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UK’s antitrust watchdog takes a closer look at Facebook-Giphy

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Potential threats to the free flow of GIFs continue to trouble the U.K.’s competition watchdog.

Facebook’s $400 million purchase of Giphy, announced last year, is now facing an in-depth probe by the CMA after the regulator found the acquisition raises competition concerns related to digital advertising. It now has until September 15 to investigate and report.

The watchdog took a first look at the deal last summer. It kept on looking into 2021. And then last week the CMA laid out its concerns — saying the (already completed) Facebook-Giphy acquisition could further reduce competition in the digital advertising market where the former is already a kingpin player (with over 50% share of the display advertising market).

The regulator said it had found evidence that, prior to the acquisition, Giphy had planned to expand its own digital advertising partnerships to other countries, including the U.K.

“If Giphy and Facebook remain merged, Giphy could have less incentive to expand its digital advertising, leading to a loss of potential competition in this market,” it wrote a week ago.

The CMA also said it was worried a Facebook-owned Giphy could harm social media rivals were the tech giant to squeeze the supply of animated pixels to others — or require rivals to sign up to worse terms (such as forcing them to hand over user data that it might then use to further fuel its ad targeting engines, gaining yet more market power).

On March 25 the companies were given five days by the regulator to address its concerns — by offering legally binding proposals intended to allay concerns.

An in-depth “phase 2” investigation could have been avoided if concessions were offered that were acceptable to the regulator but that is evidently not the case as the CMA has announced the phase 2 referral today. Given the announcement has come just five working days after the last notification it appears no concessions were offered.

We’ve reached out to Facebook and the CMA for comment.

A Facebook spokesperson said: “We will continue to fully cooperate with the CMA’s investigation. This merger is good for competition and in the interests of everyone in the U.K. who uses Giphy and our services — from developers to service providers to content creators.”

While Facebook has already completed its acquisition of Giphy, the CMA’s investigation continues to put a freeze on its ability to integrate Giphy more deeply into its wider business empire.

Albeit, given Facebook’s dominant position in the digital advertising space, its business need to move fast via product innovation is a lot less pressing than years past — when it was building its market dominance free from regulatory intervention.

In recent years, the CMA has been paying close mind to the digital ad market. Back in 2019 it reported substantial concerns over the power of the adtech duopoly, Google and Facebook. Although in its final report it said it would wait for the government to legislate, rather than make an intervention to address market power imbalances itself.

The U.K. is now in the process of setting up a pro-competition regulator with a dedicated focus on big tech — in response to concerns about the “winner takes all” dynamics seen in digital markets. This incoming Digital Market Unit will oversee a “pro-competition” regime for internet platforms that will see fresh compliance requirements in the coming years.

In the meanwhile, the CMA continues to scrutinize tech deals and strategic changes — including recently opening a probe of Google’s plan to depreciate support for third-party cookies in Chrome after complaints from other industry players.

In January it also announced it was taking a look at Uber’s plan to acquire Autocab. However on Monday it cleared that deal, finding only “limited indirect” competition between the pair and not finding evidence to indicate Autocab was likely to become a significant and more direct competitor to Uber in the future.

The regulator also considered whether Autocab and Uber could seek to put Autocab’s taxi company customers that compete against Uber at a disadvantage by reducing the quality of the booking and dispatch software sold to them, or by forcing them to pass data to Uber. But its phase 1 probe found other credible software suppliers and referral networks that the CMA said these taxi companies could switch to if Uber were to act in such a way — leading to it to clear the deal.

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Kenya labor court rules that Facebook can be sued

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Kenya labor court rules that Facebook can be sued

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A judge in Kenya has ruled that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, can be sued in the East African country.

Meta tried to have the case dropped, arguing that Kenyan courts do not have jurisdiction over their operations, but the labor court judge dismissed that in a ruling on Monday.

A former Facebook moderator in Kenya, Daniel Motaung, is suing the company claiming poor working conditions.

Motaung said that while working as a moderator he was exposed to gruesome content such as rape, torture and beheadings that risked his and colleagues’ mental health.

He said Meta did not offer mental health support to employees, required unreasonably long working hours, and offered minimal pay. Motaung worked in Facebook’s African hub in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, which is operated by Samasource Ltd.

Following the judge’s decision that Meta can be sued in Kenya, the next step in case will be considered by the court on Mar. 8.

Meta is facing a separate court case in which two Ethiopians say hate speech was allowed and even promoted on Facebook amid heated rhetoric over their country’s deadly Tigray conflict.

That lawsuit alleges that Meta hasn’t hired enough content moderators to adequately monitor posts, that it uses an algorithm that prioritizes hateful content, and that it responds more slowly to crises in Africa than elsewhere in the world.

