Russia’s anti-trust authority on Thursday fined Google 438 million rubles ($6.75 million) after finding it guilty of abusing its dominant market position by forcing smartphone makers to install its search engine on Androids.
The Federal Antimonopoly Service in September last year deemed Google in breach of a law on “protecting competition” after an investigation following a complaint by Russia’s largest search engine, Yandex.
Yandex asked the anti-trust authorities to prevent Android phones from being automatically bundled with Google’s search engine.
The FAS said that Google has two months to pay the fine.
Yelena Zayeva, the head of its department for regulating communications and IT was quoted in the statement as saying the ruling “will allow the development of competition on the mobile software market in Russia, which will have a positive effect for consumers.”
All companies whose production is on sale in Russia have to observe the law on competition, “including transnational corporations,” Zayeva added.
Google said in a statement sent to AFP: “We have received notice of the fine from FAS and will analyze closely before deciding our next steps.”
“In the meantime, we continue to talk to all invested parties to help consumers, device manufacturers and developers thrive on Android in Russia,” Google said.
The tech giant’s Android operating system dominates the smartphone market with a share of around 80 percent, which enables Google to offer search and other services to handset users.
Russia’s anti-trust authority had been holding consultations with Google aimed at reaching an amicable agreement, but this required Google to admit guilt.
Google has insisted that consumers are free to choose whether to use its services.
Google has been hit by similar anti-trust charges in other countries, particularly in the European Union, which has launched three cases against Google, one of which is specifically about using the dominance of the Android mobile phone operating system to restrict competition.
Russia’s anti-trust authority this week also launched legal proceedings against US tech giant Apple over the alleged fixing of resellers’ prices for iPhones in the country.
Apple said in a statement sent to AFP: “Resellers set their own prices for the Apple products they sell in Russia and around the world.”
Short-Form Video Platform TikTok Improves Private Messaging Feature
Short-form video hosting platform TikTok has improved its private messaging feature by expanding the direct message settings, giving users the option to choose who they want to receive messages from.
The company which sent an email to users updating them on the feature disclosed that the current messaging update contains options such as suggested friends, mutual followers, and people you have sent messages to.
Through settings, users can access the DM options, and also filter out suspicious spam messages. To change their direct messaging settings, all they need to do is to tap the profile icon at the bottom of the Tiktok home screen.
Next, they will tap on the menu button at the top and select “settings and privacy”, and then tap “privacy”. From there they will need to select direct messages and then they would be able to choose who they would like to allow to send them DM.
This feature could make TikTok a messaging app, enabling users to DM their favorite content creators. The feature is currently on other social platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat which enables users to choose who they want to receive messages.
Investors King understands that TikTok’s latest messaging feature can be seen as a move towards competing with other social media platforms that have enabled such feature.
The short-form video platform has continued to improve its platform with the latest user-friendly features as it continues to heighten competition in the social media space. Last year, it introduced a “new friends tab” that replaced the “discover tab”, which the app disclosed that it was looking for a new way to recommend content based on users’ friendships.
After its launch in 2016, reports disclose that TikTok awareness has grown exponentially. Its popularity skyrocketed with a 61% increase in mentions year over year (YOY) during the first half of 2021.
According to report, TikTok has the power to help brands connect with their target market especially when they engage them. Being the first non-facebook app to reach 3 million global downloads, TikTok is poised to continue its dominance in the social media space.
After Over Two Years, Meta Promises to Lift Suspension on Donald Trump’s Facebook, Instagram Accounts
As the political atmosphere gathers momentum in the United States of America ahead of its Presidential election next year, stakeholders have started paving way for possible contenders to marshal their manifestos and seek the electorate’s support.
A former President of the United States, Donald Trump, while addressing a crowd of supporters in Texas, late last year, had hinted of his desire to contest the presidency in 2024.
Meanwhile, of these key stakeholders are owners of Information, Communication, Technology including the social media platforms. Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) belongs to this category.
Meta, an American multinational technology conglomerate, promised to will restore Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts soon.
Trump’s accounts, with about 57 million followers, had been suspended after a riot broke out in Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021.
The social media handles, after the suspension would have been lifted on them, would afford the former president of opportunities of interacting with his political supporters online in line with his aspiration to oust the incumbent President Joe Biden.
While his Facebook account has 34 million followers, his Instagram has 23 million.
Investors King had reported that Trump’s Twitter account had been suspended following alleged misinformation and incitement of violence.
But, after Elon Musk took over Twitter in November, 2022, he reinstated Trump’s account.
Ahead of the poll, advocates of free speech have said it would be good if political candidates are allowed to reach out to the public on social media.
Meanwhile, critics have accused Meta of relaxing its policies to accommodate posting of contents that are inappropriate to standard. But, the technology conglomerate said it has made some barriers that would prevent misinformation.
Explaining how it would tackle Trump posts henceforth, Meta’s President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, had said that any violating content of the politician would be removed and that Trump risks between one month and two years suspension depending on how serious the offence is.
Nonetheless, the decision to reinstate Trump’s accounts has been generating condemnation as civil rights groups accused Meta of parading weak policies that allow disparaging content on their platforms.
Some of these advocates described the former president as danger that should be tamed.
Some of the groups,l including Free Press, Anti-Defamation League and NAACP, among others said they are worried that Facebook may not be able to checkmate possible future attacks by Trump on democratic process.
But, Jameel Jaffer, executive director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and a former ACLU official, said the restoration of Trump’s accounts is justified.
Jaffer said the reinstatement would allow members of the public, the opportunity of hearing directly from candidates gunning for political offices in the forthcoming presidential election.
Macroeconomic Factors Affect Consumer Spending as Mastercard Shares Slip
As the decline in macroeconomic factors persists globally, consumer spending via payment giant Mastercard has continued to decline along with the company’s shares.
The company shares slipped 1.1% to $378.35 yesterday morning in New York trading after it warned revenue growth would slow faster than expected in the first quarter (Q1), noting that the high cost of inflation has impacted consumer spending.
It further disclosed that spending on its cards increased by 11% to $1.73 trillion in the fourth quarter, missing the $1.77 trillion average estimated by analysts.
Net revenue for the fourth quarter (Q4) jumped 12% to $5.82 billion, in line with the $5.8 billion average analyst estimate. The company reported earnings of $2.53 billion for the final quarter of the year, at a share price of $2.62.
MasterCard expressed concern that its revenue for the first quarter (Q1) would climb by a percentage in the high end of the high single digits, meanwhile analysts predict it would increase by 10%.
Speaking about the impact of the Macroeconomic factors on its card usage, Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach said in a statement, “While Macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty persists, consumer spending has been remarkably resilient. We are well prepared to adjust our investment profile quickly if needed”.
“Meanwhile if we look at the broader economy, we see a continued recovery of cross-border travel, with volumes up 59% versus a year ago and were encouraged by Asia opening up further”.
Investors King understands that Mastercard and its rival Visa Inc. have disclosed that so far, the surging inflation hasn’t affected consumers’ overall spending patterns, instead card customers have shifted their spending to lower-cost items or generic brands.
Meanwhile, consumer spending is proving to be resilient in the face of surging inflation in the U.S., but spending on goods, led by food and beverages, gasoline and motor vehicles, declined in the third quarter of last year.
According to MasterCard SpendingPulse, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment, U.S. retail spending excluding automotive increased +11.2% year-over-year during the holiday season last year, running from November 1 through December 24.
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