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Shark at-tech in the Senate



Money talks in politics, and Big Tech is a big talker

Big Tech has spent over $70 million in Washington over the past year to stop legislation that targets the business practices of the behemoths of the industry – Meta (Facebook), Amazon, Alphabet (Google), Apple, and Microsoft. 

But so far, they have failed to stop the pincer movement on Big Tech now underway in both the House and Senate – And these moves in Congress have the backing of the President.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would prohibit these major companies from favouring their own products on their platforms and disadvantaging competing services. 

Last July, the House Judiciary Committee approved a more aggressive package of six bills that would block mergers that eliminate competitors or reinforce monopoly power, prevent social media platforms from favouring their own products at the expense of distorting the market, and encourage the antitrust authorities to stop Big Tech – by breaking them up if necessary – from using their monopoly power to destroy competition with their platforms.

What makes these concerns so politically potent is that they have strong bipartisan support from both Democrats, who are concerned about structural issues of concentration of market power and abuse of consumers, and Republicans, who are more focused on content, bias and free speech issues that are suffused throughout digital content.

All these vectors converging on Big Tech became supercharged when Frances Haugen, a former Facebook executive, gave expert, credible testimony on Capitol Hill outlining, in forensic detail, deep concerns about Facebook’s conduct, policies, culture and resistance to accountability for how it does business.

The drama that will play out for the balance of this year in Congress is whether this legislation will be taken up on the House and Senate floors and sent to President Biden to be signed into law.

The Administration has already declared its hand on these issues. 

The new head of the Federal Trade Commission, Lina Khan, and the new head of antitrust at the Justice Department, Jonathan Kanter, have announced new guidelines to review proposed mergers among the Big Five, with a special emphasis on pricing and damage to competitors when the dominant players make significant acquisitions.

This is a multifront battle

The Federal Trade Commission and several states are in the courts seeking to overturn Fakebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. 

The Justice Department has sued Google, alleging the company has a monopoly on search.  36 states have sued Google and its mobile app store for abuse of market power.

Big Tech’s concerted political power may be able to run out the clock in Congress this year. 

The adage is true:  it is much easier to stop something than to start something in Congress.  History suggests Big Tech may well be able to trip up the legislative process – but that it will fail to prevent the government from enforcing the antitrust laws.

Congress’ legislative activity, scrutiny and oversight serve an especially useful purpose: to shine a bright light on the most powerful industry in the world today. 

The hearings and legislation build a record.  Tobacco is severely regulated because of the explosive hearings on what their executives knew – and tried to cover up – on how smoking causes cancer and other diseases. 

The testimony of witnesses like Ms Haugen on how Facebook operates changes political and popular sentiment on these issues.  

That shining of a bright light on the industry gives the regulators a stronger hand to bring down the antitrust laws on Big Tech practices that harm competition and consumers.

The two biggest antitrust actions in the past 40 years were against AT&T and competition in the telecoms industry, and Microsoft and its dominant position in personal computer operating systems.

Their trials in the courts were monumental, with both companies profoundly altered by antitrust settlements. AT&T was broken up, and Microsoft had to change its business practices on its software.

Why is what is happening to Big Tech today in Congress so important? 

Veteran Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah put it this way in 1999:

”Almost two years ago in the Judiciary Committee, I began examining the state of competition in the computer industry and specifically Microsoft’s business practices. That was before the Justice Department brought its lawsuit against the company. Some criticized me for doing it, and it was lonely. But I think people now recognize how important those hearings were.”

Veteran Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah put it this way in 1999:

If the dominant Big Tech companies are forced to abide by new rules on what they can and cannot do, rules that limit their market power and provide more protections for consumers, it will be because of what Congress is doing right now to advance legislation to make them more accountable to the rule of law.

Big Tech, by flexing its well-financed lobbying clout, might win the battle in Congress, and prevent enactment of the House and Senate bills now pending.

But they cannot stop the war on their market power.  Their reckoning with the antitrust laws is right in front of them.

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

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Stylish shades with future tech and Meta products



Meta hosted a two-day virtual event, Meta Connect 2023, on September 27-28, focusing on AI and virtual, mixed, and augmented realities.

The event featured presentations, lightning talks, and immersive experiences, giving attendees an insight into the latest advancements and innovations.


Unveiling Meta Quest 3 and Meta Smart Glasses

One of the highlights was the unveiling of the much-anticipated Meta Quest 3 and Meta smart glasses. Mark Zuckerberg, the Founder and CEO of Meta, along with special guests, introduced Meta Quest 3 and elucidated how Meta is pushing the boundaries of mixed reality.

