- In early August, Epic Games’ Fortnite was removed from Apple’s App Store after the gaming company tried to bypass Apple’s required 30% commission. The situation led to a lawsuit from Epic.
- Apple retaliated by attempting to block Epic’s Unreal Engine from being accessed by iOS developers. It also issued a countersuit and will revoke Epic Games Store users’ ability to use their Apple accounts to sign in.
- Epic Games has accused Apple of being a monopoly, saying that only allowing one app store on its devices and requiring a 30% commission is stifling competition.
- Fortnite being effectively removed from iOS means that nearly one-third of all Fortnite accounts are in limbo, which could be a major financial setback for Epic Games.
Epic Games Stirring Trouble With Apple
The battle between Apple and Epic Games reached new heights on Wednesday after Apple decided that users wouldn’t be allowed to use the “Sign In with Apple” feature to access their Epic Games account, regardless of what device they are on.
This is just the latest move in an on-going corporate feud between the tech giants that started on August 13. At that time, Epic Games tried to allow iOS users of their game Fortnite to bypass the App Store payment system and pay Epic directly, at a discounted rate.
Epic justified the discount by pointing out that Apple takes a 30% commission on all purchases through the App Store. In response to Epic Games’ move, Apple removed Fortnite from the App store. It’s widely assumed that this is what Epic wanted because it quickly released a video calling Apple a monopoly as well as a lawsuit ready to be filed.
Epic tried the same maneuver on Google’s Play Store and was similarly booted off the platform, embroiling the gaming company in another lawsuit.
Continued Escalations and Tit-for-Tats
Since Epic Games first took Apple to court, the two have further escalated tensions with accusations, countersuits, and petty retaliation.
On August 17, Apple extended its ban beyond Fortnite, targeting Epic’s Unreal Engine – a graphics engine that not only powers CGI for films and TV shows like “The Mandalorian,” but is also a cornerstone in the gaming industry. Apple told the company that unless it reversed course, Unreal Engine would also be removed by August 28. Removing its access to the App Store would mean countless iOS game developers would be left without a graphics engine for their games.
On August 24, the courts issued a series of early rulings that let both sides claim a victory. In a win for Epic Games, Apple was blocked from removing the Unreal Engine from the App Store; however, Apple was allowed to remove Epic Games’ own accounts from the App Store for a year.
Apple, for its part, thought the lawsuit and situation were ridiculous and could be easily resolved, telling The Verge, “The problem Epic has created for itself is one that can easily be remedied if they submit an update of their app that reverts it to comply with the guidelines they agreed to and which apply to all developers.”
Since then, things haven’t looked so great for Epic. The 116 million iOS users account for about one-third of all Fortnite accounts, but there’s been about a 60% decrease in iOS players since Apple blocked Epic from accessing its developer accounts.
In a September 5 court filing, Epic again asked the court to force Apple into allowing it back onto the App Store, arguing the loss of access to iOS players will do irreparable damage, writing, “Epic may never see these users again. It will also be denied the opportunity to access even a single new user among the one-billion-plus iOS users for at least the next year.”
While all that is happening, Apple upped the ante and hit Epic Games with a counter suit seeking punitive damages. The company claims that Epic trying to allow users to go around the App Store’s 30% commissions “…was little more than theft.”
Apple also says that “Epic’s lawsuit is nothing more than a basic disagreement over money. Although Epic portrays itself as a modern corporate Robin Hood, in reality it is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that simply wants to pay nothing for the tremendous value it derives from the App Store.”
The company is asking the court to force Epic to pay it all the money Epic earned from iOS users who used the option to not pay the 30% commission.
Finally, in what’s being described as a petty move by Apple, Epic Games revealed that “Apple will no longer allow users to sign into Epic Games accounts using “Sign In with Apple” as soon as September 11, 2020.”
“If you used “Sign In with Apple”, please make sure your email and password are up to date,” it added in a statement Wednesday.
This decision could affect more players than just those who use an iOS device, as many players use this feature to login into their Fortnite and Epic Games’ account across multiple devices. For those with Epic Games accounts: if you still want access to your Epic Games account after Thursday, make sure you go to your Epic account and change your info, otherwise you’ll be effectively blocked from logging in starting tomorrow.
The entire situation will likely see another big update near the end of September when lawyers from the two companies will appear back in court for their next hearing.
Google Trying to Distance Themselves
During all of this there’s also a lawsuit between Epic Games and Google that largely revolves around the same issue: Google Play requires a 30% commission, Epic says that’s way too much, tried to side step it, and lost access to its accounts.
