Platforms

Our working definition of a digital platform (with a hat tip to Harold Feld of Public Knowledge) is an online service that operates as a two-sided or multi-sided market with at least one side that is “open” to the mass market

Texas Cities Sue Streaming Services for Franchise Fees

Two dozen Texas cities have sued streaming giants Netflix, Hulu and Disney Direct-to-Consumer for not paying what the municipalities said are the millions in franchise fees that the streaming services owe them. A favorable decision could lead to millions more from other cities seeking more funds for municipal services. The cities are alleging that the streamers should be paying annual franchise fees back to 2007, as they said is required by the Public Utility Regulatory Act (PURA). Those are the fees that cable/broadband operators provide that go toward city services.

Broadband Providers Tell FCC To Reject Fuse Diversity Data Petition

Broadband providers are telling the Federal Communications Commission in no uncertain terms to reject calls by cable programmer Fuse Media and public advocacy groups to mandate that those providers collect data on the diversity of the video content vendors they buy programming from, including for their owned or affiliated streaming services which, they point out, are not regulated by the FCC.

Misleading Information and the Midterms

Since 2020, misinformation and disinformation related to election and voter suppression have continued to spread at a growing rate across online platforms. While internet platforms ramped up attempts to combat such information during the 2020 elections, many of these efforts appear to have been temporary measures. In anticipation of the 2022 US midterm elections, this report evaluates how online platforms are combating misleading election information against a selection of recommendations made by the Open Technology Institute in 2020.

Meet the Lobbyist Next Door

Washington’s political power brokers are quietly inching toward a full embrace of influencers. If not handled with care, however, that can be hazardous—particularly when the arrangement is unmasked. Urban Legend, a small ad-tech startup operating out of a loft in Alexandria (VA), pledges on its website to “help brands run accountable and impactful influencer campaigns.” Launched in 2020 by a pair of former Trump administration staffers, its more comprehensive mission, one rarely articulated in public, is slightly more ambitious.

Amazon Proposes Settlement of EU Antitrust Charges on Seller Data

Amazon has proposed concessions to settle two antitrust cases against it in the European Union, a fresh sign of changing strategy from big tech companies after the bloc passed a strict new digital-competition law. The US-based online retailer offered a pledge not to use nonpublic data about sellers on its marketplace, after the EU accused Amazon of violating competition law by using nonpublic information from merchants to compete against them. The European Commission, the bloc’s top competition regulator, said it was seeking feedback on commitments offered by Amazon to settle the cases.

European Union adopts landmark rules for a safer, open online environment

On July 5, European Parliament held the final vote on the new Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act, following a deal reached between Parliament and Council on 23 April and 24 March respectively. The two bills aim to address the societal and economic effects of the tech industry by setting clear standards for how they operate and provide services in the EU, in line with the EU’s fundamental rights and values.

Ruling could dampen government efforts to rein in Big Tech

The Supreme Court’s latest climate change ruling could dampen efforts by federal agencies to rein in the tech industry, which went largely unregulated for decades as the government tried to catch up to changes wrought by the internet. In the 6-3 decision that was narrowly tailored to the Environmental Protection Agency, the court ruled that the EPA does not have broad authority to reduce power plant emissions that contribute to global warming. The precedent is widely expected to invite challenges of other rules set by government agencies.

Social media is corroding US democracy, according to Nobelist Maria Ressa

The US is "far worse off than you think" when it comes to social media undermining its democracy, according to Nobel Peace Prize laureate and journalist Maria Ressa. Ressa, a Filipino American co-founder of news organization Rappler, says the next wave of elections around the world, including the US midterms in November 2022, provides another opportunity for social media to spread disinformation, divide people against one another and incite violence. She argues nations need to require accountability for tech firms like Meta, which owns Facebook, and Twitter.

Lawmakers Urge FTC Chair Khan to investigate Apple and Google for engaging in deceptive practices by enabling the collection and sale of consumer data

Sens Ron Wyden (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep Sara Jacobs (D-CA) wrote to Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan requesting the agency investigate Apple and Google for engaging in unfair and deceptive practices by enabling the collection and sale of hundreds of millions of mobile phone users’ personal data. "The FTC should investigate Apple and Google’s role in transforming online advertising into an intense system of surveillance that incentivizes and facilitates the unrestrained collection and constant sale of Americans’ personal data," says the letter.

Senators Call on Mental Health Apps to Provide Answers on Data Privacy and Sharing Practices

Sens Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent letters to BetterHelp and Talkspace, two leading mental health apps, expressing deep concerns about the companies’ use of patients’ personal health data and requesting more information about their data sharing and privacy practices. Their letter follows reports that mental health apps are collecting, mining, and disseminating private client information to third parties, including data brokers and Big Tech companies like Google and Facebook.