- The Department of Justice sent the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences a warning about its potential rule change that would limit Netflix and other streaming services from Oscar eligibility
- The DOJ says that the move could be a violation of antitrust law.
The Justice Department warned the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that any attempts to prevent Netflix and other streaming services from receiving Oscar eligibility could be considered a violation of antitrust law.
Variety reported the news Tuesday, along with a copy of the DOJ’s message to Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. In the letter, dated March 21, 2019, the DOJ’s Antitrust Division chief Makan Delrahim said he was concerned the new rules would be written in a way that would “suppress competition.”
“In the event that the Academy — an association that includes multiple competitors in its membership — establishes certain eligibility requirements for the Oscars that eliminate competition without procompetitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns,” Delrahim wrote.
Delrahim specifically says that a rule change like this could violate Section 1 of the Sherman Act, which “prohibits anticompetitive agreements among competitors.”
“Accordingly, agreements among competitors to exclude new competitors can violate the antitrust laws when their purpose or effect is to impede competition by goods or services that consumers purchase and enjoy but which threaten the profits of incumbent firms,” Delrahim wrote.
Delrahim’s warning follows reports that Steven Spielberg, an Academy board member, was preparing to propose a rule change that would stop films that debut on streaming services or have limited theatrical releases from obtaining Oscar consideration.
Spielberg has been vocal about his views on streaming services and Oscar eligibility. He told ITV News last year that Netflix and other streaming services have boosted the quality of television. However, he added, “Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. … If it’s a good show—deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar.”
“I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination,” he continued.
Netflix in particular, grabbed a lot of attention at the Oscars this year with “Roma,” which won awards for best director, best foreign language film, and best cinematography. The company responded to word of potential rule changes on Twitter last month, without naming Speilberg.
According to Variety, an Academy spokesperson said, “We’ve received a letter from the Dept. of Justice and have responded accordingly.”
The spokesperson said that the Academy’s Board of Governors will meet on April 23 for its annual awards rules meeting. At that meeting, all branches will submit possible updates for consideration.
Read the full DOJ letter here.
See what others are saying: (Variety) (The Wall Street Journal) (Rolling Stone)
The Boeing MAX 8 Scandal & Controversy Explained!
When Boeing first introduced the 737 MAX 8, the new plane was supposed to help usher in a new generation of commercial aircraft. Then two MAX 8’s crashed within five months of each other, killing a total of 346 people.
Since then, the controversy around Boeing has kept growing and growing as numerous investigations revealed a number of highly questionable and even negligent business and regulatory practices that ultimately led to the crashes.
Even now, more than a year after the first crash, Boeing is still in the news and under the microscope as it struggles to keep up appearances.
Facebook to Pay $550 Million to Settle Facial Recognition Suit
- Facebook agreed to pay $550 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in Illinois that claimed its “Tag Suggestions” feature illegally harvested facial data from millions of users in Illinois without their permission.
- Facebook disclosed the settlement while also announcing it made $21 billion last quarter.
- Some championed the settlement as a victory for consumer privacy rights.
- Others argued that no matter how much Facebook pays in lawsuits and settlements, the company has continued to grow and has not fundamentally changed its business practices.
Facebook Announces Settlement
Facebook announced Wednesday that it had agreed to pay $550 million to settle a class-action lawsuit involving facial recognition technology.
The lawsuit was filed in Illinois in 2015 and claimed that Facebook’s “Tag Suggestions” feature violated the state’s 2008 Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
The “Tag Suggestion” tool uses facial recognition software to scan users’ faces and then suggest the names of other users who might be in the picture.
The lawsuit alleged that Facebook used it to illegally harvest facial data from millions of users in Illinois without their permission or without telling them how the data was kept.
Illinois is one of three states that has its own biometric privacy laws, and BIPA is arguably the strongest of all three.
Under BIPA, companies that collect biometric data, which includes data from finger, face, and iris scans, must get prior consent from consumers and detail how the data will be used and how long the company will keep it. BIPA also allows private citizens to sue.
The lawsuit accused Facebook of failing to comply with those restrictions.
Facebook, for its part, argued that the people who it collected data from without consent could not prove that they experienced any concrete harm, like financial losses. However, the company still ultimately decided to settle.
