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EU Hits Amazon With Antitrust Charges, Accusing It of Predatory Behavior Against Small Businesses

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  • The executive branch of the European Union laid out its first set of antitrust charges against Amazon on Tuesday in an investigation related to the company’s dual role as both a retailer and a merchant on its website.
  • Specifically, the EU is accusing Amazon of abusing that role. It claims that Amazon utilizes seller data from other vendors in order to determine which products it can replicate at cheaper prices. 
  • The EU also launched a separate investigation into Amazon’s “buy boxes,” accusing the tech giant of preferentially listing its own products, as well as products from sellers that pay to use Amazon’s logistics services.
  • The EU joins a growing list of governments addressing antitrust concerns among big tech companies. On Monday, India launched an investigation into whether Google unfairly promoted its payment app on Google Play, the Android app store. 

EU Files Antitrust Charges Against Amazon 

In a preliminary set of charges filed on Tuesday, the European Union accused tech giant Amazon of violating antitrust laws. 

In those charges, the European Commission — the EU’s executive branch — accused Amazon of abusing its dual role as both a retailer and a merchant. By being both a retailer and merchant, Amazon hosts thousands of vendors on its website, allowing them a place to sell their products, while at the same time selling its own products there.

The background related to these charges is a frequent target of controversy surrounding Amazon. 

Many small businesses will sell their products on Amazon largely because it’s become such a dominant force in online retail. For example, a shopper is much more likely to find a business on Amazon than they are to find and then also go to that business’s website. 

However, Amazon has long been accused of replicating products that sell well on the website, oftentimes then selling those similar products for much cheaper. Moves like that can severely damage small businesses that don’t have the same level of resources Amazon does. It also means smaller companies are left in a “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” situation, having to decide between relying on the exposure that Amazon brings to grow a business and potentially having those ideas ripped off by Amazon. 

That’s where the European Commission’s come in. According to the Commission — which reviewed data from more than 80 million transactions and 100 million products on Amazon in France and Germany, the EU’s two largest markets — the company is routinely integrating non-public seller data from other vendors into its own retail algorithms.

Essentially, if true, that would mean Amazon is looking at metrics such as the number of a certain product sold by independent vendors on Amazon, as well as how much money those vendors have made from each product. That information, which isn’t able to be accessed by other vendors on Amazon, would then allow Amazon to determine which new products it should roll out and how much it should charge for them. 

“We do not take issue with the success of Amazon or its size,” European Commission top antitrust official Margrethe Vestager said. “Our concern is the very specific business conduct that appears to distort competition.”

“Data on the activity of third party sellers should not be used to the benefit of Amazon when it act[s] as a competitor to these sellers,” she added.

Second Investigation: Amazon Distorts “Buy Boxes”

Alongside those charges, the Commission has also announced that it’s started a separate investigation into Amazon’s policies around its “buy box.” 

That’s the sidebar on Amazon that allows customers to add items to their cart with one click; however, the caveat is that the buy box only lists a single vendor. To view other, less-prominently displayed vendors, customers would need scroll down.

As Vestager explains it, “The Buy Box is essential. It prominently shows you offers for one single seller of a chosen product with the possibility for the consumer to purchase it directly. So winning the Buy Box is crucial for the marketplace sellers as it seems that more than 80% of all transactions on Amazon are channelled through it.”

Regarding this investigation, the Commission is specifically looking into whether Amazon uses the buy box to preferentially list its own products and/or products from sellers that pay to use its logistics services.

“Our concern is that Amazon may artificially push retails to use its own related services,” which “may potentially lock them deeper into Amazon’s own ecosystem,” Vestager said. 

Amazon Rebukes EU Findings

Naturally, Amazon has denied the Commission’s charges.

“No company cares more about small businesses or has done more to support them over the past two decades than Amazon,” a spokesperson said.

As for where things go from here, it’s unclear, but this is likely going to be a very slow process. For one, these charges are just preliminary. The Commission actually needs to finish its investigation first. That means it could take months — or more likely, years — before a fine or other penalties are announced. 

It’s also possible these charges could be dropped if the Commission reaches a settlement with Amazon; however, if the Commission does agree that Amazon violated EU competition law, Amazon could face fines up to 10% of its annual worldwide turnover, which would amount to a maximum of $37 billion.

Next month, the Commission is expected to unveil a new package of laws in what could be one of the sweeping set of regulations on the tech industry ever. Notably, that could include rules restricting self-preferential treatment and requiring massive companies like Amazon to share data with smaller rivals. 

But it’s not just Europe. On Monday, India opened an antitrust case against Google over allegations that it unfairly promotes Google Pay on Google Play, the app store for Android phones. 

Just last month in the U.S., Congress also took aim at big tech companies. In fact, a House Judiciary subcommittee accused Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google of engaging in anti-competitive monopoly tactics.

