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US Claims Google Pays More Than $10 Billion A Year To Maintain Its Search Dominance

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Google has used its dominance in the internet search industry to keep competitors out and stifle innovation, the Department of Justice alleged Tuesday at the start of the largest antitrust trial in the United States in a quarter-century.

“This is a case about the future of the internet and whether Google’s search engine will ever face meaningful competition,” said Kenneth Dintzer, the main counsel for the Justice Department.

Over the next ten weeks, federal and state attorneys general will aim to show that Google rigged the market in its favor by making its search engine the default choice in various places and devices. A verdict from U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta is likely early next year. If he finds that theyviolated the law, a new trial will be held to determine what steps should be taken to rein in the Mountain View, California-based business.

Top officials from Google, Alphabet Inc. and other strong technology companies are slated to testify. Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, who succeeded co-founder Larry Page four years ago, is likely to be among them. Court filings also indicate that Eddy Cue, a senior Apple official, may be summoned to testify.

During the Trump administration, the Justice Department launched an antitrust action against Google, alleging that the firm leveraged its dominance in internet search to acquire an unfair advantage over competitors. Government lawyers claim that Google protects its brand through payola, paying billions of dollars per year to be the default search engine on the iPhone and web browsers such as Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox.

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“Google pays more than $10 billion per year for these privileged positions,” claimed Dintzer.

“Google’s contracts ensure that rivals cannot match the search quality ad monetization, especially on phones,” Dintzer explained. “This wheel has been turning for more than 12 years thanks to this feedback loop.” It always works in Google’s favor.”

According to Dintzer, the more queries Google performs, the more data it accumulates – data that can be used to optimize future searches and give them an even stronger advantage over its competitors. “User data is the oxygen for a search engine,” he explained. As a result of its market domination, “Google search and ad products are better than its rivals can hope to be.” That is why, he claims, the company spends so much for its search engine to be the default option on Apple and other companies’ products.

Dintzer said that Google “began weaponizing defaults” more than 15 years ago, citing an internal Google paper that referred to their settings as an “Achilles Heel” for competing search engines such as Yahoo and MSN.

He also claimed that Google coerced Apple into making its search engine the default on their iPhones in exchange for revenue-sharing payments. “This is not a negotiation,” Dintzer declared. “This is what Google is saying: Take it or leave it.” According to the lawsuit, Apple’s anticompetitive activities stopped it from establishing its search engine.

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The U.S. Google has used its dominance in the internet search industry to keep competitors out and stifle innovation.

Dintzer claimed that they erased documents to keep them out of court proceedings and attempted to conceal others under attorney-client privilege. Dintzer stated, “They destroyed documents for years.” “They turned off history, your honor, so they could rewrite it here.”

Google replies that, although controlling over 90% of the internet search market, it confronts a wide range of competition. Google claims its competitors span from search engines like Microsoft’s Bing to websites like Amazon and Yelp, where customers may post inquiries about what to buy or where to go. “There are lots of ways users access the web other than default search engines, and people use them all the time,” said attorney John Schmidtlein, a partner at Williams & Connolly who represents the company.

According to Google, continuous improvements to its search engine explain why people almost reflexively return to it, a habit that has long rendered “Googling” synonymous with searching things on the internet. Schmidtlein, for example, stated that the changes made their search superior to main rival Bing. “At every critical juncture,” he explained, “they were beaten in the market.”

The trial starts just a few weeks after the 25th anniversary of the company’s first investment — a $100,000 cheque issued by Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim that allowed Page and Sergey Brin to set up shop in a Silicon Valley garage.

Today, Alphabet, their corporate parent, is worth $1.7 trillion and employs 182,000 people. Most of its revenue comes from $224 billion in annual ad revenues flowing through a digital services network centered on a search engine that processes billions of daily requests.

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The U.S. Google has used its dominance in the internet search industry to keep competitors out and stifle innovation.

