Ousted CEO Matze sues Parler, claims board robbed him of millions

Parler leadership is a bit shadowy at the moment.

Enlarge / Parler leadership is a bit shadowy at the moment. (credit: Pavlo Gonchar | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images)

Former Parler CEO John Matze is suing the board of the troubled social media company, alleging that funder Rebekah Mercer and board members she placed engaged in a scheme to steal his share in the company he co-founded.

“While Mercer readily acknowledged and broadly boasted… that Parler was an enterprise worth hundreds of millions of dollars, if not a billion dollars, she and others orchestrated a theft of Matze’s 40 percent ownership, claiming that it could be taken from him for a mere $3.00,” Matze claims in the suit (PDF).

The complaint calls the maneuvering “outlandish and arrogant theft,” adding that “this scheme is epitomized by oppression, fraud, and malice, for which Matze is entitled to receive punitive damages” of at least three times the “millions he is owed in compensatory damages.”

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#john-matze, #lawsuits, #parler, #policy, #rebekah-mercer

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Facebook asks judge to toss antitrust suits, claiming no consumer harm

Extreme close-up image of Facebook and Instagram icons on a smartphone screen.

Enlarge / Just two of the many apps Facebook owns and operates. (credit: Tom Weller | DeFodi Images | Getty Images)

Facebook is asking a federal judge to dismiss landmark antitrust suits against the company, arguing that its “innovative free products deliver value” to consumers and that there’s no evidence it behaved anticompetitively or broke the law.

The Federal Trade Commission and almost every state in the country filed a pair of lawsuits in December arguing that Facebook abused its market power when it acquired rival firms, most notably WhatsApp and Instagram, and thus prevented competitors from presenting a more privacy-conscious alternative to consumers.

“Facebook’s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition,” FTC Bureau of Competition Director Ian Conner said at the time. “Our aim is to roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive.”

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#antitrust, #facebook, #lawsuits, #policy

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Twitter sues Texas AG to stop “retaliatory” content-moderation probe

Twitter sues Texas AG to stop “retaliatory” content-moderation probe

Enlarge (credit: Thomas Trutschel / Getty Images)

Twitter is suing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, alleging that a probe Paxton launched into its business is an act of retaliation against the platform’s choice to ban the account of former US President Donald Trump.

The suit (PDF) accuses Paxton of using his office to “intimidate, harass, and target Twitter in retaliation for Twitter’s exercise of its First Amendment rights.”

The conflict all goes back to the January 6 events at the US Capitol. At the height of the chaos, while a mob was actively storming the building, Trump took to Twitter to reiterate his false claims of electoral fraud and seemingly egg on the violence. In the following hours, Twitter deleted three tweets and suspended Trump’s account for 12 hours.

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#bad-faith, #content-moderation, #ken-paxton, #lawsuits, #policy, #section-230, #texas, #twitter

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Parler sues Amazon (again), claims AWS ban sank a billion-dollar valuation

The bright screen of a notebook computer illuminates the face of the person using it.

Enlarge / A person browsing Parler in early January, before the site got into a fight with AWS. (credit: Jaap Arriens | NurPhoto | Getty Images)

Social media platform Parler has dropped a federal lawsuit alleging that Amazon colluded with Twitter to drive a rival offline—but in its place, the platform has filed a new state lawsuit alleging that Amazon deliberately tanked Parler’s valuation.

Parler’s new suit (PDF)—filed in King County, Washington, where Amazon is headquartered—argues mainly that Parler is no worse than the competition and that Amazon defamed and devalued it when AWS discontinued service.

The platform has been embroiled in legal battles with Amazon since January, when Amazon cut off Parler’s AWS hosting in the wake of the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. Parler went offline shortly after and remained that way until mid-February.

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#amazon, #aws, #biz-it, #lawsuits, #parler, #policy

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TikTok agrees to proposed $92 million settlement in privacy class action

TikTok agrees to proposed $92 million settlement in privacy class action

Enlarge (credit: Mateusz Slodkowski | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images)

TikTok parent company ByteDance has agreed to a $92 million deal to settle class-action lawsuits alleging that the company illegally collected and used underage TikTok users’ personal data.

The proposed settlement (PDF) would require TikTok to pay out up to $92 million to members of the class and to change some of its data-collection processes and disclosures going forward.

The suit, which rolled up more than 20 related lawsuits, mostly filed on behalf of minors, alleged that TikTok violated both state and federal privacy laws, including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Video Privacy and Protection Act, through its use of data.

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#biometric-information-privacy-act, #bipa, #data-privacy, #lawsuits, #policy, #privacy, #settlements, #tiktok

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Tech groups sue Maryland to block new digital-ad tax from going into effect

Tech groups sue Maryland to block new digital-ad tax from going into effect

Enlarge (credit: G Fiume | Getty )

A group of business organizations led by the US Chamber of Commerce is suing the state of Maryland, seeking to block the implementation of the state’s brand-new, first-of-its-kind tax on digital-advertising revenue.

