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Spotify Files First Public EU Antitrust Complaint Against Apple

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  • Spotify’s CEO announced in a recent blog post, that the company has filed a complaint against Apple in the European Union.
  • The company claims that Apple has abused its control over apps in its App Store, stifled innovation, and limited consumer choice for their own benefit.
  • They also launched a website to highlight what they call Apple’s “anti-competitive behavior.”

Spotify CEO Speaks Out

Spotify filed an antitrust complaint against Apple on Monday with the European Union, alleging that Apple is hurting innovation and consumer choice with its Apple “tax” and restrictive rules in its App Store.

In a blog post shared Wednesday morning, Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek said that Apple imposes rules that “purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience—essentially acting as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers.”

Ek said his company takes issue with the 30 percent cut that Apple takes from subscriptions made through the Apple Store. He argues that this “tax” is designed to hurt services that compete with Apple’s own music service, Apple Music.

To pay this fee, Spotify says it has to inflate their premium membership prices “well above the price of Apple music.”  However, if Spotify refuses to pay the fee, then Apple “applies a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions” that make Spotify a worse experience. For example, Ek says that Apple limits their communication with customers and in some cases has restricted them from even sending emails to customers who use Apple.

“Apple also routinely blocks our experience-enhancing upgrades. Over time, this has included locking Spotify and other competitors out of Apple services such as Siri, HomePod, and Apple Watch,” Ek continued in the post.

According to Spotify general counsel Horacio Gutierrez, this is not something the company faces in Alpahbet Inc’s Google Play Store, where Spotify is not required to use Google’s payment system.

Time to Play Fair

The European Commission complaint is confidential, so to bring attention to the issue, Spotify has also launched a website called “Time to Play Fair.”

The site is dedicated to explaining Apples “anti-competitive behavior,” and even features a video that breaks down the issue at hand.

Not Just Spotify

Spotify has complained informally to the EU several times about similar issues in recent years. However, this filing is the first official complaint publically registered in the EU against Apple’s App Store.

Concerns over this type of behavior aren’t only expressed by Spotify. Last week, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said that if elected president in 2020, she would work to break up big tech companies.

Warren criticized firms like Google, Amazon, and Facebook for operating marketplaces where they also compete against other companies. She argued that this allows them to set the rules in a way that gives them benefits at the expense of others

What’s Next?

A spokesperson for the European Commission told The Wall Street Journal that it had received Spotify’s complaint and was “assessing [it] under our standard procedures.”

At this time, it’s unclear what this complaint will mean for the tech giant. However, EU regulators have become increasingly concerned with how technology platforms control the online ecosystem and how they can use their control to their own advantage.

For instance, in 2017 and 2018 the EU hit Google with record fines totaling $7.7 billion for alleged anticompetitive behavior. Then in September of last year, the EU said it was opening an investigation into Amazon to see if the company used data on rival sellers to unfairly compete against them by selling similar Amazon-brand products.

The current European Commission will reach the end of its term later this year, following parliament elections in May. That means they’ll be leaving little time to make any major progress on a new investigation.

Despite that, the complaint is already getting support from other companies. Deezer, another music streaming firm that filed an informal complaint with Spotify in 2017, said Wednesday that they supported Spotify in their antitrust challenge. Deezer added that it looked forward to the commission’s response.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (Bloomberg) (Tech Crunch)

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Facebook to Launch Its Own Cryptocurrency Called Libra in 2020

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  • Facebook announced its plan for a new cryptocurrency called Libra on Tuesday, explaining in detail why it will be different from other cryptocurrencies.
  • The social media giant not only helped fund the technology, but also created an independent company that will act as the wallet for Libra.
  • With Facebook’s recent privacy and security issues, people are concerned about trusting the company with their financial information.  

Facebook Announces Libra

Facebook announced on Tuesday its plan to launch a new cryptocurrency called Libra, hoping to create what they call “the internet of money”, despite high public distrust in the company over privacy and security issues.  

Libra, the statement explains, is expected to launch in 2020 and will be built on three main aspects. The first being a secure and reliable blockchain, which is the system that keeps track of cryptocurrency transactions. The blockchain used for Libra “was built from the group up,” the announcement states.