Google, however, is trying to make sure the courts don’t apply any decisions between the Apple and Epic Games lawsuit to their situation by arguing that Android allows users to access multiple app stores and even download apps directly from developers.
That means that Epic’s argument against Apple – namely that its an alleged monopoly because apps can only be accessed through the official App Store – shouldn’t apply to the situation between Google and Epic.
See What Others Are Saying: (Endgadget) (Business Insider) (Wall Street Journal)
Misinformation Makes Up 20% of Top Search Results For Current Events on TikTok, New Research Finds
According to the report, the app “is consistently feeding millions of young users health misinformation, including some claims that could be dangerous to users’ health.”
Misinformation Thrives on TikTok
As TikTok becomes Gen Z’s favorite search engine, new research by journalism and tech group NewsGuard found that the video app frequently suggests misinformation to users searching for news-related topics.
NewsGuard used TikTok’s search bar to look up trending news subjects like the 2020 election, COVID-19, the invasion of Ukraine, the upcoming midterms, abortion, school shootings, and more. It analyzed 540 videos based on the top 20 results from 27 subject searches, finding false or misleading claims in 105 of those posts.
In other words, roughly 20% of the results contained misinformation.
Some of NewsGuard’s searches contained neutral phrases and words like “2022 election” or “mRNA vaccine,” while others were loaded with more controversial language like “January 6 FBI” or “Uvalde TX conspiracy.” In many cases, those controversial phrases were suggested by TikTok’s own search bar.
The researchers noted that, for example, during a search on climate change, “climate change debunked” showed up. While looking up COVID-19 vaccines, searches for “covid vaccine injury” or “covid vaccine exposed” were recommended.
Dangerous Results Regarding Health and More
The consequences of some of the false claims made in these videos can be severe. NewsGuard wrote in its report that the search engine “is consistently feeding millions of young users health misinformation, including some claims that could be dangerous to users’ health.”
Among the hoards of hazardous health claims were videos falsely suggesting that COVID-19 vaccines are toxic and cause permanent damage to organs. The report found that there are still several videos touting the anti-parasite hydroxychloroquine as a cure-all remedy, not just for COVID, but for any illness.
Searches regarding herbal abortions were particularly troublesome. While certain phrases like “mugwort abortion” were blocked, the researchers found several ways around this that lead to multiple videos touting debunked DIY abortion remedies that are not only proven to be ineffective, but can also pose serious health risks.
NewsGuard claimed that the social media app vowed to remove this content in July, but “two months later, herbal abortion content continues to be easily accessible on the platform.”
Other standard forms of conspiracy fodder also occupied space in top search results, including claims that the Uvalde school shooting was planned and that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
TikTok’s Search Engine Vs. Google
As part of its research, NewsGuard compared TikTok’s search results and suggestions with Google and found that, by comparison, the latter “provided higher-quality and less-polarizing results, with far less misinformation.”
“For example, searching ‘covid vaccine’ on Google prompted ‘walk-in covid vaccine,’ ‘which covid vaccine is best,’ and ‘types of covid vaccines,’” NewsGuard wrote. “None of these terms was suggested by TikTok.”
This is significant because recent reports show that young Internet users have increasingly turned to TikTok as a search engine over Google. While this might elicit safe results for pasta recipes and DIY tutorials, for people searching for current affairs, there could be significant consequences.
NewsGuard said that it flagged six videos containing misinformation to TikTok, and the social media app ended up taking those posts down. In a statement to Mashable, the company pledged to fight against misinformation on its platform.
“Our Community Guidelines make clear that we do not allow harmful misinformation, including medical misinformation, and we will remove it from the platform,” the statement said. “We partner with credible voices to elevate authoritative content on topics related to public health, and partner with independent fact-checkers who help us to assess the accuracy of content.”
Over 70 TikTok Creators Boycott Amazon as Workers Protest Conditions and Pay
As the company fends off pressure on both fronts, the Amazon Labor Union continues to back election petitions around the country including one filed Tuesday in upstate New York.
Gen Z Goes to War With Amazon
More than 70 big TikTok creators have pledged not to work with Amazon until it gives in to union workers’ demands, including calls for higher pay, safer working conditions, and increased paid time off.
Twenty-year-old TikToker Elise Joshi, who serves as deputy executive director for the advocacy group organizing the boycott, Gen Z for Change, posted an open letter on Twitter Tuesday.
“Dear Amazon.com,” it reads, “We are a coalition of over 70 TikTok creators with a combined following of 51 million people. Today, August 16th, 2022, we are joining together in solidarity with Amazon workers and union organizers through our People Over Prime Pledge.”
Amazon has refused to recognize the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) since workers voted to unionize at a Staten Island warehouse in April, and it has resisted collective bargaining negotiations.