Maryland’s tax bill is “deeply flawed” and “illegal in myriad ways,” the suit (PDF) alleges, claiming that act will “harm Marylanders and small businesses and reduce the overall quality of Internet content.”

“This is a case of legislative overreach, punishing an industry that supports over one hundred thousand jobs in Maryland and contributes tens of billions of dollars to its economy each year,” the Internet Association, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement about the suit. “Internet services and companies are proud to play a role in creating opportunities for Maryland’s small businesses and citizens.”

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#ccia, #chamber-of-commerce, #digital-ad-tax, #internet-association, #lawsuits, #maryland, #netchoice, #policy, #taxation, #taxes, #us-chamber-of-commerce

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Google, Facebook tell SCOTUS it should be harder for you to sue them

Google, Facebook tell SCOTUS it should be harder for you to sue them

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images / Aurich Lawson)

Suing technology firms when they mess up is already hard, especially over privacy violations. Now, Facebook, Google, and the trade groups representing all the big tech firms are asking the Supreme Court to make it even harder for class actions to pursue cases against them.

Facebook, Google, and all the others submitted a filing (PDF) to the Supreme Court this week basically arguing that if you cannot prove the specific extent to which their screwup injured you, you should not have any grounds to be part of a lawsuit against them.

Class-action suits start with a lead plaintiff—basically a representative of the group who stands in for hundreds or thousands of other individuals in a similar or theoretically similar, but not necessarily identical, situation. This is particularly key in cases relating to privacy and data, where a small handful of plaintiffs for whom something goes badly wrong may be the reason that hundreds, thousands, or even millions of users then discover that their data is being similarly mishandled.

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#alphabet, #amicus-curiae, #facebook, #google, #lawsuits, #policy, #scotus, #supreme-court, #transunion

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Facebook will pay more than $300 each to 1.6M Illinois users in settlement

You see Facebook, Facebook sees you...

Enlarge / You see Facebook, Facebook sees you… (credit: Chris Jackson | Getty Images)

Millions of Facebook users in Illinois will be receiving about $340 each as Facebook settles a case alleging it broke state law when it collected facial recognition data on users without their consent. The judge hearing the case in federal court in California approved the final settlement on Thursday, six years after legal proceedings began.

“This is money that’s coming directly out of Facebook’s own pocket,” US District Judge James Donato said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “The violations here did not extract a penny from the pockets of the victims. But this is real money that Facebook is paying to compensate them for the tangible privacy harms that they suffered.”

Three different Illinois residents filed suit against Facebook in 2015 and claimed that the service’s “tag suggestions” feature, which uses facial recognition to suggest other users to tag in photos, violated their rights under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). The suits were eventually rolled together into a single class-action complaint and transferred to federal court in California.

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#biometric-data, #biometric-information-privacy-act, #facebook, #illinois, #lawsuits, #personal-data, #policy, #privacy, #settlements

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Filing: Amazon warned Parler for months about “more than 100” violent threats

3D logo hangs from a convention center ceiling.

Enlarge / Amazon Web Services (AWS) logo displayed during the 4th edition of the Viva Technology show at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on May 17, 2019, in Paris, France. (credit: Chesnot | Getty Images)

Amazon on Tuesday brought receipts in its response to seemingly defunct social networking platform Parler’s lawsuit against it, detailing AWS’ repeated efforts to get Parler to address explicit threats of violence posted to the service.

In the wake of the violent insurrection at the US Capitol last Wednesday, AWS kicked Parler off its Web-hosting platform at midnight Sunday evening. In response, Parler filed a lawsuit accusing Amazon of breaking a contract for political reasons and colluding with Twitter to drive a competitor offline.

But the ban has nothing to do with “stifling viewpoints” or a “conspiracy” to restrain a competitor, Amazon said in its response filing (PDF). Instead, Amazon said, “This case is about Parler’s demonstrated unwillingness and inability” to remove actively dangerous content, including posts that incite and plan “the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials and private citizens… AWS suspended Parler’s account as a last resort to prevent further access to such content, including plans for violence to disrupt the impending Presidential transition.”

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#amazon, #antitrust, #aws, #insurrection, #lawsuits, #parler, #policy, #section-230, #sedition

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Dominion Voting suing “kraken” lawyer Sidney Powell for $1.3B

Sidney Powell, flanked by Rudy Giuliani, at a press conference on Nov. 19, three days before the Trump campaign publicly cut ties with her.

Enlarge / Sidney Powell, flanked by Rudy Giuliani, at a press conference on Nov. 19, three days before the Trump campaign publicly cut ties with her. (credit: Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images)

Dominion Voting Systems has filed a suit against former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell, alleging that her widespread, unfounded conspiracy theories led to both reputational damage to the company and death threats against its employees. Dominion is seeking $1.3 billion in damages.