The company said it did this “to prioritize scalability, security, efficiency in storage and throughput, and future adaptability.”

The second main component of Libra focuses on the cryptocurrency being backed by a reserve of assets. This is what Libra says sets it apart from other cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, which are known for their volatility. With Libra being backed by stable assets actually worth value, it would be a more stable cryptocurrency. However like other cryptocurrencies, Libra is still likely to be affected by some fluctuations when converted to currencies like dollars.

As for the final aspect, the company says it will be governed by an independent group called the Libra Association. The group’s main purpose is to essentially be the administrator of the Libra network and make sure the network is available to other companies that want to take part. The 28 Founding Members, as they’re called, come from a variety of backgrounds and companies. In addition to Facebook, the group includes businesses like Mastercard, eBay, Lyft, Spotify AB, as well as non-profits like Mercy Corps. The members helped fund the reserves that back Libra and hope to have 100 members covering a wide range of organizations as well as academic institutions.

“It’s decentralized,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook when announcing Libra. “Meaning it’s run by many different organizations instead of just one, making the system fairer overall. It’s available to anyone with an internet connection and has low fees and costs.”

Facebook has said once Libra is launched, the company will no longer have authority and will be considered an equal member to the other organizations in the association.

Facebook’s Role

In addition to Facebook’s help funding the technology that makes Libra possible, it also created an independent subsidiary company, Calibra. This company will function as the first wallet for Libra, allowing users to transfer Libra between each other, and eventually pay for items with it. Simply put, it is more-or-less like Venmo and Google Pay put together.

Calibra has already launched a website which is letting people sign up for early access. The website explains that users do not need a Facebook profile to access Calibra, just a government-issued ID. And while Calibra will be available as a stand-alone app, it will also be accessible on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.  

Libra Association says they will try to ensure that the Libra infrastructure will be available to companies other than Calibra so in the future there can be other payments systems that can use the Libra freely.

Concerns

Many are quick to point out if it is safe to trust Facebook. The company has had numerous issues with privacy and data, making people question if they should be trusted with financial information

According to Reuters, Neil Campling, the head of TMT Research in London, said that “given its history of managing our data, it shouldn’t take much to convince people that Facebook managing our money is probably a terrible idea.”

People on social media have voiced their concerns as well, some even commenting on Zuckerberg’s Facebook post.

On their website, Calibra addresses the privacy and security issues.  

“Calibra will not share account information or financial data with Facebook, Inc. or any third party without customer consent. For example, Calibra customers’ account information and financial data will not be used to improve ad targeting on the Facebook, Inc. family of products.”

Noting that only certain cases, such as criminal activity or preventing fraud, would data be shared.

See what others are saying: (Quartz) (Business Insider) (CNN)

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Seattle Brewery Apologizes for Crips and Bloods Inspired Beers

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  • Mirage Beer announced the release of its Crips and Bloods themed beers, with bandana-designed cans and names like “Snitch Blood” and “Where you from.”
  • The Seattle-based brand was quickly met with backlash online, with many calling the concept offensive and in poor taste.
  • The company deleted the post and issued an apology saying that it would rename the beers and donate the proceeds to the Southern Poverty Law Center, along with other organizations recommended by the public.

Products Announced

A Seattle-based brewery apologized for its Crips and Bloods themed beers on Tuesday after facing much backlash online.

Mirage Beer initially announced the released in an Instagram post on Sunday by sharing a photo of the bandana-designed cans. One can was labeled “Snitch Blood,” while the other was labeled “Where you from.” The caption on the post included descriptions of the beers and said they would be available for sale starting Tuesday, May 28.

Screenshot of the now-deleted post taken by @BeerKulture

But the launch was quickly canceled after a number of people called the products offensive.

Reactions

Most of the backlash came after a tweet from the account Beer Kulture, which describes itself as a brand that merges beer and urban culture. The account called Mirage Beer “entitled,” and said, “people have died over that shit you’re trying to use to be down & kool.”

Others chimed in with similar responses.

Many also called for the brand to support communities heavily impacted by gang violence.

Brand Apologizes

Mirage Beer’s owner, Michael Dempster, apologized for the products with a brief statement posted on Instagram.