Although the ALU is not involved in the boycott, its co-founder and interim President Chris Smalls expressed support for it in a statement to The Washington Post, saying, “It’s a good fight to take on because Amazon definitely is afraid of how we used TikTok during our campaigns.”
While the ALU posts videos on TikTok to drum up popular support for the labor movement, Amazon has sought to win large influencers over to its side. In 2017, it launched the Amazon Influencer Program, which offered influencers the opportunity to earn revenue by recommending products in personalized Amazon storefronts.
Last May, the company flew over a dozen Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok stars to a luxurious resort in Mexico.
Emily Rayna Shaw, a TikTok creator with 5.4 million followers who has partnered with Amazon in the past, is participating in the boycott.
“I think their method of offering influencers life-changing payouts to make them feel as if they need to work with them while also refusing to pay their workers behind the scenes is extremely wrong,” she told The Post.
“As an influencer, it’s important to choose the right companies to work with,” said Jackie James, a 19-year-old TikTok creator with 3.4 million followers, who told the outlet she will cease doing deals with Amazon until it changes its ways.
The ALU is demanding that Amazon bump its minimum wage to $30 per hour and stop its union-busting activities.
Slogging Through the ‘Suffocating’ Heat
Amazon is also facing challenges from workers themselves, with some walking out this week at its largest air hub in California, where company-branded planes transport packages to warehouses across the country.
They are asking for the base pay rate to be raised from $17 per hour to $22 per hour.
A group organizing the work stoppage under the name Inland Empire Amazon Workers United said in a statement that over 150 workers participated, but Amazon countered that the true number was only 74.
The Warehouse Worker Resource Center counted 900 workers who signed a petition demanding pay raises.
Inland Empire Amazon Workers United has complained about the “suffocating” heat in the facility, saying that temperatures at the San Bernardino airport reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for 24 days last month.
Amazon spokesperson Paul Flaningan, however, claimed to CNBC that the temperature never surpassed 77 degrees and said the company respects its workers’ right to voice their opinions.
On Tuesday, the ALU backed another warehouse’s decision to file a petition for a union election in upstate New York, roughly 10 miles outside Albany.
The National Labor Relations Board requires signatures from 30% of employees to trigger an election.
See what others are Saying: (The Washington Post (CNBC) (Associated Press)
Twitter Roasts Tim Hortons for Offering Coffee and Donut to Settle Lawsuit for Spying on Customers
The company allegedly tracked app users’ movements 24/7 to determine when they visited a competitor, a major sports venue, or their home or workplace.
A Not So Tasty Compensation
Social media users ridiculed Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons over the weekend for a leaked email in which it offered to compensate customers whom it allegedly spied on by giving them a free beverage and pastry.
Twitter user James McLeod posted pictures of the email Friday, which was sent to affected users of the company’s app.
“You are receiving this email in connection with a proposed settlement, subject to Court approval, of a national class action lawsuit involving the Tim Hortons app and the collection of geolocation data between April 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020,” it read.
“As part of the proposed settlement agreement, eligible app users will receive a free hot beverage and a free baked good,” it continued. “Distribution details will be provided following approval, in the event that the court approves the settlement.”
The email specified that the free beverage would have a retail value of $6.19 (CAD) plus tax, and the free baked good would be $2.39 (CAD).
In a statement to Vice, Tim Hortons said the settlement is not admission of any wrongdoing and that the allegations in the lawsuits have not been proven in court.
“Add to this the fact that the coffee is absolutely abysmal and it becomes even more hilarious,” one person tweeted amid a flurry of criticism toward the company.
Another added, “Do you think the donut will have the good sprinkles or the bad sprinkles?”
‘Vast Amounts’ of Data Collected Illegally
Suspicion that Tim Hortons had violated its customers’ privacy began in 2020 when a reporter from the National Post found that the company’s app had tracked their location over 2,700 times in under five months.
Last Month, Canadian authorities wrapped up an investigation into the matter, finding that Tim Hortons tracked and recorded the movements of people who downloaded its app every few minutes of every day, even when the app wasn’t open.
Although the app requested permission to access geolocation data, authorities concluded that it misled users to believe it would only gather data while the app was open.
Using “vast amounts” of geolocation data, the company inferred where users lived, where they worked and whether they were traveling, according to investigators.
It even allegedly generated an “event” anytime a user entered or exited a Tim Hortons competitor, a major sports venue, or their home or workplace.
The investigation found that the company continued gathering data for a year even despite having shelved plans to use it for targeted advertising.
The company, which has committed to deleting all geolocation data on group members, said in a statement that it only used the data in a limited way, such as to analyze user trends.