Statements made by Powell, “in concert with allies and media outlets” presenting a “false preconceived narrative” about the 2020 election, caused “unprecedented harm” to Dominion, the company said in its suit (PDF).

Powell is the attorney who filed the “kraken” lawsuits seeking to de-certify the results of the 2020 election. The Trump campaign abruptly cut ties with Powell in late November, but that stopped neither her increasingly outrageous claims nor her increasingly ludicrous lawsuits from flowing. Not only were Powell’s suits based on unfounded conspiracy theories, but they were also just plain bad filings in myriad other ways, including naming locations that didn’t exist, misspelling ones that did, and naming plaintiffs who had not agreed to participate in the case.

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#defamation, #dominion, #elections, #electronic-voting, #lawsuits, #policy, #trump, #voting

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Corellium notches partial victory in Apple iOS copyright case

Just some of the iDevice types that Corellium didn't break one law—but may still have broken another—by emulating.

Enlarge / Just some of the iDevice types that Corellium didn’t break one law—but may still have broken another—by emulating. (credit: Kristin Lee | Getty Images)

Security firm Corellium, which develops software that researchers can use to analyze Apple products, has been handed a partial victory in Apple’s lawsuit against it, as a judge ruled that its creation of virtual iOS environments does not violate Apple’s copyrights.

Corellium has since 2017 been creating iOS environments that can run on desktop computers, for use as a research and development tool. Apple sued Corellium in 2019, alleging, “Corellium’s true goal is profiting off its blatant infringement” of iOS, and claiming that the firm “encourages its users to sell any discovered information [about system vulnerabilities] on the open market to the highest bidder.”

Earlier this year, Apple amended the suit to include allegations that Corellium’s work violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) prohibition circumventing or breaking DRM.

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#apple, #biz-it, #copyright, #corellium, #digital-millenium-copyright-act, #dmca, #ios, #lawsuits, #policy, #section-1201

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Computer repairman suing Twitter for defamation, seeks $500 million

Extreme close-up image of the Twitter logo on the screen of a smartphone.

Enlarge (credit: Tom Raftery | Flickr)

The former owner of a computer repair shop in Delaware is suing Twitter for defamation, alleging that the platform’s choice to moderate a New York Post story that cited him as a source is tantamount to labeling him personally a “hacker.”

Twitter’s “actions and statements had the specific intent to communicate to the world” that John Paul Mac Isaac “is a hacker,” the suit (PDF) alleges, eventually forcing him to shut down his Delaware business. Mac Isaac is seeking $500 million in punitive damages from the suit, as well as whatever “further relief” the court deems appropriate.

The alleged defamation ties to a specific October episode in a fall that was, frankly, full of strange episodes. On October 14, the New York Post ran a story alleging that President-Elect Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, had connected his father with Ukrainian energy firm Burisma in 2014. These allegations were based on emails the Post said it got from Trump attorney and former New York mayor Rudy Giliani, who in turn allegedly obtained them from a laptop that Biden’s son Hunter dropped off at Mac Isaac’s computer repair shop in 2019.

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#defamation, #lawsuits, #policy, #section-230, #twitter

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CD Projekt Red investors sue company over Cyberpunk 2077 debacle

People are complaining about situations like this in <em>Cyberpunk 2077</em>.

Enlarge / People are complaining about situations like this in Cyberpunk 2077. (credit: CDPR / Twitter)

On its release day, Cyberpunk 2077 immediately pivoted from one of the holiday season’s most hotly anticipated new games to one of this year’s biggest debacles, as bugs both comical and game-breaking proved to be so prolific on consoles that Sony even delisted the title entirely from its digital storefront for the time being. Developer and publisher CD Projekt Red has had its hands full for the last few weeks juggling broad mockery and unhappy customers, and now there’s a new woe on their pile: shareholder suits.

Two different law firms announced last week they were filing suit against CD Projekt, alleging the company violated securities law by misleading investors (and everyone else) about the state of Cyberpunk 2077 and whether it would be playable on current-generation consoles, the PlayStation 4 and XBox One.

Statements CD Projekt Red made about Cyberpunk throughout 2020 were “materially false and misleading,” the complaint (PDF) alleges, because the company failed to mention that the game “was virtually unplayable on the current-generation Xbox or Playstation systems due to an enormous number of bugs.”

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#biz-it, #cd-projekt, #cd-projekt-red, #cyberpunk, #cyberpunk-2077, #gaming-culture, #investor-suits, #lawsuits, #video-games

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Google, Facebook reportedly agreed to work together to fight antitrust probes

A traffic signal in front of Google HQ indicates that pedestrians should not walk.

Enlarge / Signage in front of a building on the Google campus in Mountain View, California, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. (credit: David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

More than three dozen state attorneys general last week filed an antitrust suit against Google, accusing the tech behemoth of a slew of anticompetitive behaviors. Among those behaviors, a new report finds, is an explicit agreement from Google to work with Facebook not only to divide the online advertising marketplace, but also to fend off antitrust investigations.