Once the federal judge overseeing the case approves the settlement, people eligible to claim money are expected to receive a couple hundred dollars.
Other Settlements & Controversies
Many privacy experts and advocates applauded the settlement and said it was a victory for consumer privacy rights.
But others argued that the settlement does not really change anything, because it is not a big deal for Facebook. While $550 million might seem like a lot, for Facebook, its basically pocket change.
Even the way Facebook announced the settlement seemed to emphasize that point. The tech giant disclosed the settlement while announcing its financial results for 2019, reporting that revenue rose 25% to $21 billion in the last quarter alone.
Not only did that indicate how minor the Illinois settlement was for the company financially, it also showcased their incredible ability to weather scandals and controversy.
Over the last few years, Facebook has received a lot of backlash, largely over privacy concerns and the spread of misinformation on the platform.
Most recently Facebook has been under fire for its decision to essentially let politicians lie in political ads.
In July, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined Facebook $5 billion over privacy violations— the largest fine the FTC has ever imposed on a tech company by far.
Facebook’s Continued Growth
But even in the face of massive financial costs and prominent controversies, Facebook still continues to grow.
In an article published by Axios, writer Sara Fischer described Facebook’s ability for continued growth despite those obstacles.
“Facebook closed out the second decade of the millennium stronger than ever,” she wrote. “Facebook’s continued ability to post double-digit revenue growth every year speaks to how well it has been able to innovate and adapt, even in the face of regulatory headwinds and increased competition.”
Fischer gave the example of North America and Europe where Facebook has gotten more money per user each year despite the fact that its user growth in those regions has stayed relatively stagnant.
She also mentioned the Illinois case, FTC fine, and other growing concerns over privacy and advertizing Facebook has warned its investors about.
“So far these fines have proven moot in getting the tech giant to fundamentally change its business, which continues to grow substantially,” she said.
While Facebook did agree to be more transparent about how it uses facial recognition technology as part of the FTC settlement, many are skeptical that the Illinois case will bring about any substantive change.
However, in an investor call following the release of Facebook’s earnings report Wednesday, CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg said that he wanted to be more transparent about the company’s values.
“One critique of our approach for much of the last decade is that because we wanted to be liked, we didn’t want to communicate our views as clearly, because we worried about offending people,” he said.
“Our goal for the next decade isn’t to be liked, but understood. In order to be trusted, people need to know what we stand for.”
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Verge) (The New York Times)
New 2020 Emoji Include Transgender Flag and More Gender-Inclusive Options
- Over 100 new emoji were revealed on Wednesday, set to be released sometime in 2020.
- The new additions will consist of 62 brand-new emoji as well as 55 gender and skin-tone variants.
- The transgender flag, a woman in a tuxedo, and a more gender-inclusive alternative to Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus will be among the new options.
- Other emoji introduced include boba tea, a dodo bird, a smiley face with a tear, and an anatomical heart.
More than 100 new emoji will be available for mobile phone users this year, providing both fun new icons as well as more inclusive and diverse options.
The list was unveiled on Wednesday by the Unicode Consortium, an organization devoted to developing and maintaining software internalization standards and data.
There will be 62 brand-new emoji as well as 55 gender and skin-tone variants, reflecting a push toward a more inclusive collection. Among the new icons will be the transgender symbol as well as the transgender pride flag, an idea proposed by advocates and artists with the help of Google and Microsoft.
Along this same vein, more gender-inclusive options will be seen with this new wave. Both a woman and a non-binary figure in a tuxedo will soon be available, as well as a man and a non-binary figure in a wedding veil.
To complement the already-existing Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus options, a more gender-inclusive alternative will be included as well — under the name of Mx. Claus.
There will also be new emoji depicting parents feeding a baby.
Other new emoji include a smiley face with a tear, two figures hugging, boba tea, and an anatomical heart. The animal section is getting a boost too, as a beaver, a seal, a polar bear, and even a dodo bird will be introduced.
The release date of the new emoji depends on each individual vendor, but Unicode Consortium noted that typically the new icons are rolled out in the fall.
Praise for New Emoji
After the new additions were revealed, many took to Twitter to express their joy about the more inclusive options.
“Incredible power in the new 2020 emojis,” one person wrote.