The Associated Press and more than a dozen other media outlets last year reported that Facebook had failed to quickly and effectively moderate hate speech in several places around the world, including in Ethiopia. The reports were based on internal Facebook documents leaked by former employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen.

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Mayor Woodards to Present 2023 State of the City Address

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Mayor Woodards to Present 2023 State of the City Address





This year’s theme is “Building Tomorrow Together.”

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Mayor Victoria Woodards will present the 2023 State of the City Address at the Mount Tahoma High School Auditorium (4634 S. 74th St. in Tacoma) on Thursday, March 16, at 6:30 p.m. This year’s theme is “Building Tomorrow Together.” Topics covered during her address will include community safety, affordable housing and homelessness, and Tacoma’s ongoing recovery from the global pandemic.

 

Community members wishing to attend this free, public event in person can visit cityoftacoma.org/stateofthecity for additional information and to register. Ample free parking is available at the venue. Event doors open at 5:30 p.m. 

 

There will be American Sign Language interpreters at the State of the City, which will also be available in Spanish, Vietnamese and American Sign Language via Zoom. It will simulcast in Spanish live on VT Radio Universal at vtradiouniversal.com, on TuneIn Radio and on the VT Radio Universal Facebook page.

Follow the State of the City Address Live on TV Tacoma and Facebook

 

Woodards’ remarks can be viewed on TV Tacoma or tvtacoma.com, and on Facebook Live at facebook.com/cityoftacoma.

 

On Rainier Connect, TV Tacoma is available within Tacoma city limits and in Pierce County:



·      

On channel 512 in high definition



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On channel 12 in standard definition



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On channel 21 in standard definition in University Place

 

On Comcast, TV Tacoma is available:



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On channel 321 in high definition within Tacoma city limits and in Pierce County



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On channel 12 in standard definition within Tacoma city limits



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On channel 21 in Pierce County



·      

Not available in University Place

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John Carmack Has Some Great Advice About Games Preservation

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John Carmack Has Some Great Advice About Games Preservation

Screenshot: Star Wars | Kotaku

Doom co-creator John Carmack, legendary game designer, rocket guy and VR enthusiast, left Meta/Facebook late last year after a decade working on the company’s virtual reality efforts. Just because he’s gone, though, doesn’t mean the company’s decisions are out of his thoughts.

Accompanying the news last week that Meta had blown through almost $14 billion on failed VR bullshit was the announcement that Echo VR—a game first released on the competing Rift system before its developers were bought by Facebook—would be shutting down.

It was far from the only game to be killed off last week, with Rumbleverse and Knockout City suffering similar fates, their collective departures helping remind us that modern video games have a serious longevity problem, in that once discarded by publishers they’re extremely vulnerable to simply disappearing forever.

It’s a problem that Carmack recently addressed, sending a lengthy statement to UploadVR last week that covers all kinds of angles surrounding Echo VR’s shutdown. The stuff I’m mostly interested in, though, are all the bits about how it’s important for studios to keep old games alive, and that cost and manpower shouldn’t be the only things they’re thinking about when making those decisions.

“Even if there are only ten thousand active users, destroying that user value should be avoided if possible”, he says. “Your company suffers more harm when you take away something dear to a user than you gain in benefit by providing something equally valuable to them or others.”

Of course, his experience with this stuff is largely built on his time at id Software, whose older games—like Doom and Quake—were slightly more popular than some random VR game with only a few thousand users. His basic point is valid though! As he expands on here, with some tips built not just around good PR, but solid development fundamentals as well:

Every game should make sure they still work at some level without central server support. Even when not looking at end of life concerns, being able to work when the internet is down is valuable. If you can support some level of LAN play for a multiplayer game, the door is at least open for people to write proxies in the future. Supporting user-run servers as an option can actually save on hosting costs, and also opens up various community creative avenues.

Be disciplined about your build processes and what you put in your source tree, so there is at least the possibility of making the project open source. Think twice before adding dependencies that you can’t redistribute, and consider testing with stubbed out versions of the things you do use. Don’t do things in your code that wouldn’t be acceptable for the whole world to see. Most of game development is a panicky rush to make things stop falling apart long enough to ship, so it can be hard to dedicated time to fundamental software engineering, but there is a satisfaction to it, and it can pay off with less problematic late stage development.

To its credit, Knockout City—one of the games I mentioned above—is doing exactly this. When its existing version shuts down later this year, a new standalone release will drop that will allow for private servers, in effect letting people keep and play the game until the end of time.

Like Carmack says, there should be more of this, please!

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