Facebook and Google agreed in a contract to “cooperate and assist each other in responding to any Antitrust Action” and “promptly and fully inform the Other Party of any Governmental Communication Related to the Agreement,” according to an unredacted draft copy of the lawsuit obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

The final version of the suit made public last week (PDF) alleged that Google and Facebook signed a secret agreement in 2018 that “fixes prices and allocates markets between Google and Facebook as competing bidders in the auctions for publishers’ Web display and in-app advertising inventory.”

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#alphabet, #antitrust, #collusion, #conspiracy, #facebook, #google, #lawsuits, #policy

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Google committed “antitrust evils,” colluded with Facebook, new lawsuit says

A large Google logo is displayed amidst foliage.

Enlarge (credit: Sean Gallup | Getty Images)

Two separate coalitions of states have filed massive antitrust lawsuits against Google in the past 24 hours, alleging the company abuses its extensive power to force would-be competitors out of the marketplace and harms consumers in the process.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton spearheaded the first suit, which nine other states also signed onto. The second suit is led by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, and an additional 36 states and territories signed on.

Antitrust law isn’t just about being an illegal monopoly or even about being the dominant firm in your market sector. Although being a literal monopoly, with no available competition of any kind, can put you on the fast track to investigation, the law has broader concerns. Primarily, antitrust investigations are about anticompetitive behavior—in short, how a company uses its power. If you’re a big company because everyone likes your stuff best, well, you’re a big company, congratulations. But if you got to be the dominant company by cheating somehow—strong-arming other firms in the supply chain; targeted anticompetitive acquisitions; colluding with other firms to manipulate market conditions, and so on—that’s a problem.

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#alphabet, #antitrust, #google, #lawsuits, #policy, #texas

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The latest multistate antitrust lawsuit targets Google’s ad business

Texas announced Wednesday that it will sue Google, accusing the search giant of maintaining an illegal monopoly in online advertising. The suit, which has yet to appear in an official filing, was first announced in a video from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Texas will be joined by Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, South Dakota, North Dakota, Utah and Idaho, according to reporting from Reuters.

“It isn’t fair that google effectively eliminated its competition and crowned itself the head of online advertising,” Paxton said. Paxton argues that Google’s advertising practices and “anticompetitive conduct” give it too much power over the online advertising ecosystem, to the detriment of publishers.

Paxton’s name might sound familiar. He’s the state official who led a recent lawsuit disputing President-elect Joe Biden’s wins in the battleground states of Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin on behalf of Texas. The Supreme Court unceremoniously rejected the suit on the grounds that the state lacked the standing to file it. Paxton is also currently under investigation by the FBI for bribery allegations, making him a deeply controversial figure to lead such an effort.

Last week, 46 states announced a separate lawsuit against Facebook over parallel antitrust concerns. That suit, which the state of Texas is also participating in, alleges that Facebook built a monopoly through predatory business practices like buying its rivals. The FTC also filed its own lawsuit against Facebook last week, alleging that the company is a monopoly and that its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp should be undone.

#advertising-tech, #antitrust, #google, #government, #lawsuit, #lawsuits, #tc, #texas, #the-battle-over-big-tech

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Pinterest shareholders sue firm over rampant gender, race discrimination

The lawsuit alleges that Pinterest does indeed have a darker side.

Enlarge / The lawsuit alleges that Pinterest does indeed have a darker side. (credit: Thomas Trutschel | Photothek | Getty Images)

A group of shareholders is suing Pinterest and its board of directors, alleging that the company violated its fiduciary duty, wasted corporate assets, and abused its control by fostering a systematic culture of racial and gender discrimination that drove out women executives.

Pinterest’s top executives and the board “personally engaged in, facilitated, or knowingly ignored the discrimination and retaliation against those who spoke up and challenged the company’s white, male leadership clique,” according to the suit (PDF). As Pinterest’s user base heavily skews female, being publicly seen as a den of sexism and racism is damaging to the brand and therefore to the shareholders, the suit alleges.

“Pinterest’s leadership and Board take their fiduciary duties seriously and are committed to continuing our efforts to help ensure that Pinterest is a place where all of our employees feel included and supported,” a company spokesperson said in a written statement. “We believe the actions we’ve initiated as well as the ongoing independent review regarding our culture, policies, and practices will help us achieve our goal of building a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for everyone.”

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#discrimination, #gender-discrimination, #lawsuits, #pinterest, #policy, #racial-discrimination, #racism, #sexism

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Cases against Facebook are reportedly coming… when FTC decides how

Giant monitors displaying the Facebook logo hang from the ceiling of an empty convention center.