Meta’s foray into smart glasses with a partnership with Ray-Ban showcased their commitment to expanding the realms of reality. The smart glasses promise hands-free communication and a seamless integration of the digital and physical worlds.\

Delving into Meta’s Technological Vision

The event delved into the technological vision of Meta with presentations like “Building the Future” by Michael Abrash, Chief Scientist at Reality Labs, and Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, CTO and Head of Reality Labs. They discussed Meta’s groundbreaking research in contextual AI, neural interfaces, and ultra-realistic codec avatars, fundamental to the future of computing.

Developer Ecosystem and AI Innovations

A significant aspect of the event was the “Developer State of the Union,” providing developers a platform to explore new tools, programs, and features across AI, VR, MR, AR, Meta Horizon Worlds, and Meta Avatars. Additionally, the event highlighted AI innovations through “AI, Llama and more” lightning talks, showcasing Meta’s recent AI developments and tools.

Immersive Experiences in Mixed Reality

On the second day, attendees had the opportunity to explore mixed reality experiences and the potential of Meta Quest 3 through a “Meta Quest and Mixed Reality” lightning talk. This session provided insights into the cutting-edge capabilities and business strategies that drive this next-generation product.

Meta Horizon Worlds: An Immersive Meta Experience

Meta Horizon Worlds, an immersive experience inspired by Meta’s Menlo Park campus, allowed participants to explore a virtual world and even experience Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote in 3D. Attendees could engage with others in Meta Horizon Worlds experiences and earn exclusive rewards.



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The surge of urban surveillance



Major cities witness rise in surveillance measures, with increased reliance on Closed-Circuit Television systems.

In recent years, bustling metropolises such as New York, Melbourne, and London have experienced a substantial surge in the deployment of CCTV cameras. These cities are wholeheartedly embracing advanced surveillance technologies, driven by the need to enhance public safety, deter criminal activities, and monitor high-traffic areas effectively.

The proliferation of CCTV networks signifies a response to the evolving security requirements of urban environments, aiming to provide real-time monitoring and swift response capabilities.

However, this upswing in surveillance has ignited significant debates concerning privacy, civil liberties, and the potential misuse of personal data. Striking a delicate balance between security measures and individual rights has become imperative. Notably, some supermarkets in Australia have taken a proactive approach by equipping their staff with body-worn cameras to deter potential incidents of theft, abuse, or untoward behaviour within their premises.

In the realm of home security, Eufy, originally known for vacuums, has transitioned into a high-tier home security supplier. Eufy has introduced a groundbreaking security package with the remarkable ability to seamlessly track a single person across multiple cameras.

Their innovative approach enables effortless tracking of an individual as they move across various cameras within a property. This advancement promises continuous insights into movements and activities, significantly boosting safety measures and streamlining response efforts to potential security threats or incidents.

Despite these upgrades accompanying the rapid digitisation of surveillance systems, CCTV networks face a growing threat from cyber attacks. These digital security risks lay bare the vulnerabilities of these crucial surveillance infrastructures. Hackers can exploit weaknesses in the network, gaining unauthorised access to live feeds, compromising data, and potentially causing disruptions in surveillance operations.

These escalating urban surveillance statistics prompt contemplation on the delicate balance between privacy and security. While CCTV proves effective in deterring crime and enhancing public safety, concerns about privacy and civil liberties persist and are continuously raised.

It seems to be crucial thing that companies continue to navigate this landscape thoughtfully, ensuring that the advancement of surveillance technologies is paralleled with safeguards for individual rights and privacy.


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SAG-AFTRA members back a video game industry strike



Game on! With clear resolve to strike a deal, union readies to recommence negotiations armed with authorisation.

In a resounding display of solidarity, members of the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) have endorsed a video game strike authorisation vote with an astonishing 98.32% voting in favour.

The SAG-AFTRA agreement which covered video game performers expired last November and has been extended on a monthly basis as the union negotiated with major video game companies.

The vote was initiated to address issues related to fair compensation, transparent contracts, and improved working conditions for video game voice actors and performers and is an extension of has been unfolding in Hollywood recently.

The resolute decision by the members empowers SAG-AFTRA to negotiate with video game production companies for better terms that adequately value the contributions of performers in this burgeoning sector. The resounding mandate highlights the urgency and importance of addressing the grievances and achieving a fair and mutually beneficial resolution.


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