The Justice Department’s antitrust complaint is similar to the one it brought against Microsoft in 1998. Regulators then accused Microsoft of compelling computer manufacturers who used its dominant Windows operating system to include Microsoft’s Internet Explorer — just as the internet became more popular. That bundling practice killed Netscape, the once-popular browser.

Several members of the Justice Department’s Google case team, including Dintzer, worked on the Microsoft probe as well.

Google could be hampered if the trial results in concessions that limit its influence. One possibility is that they will be obliged to stop paying Apple and other companies to be the default search engine on smartphones and desktops.

Alternatively, the legal struggle may cause the company to lose focus. That’s what happened after Microsoft’s antitrust battle with the Justice Department. Distracted by its distractions, the software behemoth struggled to adjust to the impact of internet searches and cell phones. Google used that diversion to propel itself from a startup to a formidable superpower.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Toyota Recalls 280,000 Vehicles Because They May ‘Creep Forward’ In Neutral

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Toyota recalled approximately 280,000 pickups and SUVs in the United States because the engine may not fully disengage while in neutral.

“Certain parts of the gearbox may not immediately disengage when the vehicle is shifted to the neutral position,” the Japanese automaker stated on Wednesday. It said this allows some engine power to continue going through to the wheels.

As a result, the vehicle may “inadvertently creep forward at a low speed when it is on a flat surface and no brakes are applied, leading to an increased risk of a crash,” according to the manufacturer.

toyota

Toyota Recalls 280,000 Vehicles Because They May ‘Creep Forward’ In Neutral

Certain Toyota Tundra, Sequoia, and Lexus LX 600 cars made between 2022 and 2024 are being recalled. Lexus is Toyota’s luxury brand.

Toyota said it will notify owners of recalled vehicles in late April and update the gearbox software.

The business stated that the recall is one of three in the United States on Wednesday.

Toyota announced the recall of an additional 19,000 vehicles due to a software issue: “the rearview image may not display within the period of time required by certain US safety regulations after the driver shifts the vehicle into reverse, increasing the risk of a crash while backing the vehicle.”

toyota

Toyota Recalls 280,000 Vehicles Because They May ‘Creep Forward’ In Neutral

It noted that the safety recall applies to select Mirai and Lexus LS, LC, and ES models manufactured in North America between 2023 and 2024.

Additionally, about 4,000 Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid vehicles are being recalled due to safety concerns with the head restraints on rear fold-down seats, which “increase the risk of injury during certain collisions.”

Toyota is the world’s largest carmaker by sales, yet it risks becoming embroiled in safety controversies.

In December, it recalled approximately 1 million cars and SUVs in the United States owing to a potential fault that might cause the passenger airbag to fail to deploy in a crash.

toyota

Toyota Recalls 280,000 Vehicles Because They May ‘Creep Forward’ In Neutral

The recall affected 15 Lexus cars from 2020 to 2021, including the Camry, Rav4, Sienna, RX350, and ES350.

After admitting to forging safety test results for more than 30 years, Daihatsu, a small Japanese automaker under Toyota ownership, stopped domestic production late last year.

SOURCE – (CNN)

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Walmart To Acquire Smart TV Maker Vizio For $2.3 Billion In Bid To Boost Its Advertising Business

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Walmart is paying $2.3 billion for smart TV maker Vizio to boost its quickly growing advertising business and compete with Amazon.

If the purchase is completed, Walmart will gain access to Vizio’s SmartCast operating system, allowing the retail juggernaut to offer its suppliers the opportunity to display adverts on streaming devices.

Walmart Connect, which provides marketers with access to Walmart’s large consumer base, has helped the company grow its media and advertising business. Walmart reported on Tuesday that its global advertising business increased by nearly 28% to $3.4 billion last year.

The developments follow Amazon’s announcement last month that it will begin charging Prime members $2.99 per month to keep their films and TV series ad-free, in addition to the $14.99 per month or $139 per year Prime price.