Enlarge / All Facebook, no matter which way you look. (credit: Michael Short | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

After well over a year spent investigating Facebook, state and federal regulators are more than ready to start launching a slate of cases against Facebook, new reports say—that is, as soon as the agencies can agree on how they actually want to do it.

New suits against Facebook should come before the end of January, The Wall Street Journal writes. Both the Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of attorneys general for 47 states and territories are expected to take some kind of action.

The state and the federal probes are basically looking into two overall buckets of potentially anticompetitive behavior. The first has to do with Facebook’s effects on other businesses that could or do compete with it. That’s the investigation that delves into mergers and acquisitions, both large and small, as well as Facebook’s behavior toward companies that refuse a buyout.

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#antitrust, #competition, #department-of-justice, #doj, #facebook, #federal-trade-commission, #ftc, #google, #instagram, #justice-department, #lawsuits, #policy, #whatsapp

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Apple settles with states for $113M over iPhone battery throttling

An iPhone 6 pictured from behind, showing the Apple logo.

Enlarge / An iPhone 6. (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto)

The attorneys general for 33 states and the District of Columbia have reached a $113 million settlement with Apple over allegations that the iPhone maker throttled performance in several generations of the device to conceal a design defect in the battery.

The states alleged that Apple throttled performance in aging iPhones without telling consumers it was doing it or why. That concealment violated states’ consumer protection laws, the attorneys general argued.

“Apple withheld information about their batteries that slowed down iPhone performance, all while passing it off as an update,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said when announcing the settlement. “Today’s settlement ensures consumers will have access to the information they need to make a well-informed decision when purchasing and using Apple products.”

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#apple, #batteries, #battery-throttling, #batterygate, #biz-it, #iphone, #lawsuits, #policy, #settlements

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Trump admin puts a hold on TikTok ban it seems to have forgotten about

TikTok logo next to inverted US flag.

Enlarge / TikTok’s US fate is up in the air, but at least you can still download and patch it. (credit: SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images)

The Department of Commerce has put a stay on enforcing an executive order that would have forced popular short-form video app TikTok to suspend all US operations as of midnight tonight. This is a tacit admission that the proposed ban isn’t actually particularly important to the administration any longer.

Commerce said the orders against TikTok are on hold “pending further legal developments” in multiple lawsuits, The Wall Street Journal reports.

President Donald Trump earlier this year signed two executive orders relating to TikTok. The first, on August 7, declared the app to be a national emergency. A second (PDF), issued one week later, gave ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, 90 days to divest the app to a US owner.

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#bytedance, #department-of-commerce, #lawsuits, #policy, #tiktok, #trump-administration

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Judge: Trump Admin‘s TikTok ban would cause “irreparable harm” to creators

Visitors visit the booth of Douyin (TikTok) at the 2019 smart expo in Hangzhou, China, Oct. 18, 2019.

Enlarge / Visitors visit the booth of Douyin (TikTok) at the 2019 smart expo in Hangzhou, China, Oct. 18, 2019. (credit: Costfoto | Barcroft Media | Getty Images)

A federal judge in Pennsylvania has blocked a Trump administration order that would have banned TikTok from operating inside the United States as of November 12, finding that content creators who use the short-form video platform to make a living would suffer “irreparable harm” if the ban were to go through.

The “significant and unrecoverable economic loss caused by the shutdown of the TikTok platform” was grounds for granting an injunction, Judge Wendy Beetlestone of the US District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania wrote in a ruling (PDF) today.

President Donald Trump in August issued an executive order declaring TikTok (as well as another China-based app, WeChat) to be a national emergency. That order gave the Department of Commerce 45 days to put a list of banned actions into place. Commerce did so, prohibiting new TikTok downloads after September 20 and banning nearly every other TikTok feature after November 12.

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#bytedance, #china, #commerce-department, #lawsuits, #policy, #politics, #tiktok, #trump-administration

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Justice Dept. files long-awaited antitrust suit against Google

Will the sun ever set on the Google empire?

Enlarge / Will the sun ever set on the Google empire? (credit: 400tmax | Getty Images)

The Department of Justice today filed a landmark antitrust suit against Google, alleging that the company behaved anticompetitively and unfairly pushed out rivals in its search businesses.

A company does not have to be a literal monopoly, with no available competition of any kind, to be in violation of antitrust law. The law is instead primarily concerned with what a company does to attain dominance and what it does with that dominant position once it’s at the top. And according to the DOJ’s complaint (PDF), Google did indeed abuse its outsized market power to tilt the playing field in its favor and keep potential rivals out.

“Google is the gateway to the Internet,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a call with reporters. “It has maintained its power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition.”

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#alphabet, #antitrust, #competition, #department-of-justice, #doj, #google, #justice-department, #lawsuits, #policy

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Trump likely overstepped authority with TikTok ban, judge rules

TikTok logo next to inverted US flag.