The post reads: “Full agree those lables were a dumb idea. Still going to release the beers, but obv with new names, and all proceeds going to the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

The caption below that post was later updated to say that a more in-depth apology was linked in the account’s bio. “I deeply regret the obvious element of appropriation, and further, that they trivialized the impact of gang violence on marginalized communities. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to find myself here,” the longer statement reads.

“I was blind, and stupid, and I wish I could take it back — not for my benefit, but to prevent anyone from feeling like this industry is any more hostile and/or insensitive than it already is. This was not my intent, and that’s part of the problem: I hadn’t thought this through,’ the post continues.

“I hope to further demonstrate my remorse in a way folks find meaningful, emphasizes the importance of inclusivity in beer, or otherwise helps prevent anyone from making similar mistakes.”

Dempster closes the apology by asking the public to offer suggestions of organizations that the brand can donate proceeds to, aside from the Southern Poverty Law Center. He also said he didn’t want to “just throw money” at the issue, but called it a “reasonable step.”

See what others are saying: (Yahoo Lifestyle) (Fox News) (Daily Mail)



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Tomi Lahren Criticizes Gillette Ad That Features a Father Showing His Transgender Son How to Shave

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  • Gillette’s latest viral advertisement shows a father teaching his transgender son how to shave for the first time.
  • Many applauded the razor brand for its inclusivity and for choosing to feature a transgender man, despite any anticipated backlash.
  • Meanwhile, others took issue with the campaign like conservative commentator Tomi Laren, who called the ad “a little much” and said it promotes “undergoing hormone therapy and gender reassignment” to young people.

The Ad

A new advertisement from the razor brand Gillette that shows a father teaching his transgender son how to shave for the first time has been met with mixed reactions online.

The video features Samson Bonkeabantu Brown, a Toronto-based artist who opens up about his first experience shaving after his transition.

“I always knew I was different. I didn’t know there was a term for the type of person that I was,” Brown said. “I went into my transition just wanting to be happy. I’m glad I’m at the point where I’m able to shave.”

The video cuts to Brown and his father in front of a bathroom mirror. “Now, don’t be scared,” his father encourages. “Shaving is about being confident.”

Brown explains that his transition is not just about him, but also about those around him. The ad then includes text that reads: “Whenever, wherever, however it happens — your first shave is special.”

The video closes on the company’s tagline, “the best a man can get.” The ad is a part of Gillette’s #MyBestSelf campaign and is being shown at the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival in Toronto.

Reactions

The video received mixed reactions from viewers. Many LGBTQ supporters applauded the company for its inclusiveness. Some even said the video brought them to tears.

Others found the ad insincere and accused the company of pandering. Some even argued that the video exploits transgender people for monetary gain.

However, some users recognized the ad as a marketing strategy but still respected the brand for the subject choice.

Others took issue with the brand supporting the transgender community in general. Conservative commentator Tomi Lahren even chimed in, calling the ad “a little much” and saying it promotes “undergoing hormone therapy and gender reassignment” to high-school-aged children.

Gillette and Brown Proud of Ad

After the ad was posted Brown took to Facebook to say that he was overwhelmed by the positive responses.

“I’m keenly aware of how blessed I am to be able to exist in this world being supported by my family in ways that all too often many of my trans brothers, sisters, and siblings who exist outside the binary are not always as fortunate,” Brown wrote.

“I am confident that this ad will encourage many of my trans siblings and fill them with the knowledge that our existence in this world can be filled with the love and support we deserve.”

Facebook post by Samson Bonkeabantu Brown

The company also seems pleased with the ad campaign. “We anticipated there would be some negative response to this video, however we’re thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive responses we’ve seen, from both consumers as well as organizations,” the brand said in a statement to PEOPLE.

“As a brand committed to helping men look, feel and act their best, it’s important to us to embrace inclusivity in how we portray masculinity. This is especially true for Samson and others in the trans community, which is why we created ‘First Shave.’”

This is not the first time the razor brand’s ads have made headlines. In January, Gillette faced backlash over a campaign that discussed toxic masculinity, harassment, and more. While many praised the brand for calling on men to do better in the wake of the #MeToo movement, others found the ad insulting and called it “anti-men.”

See what others are saying: (PEOPLE) (NBC News) (Fox News)

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