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What does Walmart stand to gain from a television manufacturer?

Vizio’s SmartCast technology has 18 million active accounts and has increased 400% since 2018. The firms claim that Vizio’s platform has over 500 direct advertisers and that ads now account for most of the company’s gross profit.

In recent years, makers of streaming gear, such as Roku and Vizio, have moved their focus to advertising revenue. Vizio established its Vizio Ads business unit in 2019, claiming to be “one of the few connected TV companies with the device penetration, consumer opt-in, and infrastructure to deliver meaningful scale.”

Walmart saw Vizio’s growing consumer base and grabbed the opportunity to develop its Walmart Connect business.

“We believe the combination of these two businesses would be impactful as we redefine the intersection of retail and entertainment,” said Seth Dallaire, executive vice president and chief revenue officer at Walmart U.S.

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Who else is ramping up screen advertising?

Other large streamers, such as Netflix and Disney, have embraced the dual model, allowing them to generate revenue from commercials while simultaneously allowing customers to opt-out for a higher charge.

However, in the ever-changing streaming industry, whether consumers are prepared to pay more to see fewer commercials when they already pay subscription fees, frequently for numerous providers, remains to be seen. Many consumers “cut the cord” and ditched cable TV because they were frustrated with their ever-increasing fees.

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How did the companies’ shares fare?

Vizio stock rose about 15% in the afternoon, reaching $10.96 per share.

Walmart’s stock jumped 3.1% to $175.66 per share after exceeding Wall Street’s expectations with its sales and profit on Tuesday.

Roku, one of Vizio’s primary competitors, saw its stock drop 6.4% by midday.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Sacked Twitter Staff In Ghana Finally Get Pay-Off

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X, then known as Twitter, has finally paid out the employees it fired from its African offices more than a year ago, according to the agency that represents them.

Most had just been with the social media network in Ghana’s capital, Accra, for a few months before they were let go in November 2022.

They had threatened to sue X for failing to pay the redundancy money they said they were promised.

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Sacked Twitter Staff In Ghana Finally Get Pay-Off

The corporation has yet to respond.

X previously stated that it had paid ex-employees in full.

Elon Musk, who took over the corporation in 2022, launched a large global workforce layoff, dismissing almost 6,000 individuals. He said he was losing more than $4 million (£3.5 million) daily.

The African contingent, which numbered fewer than 20, had only recently relocated to X’s new office in

Accra after eight months of working from home during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Sacked Twitter Staff In Ghana Finally Get Pay-Off

Agency Seven, the organisation providing legal representation to the workforce, stated that it had successfully obtained a redundancy settlement and repatriation fees for foreign employees but did not indicate the payout size.

“They are very pleased to finally be able to get their due, put this behind them, and look forward to the future,” Agency Seven Seven spokesperson Carla Olympio told the BBC.

Last year, terminated employees told the BBC that their treatment at X had impacted their mental health and money.

“It’s difficult when it’s the world’s richest man owing you money and closure,” one of them stated.

They claimed they were initially assured that they would be paid to work for one more month while their contracts were being terminated. However, they were instantly shut out of their emails, and no more wage payments were issued.

Since then, the crew has reported a difficult battle for compensation.

Some had migrated from adjacent nations, such as Nigeria. Their contract was terminated, leaving them and their families stuck in Ghana.

In a rare interview with the BBC last April, Mr Musk revealed that the social media powerhouse had 1,500 staff, down from just under 8,000 when he bought the company.

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Sacked Twitter Staff In Ghana Finally Get Pay-Off

When the news of Mr Musk’s extreme workforce reduction broke, he tweeted that laid-off employees received three months’ severance compensation.

However, staff members in the Africa office claim they still need this.

According to Agency Seven Seven, X only started negotiating with the terminated African staff after the BBC publicised the news.

Last year, ex-employees filed a complaint in a California court accusing X of failing to pay at least $500 million in promised severance benefits.

SOURCE – (BBC)

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