Enlarge / TikTok’s US fate is up in the air, but at least you can still download and patch it. (credit: SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s attempt to ban TikTok from operating inside the United States probably exceeds the authority the president has to do such things, a federal judge has ruled.

TikTok narrowly avoided being removed from app stores last night when Judge Carl Nichols of the US District Court for DC issued an injunction late yesterday requiring the government to pause on its ban. TikTok got its reprieve, but the terms of the order (PDF) were sealed until midday today.

To meet the standard for an injunction, Nichols explained, TikTok basically needed to prove four things to his satisfaction. The first factor, however, is the most important: TikTok needed to prove its case is “likely to succeed on the merits.” In plain English, that means: is it going to win its lawsuit against the administration? And the answer, Nichols determined, is probably yes, because the actions the administration took “likely exceed the lawful bounds” of the law under which those actions were taken.

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#bans, #bytedance, #lawsuits, #policy, #prohibitions, #tiktok, #trump, #white-house

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Alphabet, shareholders settle in lawsuits over sexual harassment at Google

Google's corporate headquarters.

Enlarge / Google’s corporate headquarters. (credit: Alex Tai | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images)

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, said today it has settled a set of shareholder lawsuits related to the company’s handling of sexual harassment claims. Alphabet will commit $310 million to corporate diversity programs over the next decade, and the company agreed to allow its board to take on a greater oversight role in misconduct cases.

As part of the new agreement, Alphabet will expand on its current policy of “prohibiting severance for anyone terminated for any form of misconduct,” to include anyone who is currently under investigation for “sexual misconduct or retaliation,” Google VP of People Operations Eileen Naughton said in a company blog post.

The settlement is the outcome of a consolidated set of lawsuits investor groups filed against Alphabet in California in 2018, alleging that the company breached its fiduciary duty to shareholders when it retained, and handsomely paid off, male executives credibly accused of sexual harassment. (Other shareholder suits, in federal court and in Delaware, are still in progress, according to the New York Times.)

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#alphabet, #biz-it, #google, #investors, #lawsuits, #policy, #settlements, #sexual-harassment, #shareholders

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States, DOJ reportedly meeting this week to plan Google antitrust suit

Google's in everything. Perhaps too much everything, regulators now worry.

Enlarge / Google’s in everything. Perhaps too much everything, regulators now worry. (credit: Omar Marques | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images)

Multiple investigations into Google parent Alphabet’s competition practices may finally be reaching a head, as state and federal regulators meet today to plan next steps for one or more lawsuits against the company.

Attorneys from the Department of Justice are meeting today with attorneys general from several different states about imminent plans to file an antitrust suit against Google, the Washington Post and Bloomberg report.

The DOJ began its antitrust probe of “market-leading online platforms” a little more than a year ago, without naming names. Google was widely assumed to be one of the targets, and the company confirmed last September that it was indeed under investigation.

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#alphabet, #antitrust, #department-of-justice, #doj, #google, #justice-department, #lawsuits, #policy

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YouTube unlawfully violates kids’ privacy, new $3.2B lawsuit claims

A sign featuring the YouTube logo, outside the YouTube Space studios in London on June 4, 2019.

Enlarge / A sign featuring the YouTube logo, outside the YouTube Space studios in London on June 4, 2019. (credit: Olly Curtis | Future | Getty Images)

A new lawsuit filed in a United Kingdom court alleges that YouTube knowingly violated children’s privacy laws in that country and seeks damages in excess of £2.5 billion (about $3.2 billion).

A tech researcher named Duncan McCann filed the lawsuit in the UK’s High Court and is serving as representative claimant in the case—a similar, though not identical, process to a US class-action suit. Foxglove, a UK tech advocacy group, is backing the claim, it said today.

“YouTube, and its parent company Google, are ignoring laws designed to protect children,” Foxglove wrote in a press release. “They know full well that millions of children watch YouTube. They’re making money from unlawfully harvesting data about these young children as they watch YouTube videos—and then running highly targeted adverts, designed to influence vulnerable young minds.”

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#alphabet, #children, #childrens-online-privacy, #childrens-privacy, #foxglove, #google, #lawsuits, #policy, #privacy, #uk, #youtube

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Unredacted suit shows Google’s own engineers confused by privacy settings

Unredacted suit shows Google’s own engineers confused by privacy settings

Enlarge (credit: Sean Gallup | Getty Images)

Newly unsealed and partially unredacted documents from a consumer fraud suit the state of Arizona filed against Google show that company employees knew and discussed among themselves that the company’s location privacy settings were confusing and potentially misleading.

In 2018, the Associated Press reported that Maps and some other Google services (on both iPhone and Android) were storing users’ location data even when users had explicitly turned Location History off.

“There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people’s experience, including: Location History, Web and App Activity, and through device-level Location Services,” a Google spokesperson told the AP at the time. “We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time.”

