims to change the face of the music business in the region

DUBAI: The idea for independent music label GXR Records grew from a simple conversation between Elia Mssawir, an award-winning artist manager, and Paul Roy, the CEO of Galaxy Racer, a multimedia company focusing on esports, content creators, music and sport.

They were discussing their shared passion for music and vision for a company in the region that truly cares about its artists, Mssawir told Arab News.

“We started throwing around ideas and (talking about) how we wanted to bridge the gap between MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) and Asia — and that’s how GXR Records was brought to life,” he said.

They launched the label in August this year in partnership with Empire, a global independent label, distributor and publisher. Based in Dubai and with Mssawir as head of label, GXR Records is focused on developing talent in West Asian and North African territories. It has already signed a number of artists from this region, including Freek, Noel Kharman, Dyler, Hanody Awesome and Noor Stars, and the number of acts on its roster has reached more than 20 in the two months since launch. 

Mssawir, who joined Galaxy Racer in April, had been recruiting artists and influencers in India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Malaysia, where the company has offices, and discovered plenty of musical talent in those places. An idea was born to not only sign artists from Asia and Africa but also help them collaborate with their counterparts in the Middle East.

The founders of GXR Records said that, building on parent company Galaxy Racer’s existing portfolio, it is dedicated to identifying and developing a diverse roster of emerging and established artists across the region, while encouraging cross-promotion and collaborations within the label to help them reach a wider audience.

In addition to finding and signing artists, GXR Records will work with Galaxy Racer to create and produce music for the parent company’s influencers and brand collaborations, Mssawir said. These collaborations between artists and the parent brand is part of Mssawir’s vision for the company.

“It’s becoming a family more than a label,” he said.

This ambitious vision is matched by the label’s growth strategy; GXR Records has already opened an office in the US and there are plans to establish bases in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and South Africa by the end of this year. There are no current plans, however, for additional offices in the Middle East.

“Our headquarters here in Dubai are enough to operate on a MENA scale for 2022,” said Mssawir. However, he added that GXR Records intends to expand its presence in Africa and the Levant in the coming year.

One of the challenges, historically, for regional artists has been how to develop and grow into a global presence, Mssawir said. “This is where we come in and enhance this opportunity for them,” he added.

The new label is planning to organize a large-scale music festival next year, something that has been a long-time dream for Mssawir but one he never seemed to have “the time or team to focus on” until now.

“We’re planning on doing small events around the region, building up toward a big festival where we’re hoping to get a couple of international artists, and the MENA artists can open or support the international artists,” he said.

He jokes that his biggest challenge since the launch of GXR has been “sleeping less and working more.” But he added that working hard and putting in long hours is something he is happy to do because “we want to change how the music business is being done here.”

Another challenge he said he has faced is the negative public perception of record labels, something he said has been largely influenced by the way they are portrayed in Hollywood.

“That’s one of the things that we want to change,” he said.

There were no professional managers for acts in the region a decade ago and so artists would often accept any deal they could get, he said. The ecosystem is changing, however, and Mssawir said he is determined to help set high standards for artists, particularly when representing GXR Records as a brand.

“Labels are not there to kill artists’ careers,” he said. “And that’s why I don’t really call (GXR) a label, I call it a facilitator: We facilitate for the artists rather than labeling them.”


Twitter adds Arabic to ‘reply prompts’ feature, launches in Saudi Arabia

Updated 04 October 2022

Twitter adds Arabic to ‘reply prompts’ feature, launches in Saudi Arabia

  • The feature, which Twitter said has already proved successful in other languages, encourages people to think twice before replying to a tweet
  • The platform said English-language users in the US changed or deleted replies 30 percent of the time when prompted

DUBAI: Twitter has added an Arabic version of its “reply prompts” feature for users in Saudi Arabia, following a test phase among select Arabic-speaking users in the Kingdom.

The feature, which is designed to encourage people in certain circumstances to think twice before replying to a tweet, was initially tested in English in 2020. Twitter began to roll it out in some territories in 2021 and it was launched globally in 2022 in English and Turkish, in Spanish in Mexico, and in Portuguese in Brazil.

“People come to Twitter to talk about what’s happening and sometimes conversations about things we care about can get intense and people say things in the moment they might regret later,” Twitter’s director of product design Anita Butler and product manager Alberto Parrella wrote in a blog post.

According to Twitter, the feature has proved successful so far, with tests showing that English-language users in the US changed or deleted their replies 30 percent of the time when prompted, while Portuguese-language users in Brazil did so 47 percent of the time.

The social media platform said it found that after being prompted to reconsider a reply, users canceled it 9 percent of the time and revised it 22 percent of the time. Overall, people who were prompted in this way posted 6 percent fewer offensive tweets.

In early tests, users sometimes received unnecessary prompts because the computer algorithms could not properly differentiate between potentially offensive language, sarcasm and friendly banter. Throughout the process, Twitter said it analyzed results, collected feedback from users and worked to address any errors, including detection inconsistencies. Based on feedback and what was learned from those tests, the platform said it made improvements to the systems that determine when and how the prompts are sent.

For example, the algorithms now takes into consideration the nature of the relationship between two accounts, because if they follow and reply to each other regularly there is a higher likelihood that they have a good understanding of the preferred tone of communication.

Additionally, Twitter said it is adjusting its technology to account for situations in which insulting words or phrases might have been reclaimed by underrepresented communities and used in non-harmful ways, and to detect strong language more accurately. It is also working on ways in which users can provide feedback on whether or not they found a prompt helpful or relevant. 

The feature is now active on iOS, Android and the web on accounts in Saudi Arabia that have enabled Arabic-language settings.


Official FIFA 23 game soundtrack launched on Spotify

Updated 05 October 2022

Official FIFA 23 game soundtrack launched on Spotify

  • Saudi Arabia is the most FIFA-obsessed country in the Arab world on the platform, as it has the most playlists per user featuring songs from the soundtrack

DUBAI: FIFA 23, the latest iteration of the football video game franchise from EA Sports, has been generating much hype among gamers around the world since its release last week, and not only about the gameplay.

Many fans are as eager to discover the music used in each new version of the game as they are to actually play it and this year is no exception. And building on the FIFA fever in this World Cup year, the official soundtrack of the game has now been launched on Spotify.

It features songs from a mix of new and established acts around the world, including Saudi-born British artist Alewya. Meanwhile, MILKBLOOD and Pheelz make their FIFA soundtrack debuts.

“When cultural moments happen that ignite the gaming world like FIFA, we see that reflected in the music that we listen to on Spotify,” the streaming company said.

The platform analyzed the streaming habits of its users and found that Saudi Arabia ranks as the most FIFA-obsessed country in the Arab World, as it has the highest number of playlists per user that feature songs from the game’s soundtrack. Egypt and UAE are close runners-up, followed by Morocco and Qatar.

Globally, Spotify said that more than 21.2 million playlists include at least one song from the official FIFA 23 soundtrack.

The platform also revealed that the most-streamed song globally from the soundtrack to date is “Ojitos Lindos” by Bad Bunny and Bomba Estereo, followed by “Obsessed With You” by Central Cee, “Saoko” by Rosalia, “Ahora y Siempre” by Quevedo, Linton, and “Nail Tech” by Jack Harlow.

Related