“By controlling access to markets, these giants can pick winners and losers throughout our economy. They not only wield tremendous power, but they also abuse it by charging exorbitant fees, imposing oppressive contract terms, and extracting valuable data from the people and businesses that rely on them,” the report said, hitting a very similar note to that of the European Commission.

See what others are saying: (CNN Business) (The New York Times) (Tech Crunch)

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TikTok and Twitter Are Now Deleting Videos That Expose Closeted Olympians on Grindr

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On top of outing people who may not be ready to have their sexuality revealed to the world, these videos could have endangered LGBTQ+ athletes from countries where homosexuality is illegal.


Closeted Olympians Being Doxxed

Openly LGBTQ+ Olympians are currently more visible than they have ever been before, but unfortunately, so are closeted ones.

That’s because some people have been using the LGBTQ+ dating app Grindr to try and find Olympians. They’ve been doing so by using the app’s “Explore” feature, which allows people to search and see users in specific locations (ie. Olympic Village).

But some aren’t content with just discovering which athletes belong to the LGBTQ+ community. They’re also sharing that information on platforms like TikTok and Twitter. 

“I used Grindr’s explore feature to find myself [an] Olympian boyfriend,” one TikTok user said in a post that had been viewed 140,000 times, according to Insider

That video reportedly went on to show the poster scrolling through Grindr to expose over 30 users’ full faces. 

As many have argued, not only does this potentially out already-stressed Olympians who may not yet be comfortable sharing their sexuality, it also could put some users at serious risk if they live in countries where being LGBTQ+ is illegal. 

In fact, the video cited by Insider seemingly did just that, as it reportedly shows the face of a user who appears to be from a country “known for its anti-LGBTQ policies.”

Grindr Responds, TikTok and Twitter Take Action

In response, Grindr said the posts violate its rules against “publicly displaying, publishing, or otherwise distributing any content or information” from the app. It then asked the posters to remove the content.

Ultimately, it was TikTok and Twitter themselves that largely took action, with the two deleting at least 14 posts scattered across their platforms.

A Highly-Visible LGBTQ+ Presence at the Games 

According to Outsports, at least 172 of around 11,000 Olympians are openly LGBTQ+. While that number is still well below the statistical average, it’s triple the number of LGBTQ+ athletes that attended Rio’s 2016 Games.

In fact, if they were their own country, openly LGBTQ+ athletes would reportedly rank 11th in medals, according to an Outsports report published Tuesday. 

Among those winners is British diver Tom Daley, who secured his first gold medal on Monday and used his platform to send a hopeful message to LGBTQ+ youth by telling them, “You are not alone.”

After winning a silver medal on Wednesday, U.S. swimmer Erica Sullivan talked about her experience as both a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a person of color. 

Still, the Olympics has faced criticism for its exclusion of intersex individuals, particularly those like South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya, who won gold medals in both 2012 and 2016. Rules implemented in 2019 now prevent Semenya from competing as a woman without the use of medication to suppress her testosterone levels. 

See what others are saying: (Insider) (Pink News) (Out)

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Jake Paul Launches Anti-Bullying Charity

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The charity, called Boxing Bullies, aims to use the sport to give kids confidence and courage.


Jake Paul Launches Boxing Bullies Foundation

YouTuber Jake Paul — best known as the platform’s boxer, wreckless partier, and general troublemaker — has seemingly launched a non-profit to combat bullying.  

The charity is called Boxing Bullies. According to a mission statement posted on Instagram, it aims to “instill self confidence, leadership, and courage within the youth through the sport of boxing while using our platform, voice, and social media to fight back against bullying.”

If the notion of a Paul-founded anti-bullying charity called “Boxing Bullies” was not already begging to be compared to former First Lady Melania Trump’s “Best Best” initiative, maybe the group’s “Boxing Bullies Commandments” will help connect the dots. Those commandments use an acronym for the word “BOX” to spell out the charity’s golden rules.

Be kind to everyone; Only defend, never initiate; X-out bullying.” 

Paul Hopes To “Inspire” Kids To Stand Up For Themselves

Paul first said he was launching Boxing Bullies during a July 13 interview following a press conference for his upcoming fight against Tyron Woodley.

“I know who I am at the end of the day, which is a good person,” he told reporters. “I’m trying to change this sport, bring more eyeballs. I’m trying to support other fighters, increase fighter pay. I’m starting my charity, I’m launching that in 12 days here called Boxing Bullies and we’re helping to fight against cyberbullying.”

It has not been quite 12 days since the interview, so it’s likely that more information about the organization will be coming soon. Currently, the group has been the most active on Instagram, where it boasts a following of just around 1,200 followers. It has posted once to Twitter, where it has 32 followers; and has a TikTok account that has yet to publish any content. It also has a website, though there is not too much on it as of yet.

On its Instagram, one post introducing Paul as the founder claims the rowdy YouTuber started this charity because he has been on the receiving end of bullying.