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#arizona, #data-privacy, #google, #lawsuits, #location-tracking, #policy

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Anti-vaccine group sues Facebook, claims fact-checking is “censorship”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., heads up to a meeting at Trump Tower on January 10, 2017 in New York City.

Enlarge / Robert F. Kennedy Jr., heads up to a meeting at Trump Tower on January 10, 2017 in New York City. (credit: Spencer Platt | Getty Images)

A notorious anti-vaccine group spearheaded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed suit today in federal court in California alleging that Facebook’s fact-checking program for false scientific or medical misinformation violates its constitutional rights.

Children’s Health Defense claims in its suit (PDF) that Facebook, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and the organizations Science Feedback, Poynter, and PolitiFact acted “jointly or in concert with federal government agencies” to infringe on CHD’s First and Fifth Amendment rights. The suit also alleges Facebook and the fact-checking organizations colluded to commit wire fraud by “clearing the field” of anti-vaccine ads.

Facebook has “insidious conflicts with the pharmaceutical industry and its captive health agencies,” CHD claimed in a press release. “Facebook currently censors Children’s Health Defense’s page, targeting its purge against factual information about vaccines, 5G and public health agencies.”

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#anti-vaccine, #anti-vax, #anti-vaxxer, #antivax, #childrens-health-defense, #facebook, #fact-checking, #facts, #lawsuits, #policy, #robert-f-kennedy-jr, #science, #vaccines

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Ousted COO sues Pinterest, alleges rampant gender discrimination

A smartphone against a colorful but blurry background.

Enlarge / A Pinterest logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (credit: Mateusz Slodkowski | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images)

The former chief operating officer of Pinterest is suing her ex-employer, claiming that the platform’s woman-friendly public face is not matched internally and instead “reflects a pattern of discrimination and exclusion.”

Pinterest hired Francoise Brougher as chief operating officer in March 2018, then fired her in April of this year. In a lawsuit (PDF) Tuesday in California, Brougher claims that her dismissal was unrelated to her performance and was instead in retaliation for complaining about sexism.

Brougher learned in 2019, while reviewing filings that Pinterest was required to make as part of its IPO, that she had been deliberately misled about executive compensation. She was, therefore, being paid less well than other C-suite executives, the suit alleges. After she brought the discrepancy to the attention of Chief Executive Officer Ben Silbermann, she began being squeezed out of executive and board meetings, Brougher alleged, which prevented her from being able to do her job.

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#biz-it, #discrimination, #gender-discrimination, #lawsuits, #oracle, #pinterest, #policy, #racism, #sex-discrimination, #sexism, #soulcycle

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Tesla sues Rivian for stealing secrets as electric car fight heats up

Rivian's R1T truck.

Enlarge / Rivian’s R1T truck. (credit: Rivian)

Tesla has sued competitor Rivian for theft of trade secrets. Tesla says that around 70 people have left Tesla for Rivian—including 22 in the last four months. And Tesla claims that several of those employees took confidential documents with them on their way out the door.

Rivian has emerged as perhaps Tesla’s most formidable rival among electric vehicle startups. The company announced a $2.5 billion round of fundraising earlier this month—on top of $2.85 billion raised last year. The company is working on a pickup truck, an SUV, and a delivery truck for corporate customers—all powered by batteries. Amazon, a Rivian investor, has already ordered 100,000 of Rivian’s delivery trucks.

With a ton of work to do and billions in the bank, Rivian needs to hire at a rapid pace. Unsurprisingly, Tesla workers have been a prime target of Rivian’s recruiters. Tesla says it respects Rivian’s right to recruit Tesla employees, but it argues that Rivian hasn’t been playing fair.

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#cars, #lawsuits, #rivian, #tesla, #trade-secrets

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“Culture of workplace fear” leads to COVID-19 spread at Amazon, suit says

Amazon.com Inc. signage is displayed in front of a warehouse in the Staten Island borough of New York, US, on Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

Enlarge / Amazon.com Inc. signage is displayed in front of a warehouse in the Staten Island borough of New York, US, on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (credit: Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

A group of Amazon employees are suing the company, alleging it mandated unsafe working conditions in one of its fulfillment centers that led to the spread of COVID-19 and deaths resulting from the disease.

“This case is about Amazon’s failures to comply with New York law and state and federal public health guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic at the JFK8 facility,” the complaint (PDF) reads, alleging, “the company has relied on purposeful miscommunication with workers, sloppy contact tracing, and the culture of workplace fear it has instilled at JFK to ensure it can maintain productivity while reducing costs, even if that means workers come to work sick and cannot engage in proper hygiene, sanitizing, or social distancing while at work in order to stay healthy.”

At least one worker at the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island has died of COVID-19 so far, and several others have fallen ill. As recently as this past weekend, employees at the facility were receiving additional newly confirmed cases at the facility. One of the plaintiffs in the suit alleges that after she contracted the novel coronavirus at work in the warehouse, “she awoke to find her cousin with whom she lived dead in their bathroom” after he developed COVID-19 symptoms. She requested paid quarantine leave from the company under the terms of New York law, the suit says, but Amazon failed to pay her.

