The quiet antitrust powerhouse
Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

The quiet antitrust powerhouse

Source Code

Good morning! The CMA is investigating Microsoft and Amazon. Sure, it’s a little late to the investigation party, but that doesn’t mean you should count it out.

The CMA has its eyes on Big Tech

The U.K.’s competition regulator is looking into Microsoft’s Activision acquisition and how Amazon treats its third-party sellers. Sound familiar? That’s because other countries — including this one! — have been investigating these companies for months and even years. But as the saying goes, “the party don’t start till the CMA walks in.” Or something like that.

The CMA is a rather thorough investigator that’s made Big Tech nervous before, and it’s not afraid to get help from its neighbor. The regulator said it’s working with the European Commission on its investigation into Amazon. And when it does decide to look into Big Tech issues, its decisions have a track record of being highly consequential.

  • In December, the CMA ordered Facebook and Giphy to break up. Advocates for competition scrutiny applauded the U.K.’s analysis for going deeper than other competition regulators and taking aim at so-called “vertical” deals. “That’s a really good thing and something that I hope U.S. enforcers take note of,” Public Knowledge’s Alex Petros told my colleague Ben Brody when the breakup happened.
  • The CMA also reached a deal with Google earlier this year giving regulators more power over the company’s privacy plans. An ad tech exec called it “the start of a journey toward more public oversight of big tech promises” at the time.

The U.K. isn’t sleeping on Big Tech’s moves, and sometimes it’s ahead of other regulators in its investigations, like the one into Nvidia’s flopped bid to buy Arm. Even though the CMA decided to open new probes after others this time around, it might be the one everyone should look out for.

— Sarah Roach (she/her/hers)

The emotion AI debate

Microsoft said last month that it was removing controversial emotion-reading AI from Azure. But despite admitting “unique risks,” Microsoft will continue to use the software in an app for those with vision loss called Seeing AI, saying that its accessibility mission overrode any decisions that it made over the AI’s use.

Microsoft isn't alone in offering emotion AI. Google also offers off-the-shelf emotion AI and facial analysis software through Cloud Vision API and its ML Kit for developers.

  • Google’s documentation says the software “detects emotion,” but the company downplayed that, telling Protocol reporter Kate Kaye that it instead predicts the perception of facially expressed emotions.

But the validity of emotion detection is up for debate. Facial expression and emotion are different across cultures, making it difficult to generalize reading the looks on people’s faces, according to Microsoft.

  • In fact, it might not even be helpful for a computerized voice to tell people with vision loss about what emotions it sees in certain expressions. “It doesn’t actually need to be the case for blind people that they need to have this point of discrete categorization,” Margaret Mitchell told Kate. Mitchell helped develop Seeing AI in 2014 while working at Microsoft.

Without regulations in place, companies make their own rules. “Companies like Microsoft can use their ‘AI for good’ accessibility mission as a cover to continue using a feature the company itself acknowledges is flawed and risky,” Kate told me. And we know how that can go.

— Nat Rubio-Licht (they/them/theirs)

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People are talking

Brad Garlinghouse said Ripple will leave the U.S. if it loses its SEC suit:

  • “We still have an immense business to build. Why do it in a regulatory jurisdiction that’s not going to be friendly toward us?”

Sam Bankman-Fried said FTX has a "few billion" on hand to help struggling crypto firms protect consumer assets:

  • "Having trust with consumers that things will work as advertised is incredibly important and if broken is incredibly hard to get back.”

Making moves

IBM acqui-hired Databand, a data observability platform, for an undisclosed amount.

Piper Sandler bought DBO Partners, an investment banking firm, for an undisclosed amount.

Jasmine Lee is Binance.US's new CFO. Lee was previously the COO at Acorns.

Sushil Sharma and Steve Riddell joined Better as chief growth officer and head of sales, respectively. Riddell worked at Better until January 2021, and Sharma comes from LendingTree.

Todd Lichten is the new head of entertainment partnerships at Roblox. Lichten was previously head of emerging content at Meta.

Jody Bailey is Stack Overflow’s new CTO. He last worked on product development at AWS.

Rick Hasselman joined Expel as CFO. He most recently held the same role at Podium.

Microsoft cloud VP Tom Keane is leaving the company after 21 years, following allegations of verbal abuse.

In other news

The U.K. is trying to tackle CSAM on encrypted platforms like WhatsApp under a proposed amendment to its Online Safety Bill.

Meta's Project Cambria headset will be called the Meta Quest Pro and will go for $1,000, according to Bloomberg.

Marc Andreessen joined Joe Rogan's podcast. The episode is three hours long, so listen to it on a long walk or something.

Apple hopes to tackle government hacking with its newest security setting. It will block most message attachments and link previews, among other features in a new “Lockdown Mode.”

Rivian is on course to build 25,000 EVs this year, according to the company. It produced more than 4,000 cars in the second quarter.

Elon Musk had twins last year with one of his executives at Neuralink. The two changed the twins' names to have "their father's last name and contain their mother's last name as part of their middle name,"

Meta is open-sourcing its 200-language AI translation tool in hopes that others will work to build it out.

The FDA suspended its ban on Juul amid its appeals process. The company claims that the FDA banned its products due to political pressure.

Welcome to the complaints department

Everyone wants to make Slack suck less. The Washington Post yesterday offered some tips and tricks, and even Slack itself is addressing its unwieldy notifications system.

We’d like to recognize, though, that sometimes what you need isn’t a tip or a trick or a nudge to uninstall the app from your phone when you go on vacation. Sometimes you just need to scream into the void, and often it’s nice to do that with other people. Maybe after registering your complaints you’ll feel motivated enough to turn off notification sounds and organize the sidebar.

SPONSORED CONTENT FROM VERSAPAY

Executives that don't align CX ambitions with accounts receivable leave money on the table: A resounding 96% of respondents claimed that there is work to do in digitizing their AR departments, yet 60% agreed that their AR departments haven’t been prioritized as much as other departments for digitization. At a time when the importance of securing cash flow is higher than ever, many businesses are not putting enough focus on it.

Read more from Versapay

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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