Having been a victim of bullying himself, Jake experienced firsthand the impact it has on a person’s life,” the post says. “Jake believes that this is a prevailing issue in society that isn’t talked about enough. Boxing gave Jake the confidence to not care about what others think and he wants to share the sport and the welfare it‘s had on him with as many kids as possible.”

It adds that he hopes his group can“inspire the next generation of kids to be leaders, be athletes, and to fight back against bullying.”

Paul Previously Accused of Being a Bully

While fighting against bullying is a noble cause, it is an ironic project for Paul to start, as he has faced no shortage of bullying accusations. While Paul previously sang about “stopping kids from getting bullied” in the lunchroom, some have alleged he himself was actually a classic high school bully who threw kids’ backpacks into garbage cans. 

This behavior allegedly continued into his adulthood, as a New York Times report from earlier this year claimed he ran his Team 10 house with a culture of toxicity and bullying. Among other things, sources said he involved others in violent pranks, pressured people into doing dangerous stunts, and destroyed peoples’ personal property to make content.

Earlier this year, Paul was also accused of sexual assault, though he denied those allegations.

See what others are saying: (Dexerto)

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Director Defends Recreating Anthony Bourdain’s Voice With AI in New Documentary

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The film’s director claims he received permission from Bourdain’s estate and literary agent, but on Thursday, Bourdain’s widow publicly denied ever giving that permission. 


Bourdain’s Voice Recreated

“You are successful, and I am successful, and I’m wondering: Are you happy?” Anthony Bourdain says in a voiceover featured in “Roadrunnner,” a newly released documentary about the late chef — except Bourdain never actually said those words aloud.

Instead, it’s one of three lines in the film, which features frequent voiceovers from Bourdain, that were created through the use of artificial intelligence technology.

That said, the words are Bourdain’s own. In fact, they come from an email Bourdain reportedly wrote to a friend prior to his 2018 suicide. Nonetheless, many have now questioned whether recreating Bourdain’s voice was ethical, especially since documentaries are meant to reflect reality.

Director Defends Use of AI Voice

The film’s director, Academy Award winner Morgan Neville, has defended his use of the synthetic voice, telling Variety that he received permission from Bourdain’s estate and literary agent before inserting the lines into the film. 

“There were a few sentences that Tony wrote that he never spoke aloud,” Neville said. “It was a modern storytelling technique that I used in a few places where I thought it was important to make Tony’s words come alive.” 

Bourdain’s widow — Ottavia Bourdain, who is the executor of his estate — later denied Neville’s claim on Twitter, saying, “I certainly was NOT the one who said Tony would have been cool with that.”

In another interview with GQ, Neville described the process, saying the film’s creators “fed more than ten hours of Tony’s voice into an AI model.”

“The bigger the quantity, the better the result,” he added. “We worked with four companies before settling on the best.”

“If you watch the film,” Neville told The New Yorker, “you probably don’t know what the other lines are that were spoken by the AI, and you’re not going to know. We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later.” 

The Ethics Debate Isn’t Being Tabled

But many want to have that discussion now.

Boston-based film critic Sean Burns, who gave the film a rare negative review, later criticized it again for its unannounced use of AI, saying he wasn’t aware that Bourdain’s voice had been recreated until after he watched the documentary.  

Meanwhile, The New Yorker’s Helen Rosner wrote that the “seamlessness of the effect is eerie.”

“If it had been a human voice double I think the reaction would be “huh, ok,” but there’s something truly unsettling about the idea of it coming from a computer,” Rosner later tweeted. 

Online, many others have criticized the film’s use of AI, with some labeling it as a “deepfake.”

Others have offered more mixed criticism, saying that while the documentary highlights the need for posthumous AI use to be disclosed, it should not be ruled out altogether. 

“In a world where the living could consent to using AI to reproduce their voices posthumously, and where people were made aware that such a technology was being used, up front and in advance, one could envision that this kind of application might serve useful documentary purposes,” David Leslie, ethics lead at the Alan Turing Institute, told the BBC.

Celebrities Recreated After Death

The posthumous use of celebrity likeness in media is not a new debate. In 2012, a hologram of Tupac took the stage 15 years after his death. In 2014, the Billboard Music Awards brought a hologram of Michael Jackson onstage five years after his death. Meanwhile, the Star Wars franchise digitally recreated actor Peter Cushing in 2016’s “Rogue One,” and unused footage of actress Carrie Fisher was later translated into “The Rise of Skywalker,” though a digital version of Fisher was never used.

In recent years, it has become almost standard for filmmakers to say that they will not create digital versions of characters whose actors die unexpectedly. For example, several months after Chadwick Boseman’s death last year, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” executive producer Victoria Alonso confirmed Boseman would not be digitally recreated for his iconic role as King T’Challa.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (Yahoo! News) (Variety)

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