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#amazon, #biz-it, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #labor, #lawsuits, #policy, #unsafe-work-environment, #worker-rights

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Missouri sues China over coronavirus, claims nation “lied to the world”

Courthouse rotunda in front of Gateway Arch.

Enlarge / St. Louis, Missouri, back before everything was cancelled due to coronavirus. (credit: Tetra Images | Henryk Sadura | Getty Images )

The pandemic is a challenge for all of us. The economic knock-on effects of the health crisis are themselves another crisis. Many people are wildly casting about, not just for solutions, but for someone to take the blame. It’s hard to punish the SARS-CoV-2 virus, of course; whether or not one regards a virus as a living thing, it is most certainly not a legal person in any sense.

The office of Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has apparently decided that, in the absence of any way to sue a virus, the next best course of action is to take to court the entire nation where the disease originated. To that end, Schmitt’s office said yesterday it had filed a lawsuit against “the Chinese government, Chinese Communist Party, and other Chinese officials and institutions” for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The complaint (PDF) first confirms that, as of Monday, there were more than 5,800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Missouri, from which at least 177 persons had died. It then claims that “the virus unleashed by the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government has left no community in the world untouched,” adding that the pandemic “is the direct result of a sinister campaign of malfeasance and deception” carried out by all of China’s leadership.

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#china, #covid-19, #dumb-lawsuits, #lawsuits, #missouri, #policy

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Zoom brings in former Facebook security head amid lawsuits, investigations

Security and privacy protip: Don't do your videoconference in the middle of an airport.

Enlarge / Security and privacy protip: Don’t do your videoconference in the middle of an airport. (credit: hapabapa | Getty Images)

Zoom’s meteoric rise to prominence as the go-to teleconference tool of the COVID-19 pandemic has shined a spotlight on every single design flaw, privacy issue, or vulnerability the platform has. Now, the company is scrambling to react to problems while investigations and lawsuits mount.

The company is already facing lawsuits from consumers, but now investors have joined the fray. A shareholder filed a class-action suit (PDF) yesterday in federal court in California, alleging that Zoom violated securities law by covering up known problems with its product.

Publicly traded businesses are required by federal law to disclose issues or events that could materially affect their stock price so that investors can make informed decisions. Basically any time you hear of some catastrophe at a company—for example, Equifax’s disastrous 2017 data breach—there’s a shareholder suit right after from investors who are angry that they received no warning their shares were about to plummet in value.

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#biz-it, #investors, #lawsuits, #policy, #zoom

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Vermont sues Clearview, alleging “oppressive, unscrupulous” practices

The everything is watching, and Clearview's collecting the images.

Enlarge / The everything is watching, and Clearview’s collecting the images. (credit: KENGKAT | Getty Images)

Clearview AI’s bread and butter is a tool providing facial recognition on a massive scale to law enforcement, federal agencies, private companies, and—apparently—nosy billionaires. The company has achieved this reportedly by scraping more or less the entire public Internet to assemble a database of more than 3 billion images. Now that there are spotlights on the secretive firm, however, Clearview is facing a barrage of lawsuits trying to stop it in its tracks.

The latest comes from Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan, who filed suit against Clearview this week claiming violations of multiple state laws.

The complaint (PDF) alleges that Clearview, which is registered as a data broker under Vermont’s Data Broker Law, “unlawfully acquires data from consumers and business concerns” in Vermont.

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#clearview, #clearview-al, #facial-recognition, #lawsuits, #policy, #privacy, #vermont

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Anthony Levandowski ordered to pay $179 million to Google

Anthony Levandowski, the engineer and autonomous vehicle startup founder who was at the center of a trade secrets lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, has been ordered to pay $179 million to end a contract dispute over his departure from Google.

Reuters was the first to report the court order.

An arbitration panel ruled in December that Levandowski and Lior Ron had engaged in unfair competition and breached their contract with Google when they left the company to start a rival autonomous vehicle company focused on trucking, called Otto. Uber acquired Otto in 2017. A San Francisco County court confirmed Wednesday the panel’s decision.

Ron settled last month with Google for $9.7 million. However, Levandowski, had disputed the ruling. The San Francisco County Superior Court denied his petition today, granting Google’s petition to hold Levandowski to the arbitration agreement under which he was liable.

Levandowski himself may not have to pay the money personally, as this sort of liability may fall to his employer depending on his contract or other legal quirks. However, Levandowski personally filed today for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, stating that the presumptive $179M debt quite exceeds his assets, which he estimates at somewhere between $50M and $100M.

A representative for Levandowski declined comment for this story.

Devin Coldewey contributed to this story.

#anthony-levandowski, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #google, #lawsuit, #lawsuits, #legal, #otto, #self-driving-cars, #transportation, #uber

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