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Genius Media, The Nation sue Google in advertising antitrust lawsuit – The Journal Pioneer

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By Paresh Dave

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) – Online publishers including Genius Media Group and news website The Nation alleged in a lawsuit seeking class-action status on Wednesday that Alphabet Inc’s Google has unlawfully stifled advertising competition, hurting their businesses.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, resembles an antitrust complaint filed earlier in the day by Texas and nine other U.S. states against Google.

Genius, which provides song lyrics, and two online magazines the Nation and the Progressive, said they used Google software to sell ads but received what they viewed as an unfair split of sales because the search giant had taken over the market.

“Through its campaign of anticompetitive conduct, Google has achieved and maintained a monopoly or near-monopoly in (the) marketplace by erecting a toll bridge between publishers and advertisers and charging an unlawfully high price for passage,” the lawsuit stated.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the company repeatedly has responded to similar accusations by saying that Facebook Inc and other companies offer competitive services to media companies.

The plaintiffs ask the court to order Google to divest its unit that makes the ad-selling software and refrain from competing in that business. They also seek punitive damages.

The complaint is the latest among several antitrust actions brought against Google by online advertisers or other businesses that say they have been affected by Google’s growing clout. The Texas-led lawsuit covers many of their concerns, too, and separately at least 36 states plan to sue Google on Thursday over additional anticompetitive conduct on the web.

Genius last year in a lawsuit accused Google of breaching a contract by using lyrics data in search results, but a judge dismissed the case in August.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Tom Hogue and Christopher Cushing)

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Investors push for social media controls ahead of U.S. inauguration – The Guardian

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By Ross Kerber

BOSTON (Reuters) – Pension fund managers and religious investors on Friday asked top social media companies to step up their content control efforts to reduce the threat of violence ahead of the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden next week.

The effort is the latest pressure on Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc over extreme rhetoric after the storming of the U.S. Capitol last week by supporters of President Donald Trump.

In letters sent on Thursday, the investors – including New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the Service Employees International Union and the Unitarian Universalist Association – asked for steps including disabling the coding they said tends to elevate conspiracy theories and radicalizing content, and for the companies to continue to flag content with hashtags like #Stopthesteal.

In the longer run, boards and executives must review their “business model and reliance on algorithmic decision making, which has been linked to the spread of hate and disinformation online,” the letters said.

Alphabet representatives did not respond to questions. A Facebook spokesman said it has banned over 250 white supremacist groups and enforced rules like those barring militias from organizing on its platform. A Twitter representative cited actions it has taken like suspending accounts that mainly shared QAnon content.

Violent rhetoric on social media platforms has ramped up in recent weeks as groups planned openly for the gathering in Washington, according to researchers and public postings, prompting criticism of the companies for failing to take action in advance.

Twitter and Facebook banned Trump’s accounts last week as the tech giants scrambled to crack down on Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in the U.S. presidential election.

The activist investors together manage about $390 billion in assets but own relatively small stakes in the social media companies. Top shareholders in the space so far have declined to comment on their responses including BlackRock Inc Vanguard Group Inc and Morgan Stanley.

The bans on Trump have prompted concern among other investors that users and advertisers would leave for different platforms. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said the decision was correct but set a dangerous precedent. Facebook operations chief Sheryl Sandberg has said the company has no plans to lift its ban.

(Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Investors push for social media controls ahead of U.S. inauguration – The Guardian

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By Ross Kerber

BOSTON (Reuters) – Pension fund managers and religious investors on Friday asked top social media companies to step up their content control efforts to reduce the threat of violence ahead of the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden next week.

The effort is the latest pressure on Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc over extreme rhetoric after the storming of the U.S. Capitol last week by supporters of President Donald Trump.

In letters sent on Thursday, the investors – including New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the Service Employees International Union and the Unitarian Universalist Association – asked for steps including disabling the coding they said tends to elevate conspiracy theories and radicalizing content, and for the companies to continue to flag content with hashtags like #Stopthesteal.

In the longer run, boards and executives must review their “business model and reliance on algorithmic decision making, which has been linked to the spread of hate and disinformation online,” the letters said.

Alphabet representatives did not respond to questions. A Facebook spokesman said it has banned over 250 white supremacist groups and enforced rules like those barring militias from organizing on its platform. A Twitter representative cited actions it has taken like suspending accounts that mainly shared QAnon content.

Violent rhetoric on social media platforms has ramped up in recent weeks as groups planned openly for the gathering in Washington, according to researchers and public postings, prompting criticism of the companies for failing to take action in advance.

Twitter and Facebook banned Trump’s accounts last week as the tech giants scrambled to crack down on Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in the U.S. presidential election.

The activist investors together manage about $390 billion in assets but own relatively small stakes in the social media companies. Top shareholders in the space so far have declined to comment on their responses including BlackRock Inc Vanguard Group Inc and Morgan Stanley.

The bans on Trump have prompted concern among other investors that users and advertisers would leave for different platforms. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said the decision was correct but set a dangerous precedent. Facebook operations chief Sheryl Sandberg has said the company has no plans to lift its ban.

(Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Island mayor calls for de-escalation as social media gets uglier in racism fight – Saanich News

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North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring is calling for civility on social media, even in response to racist comments he himself decried earlier this week.

According to the mayor, threats of violence in response to racist comments resulted in credible threats of suicide by the initial commenter, as well as RCMP involvement.

On Jan. 10, Siebring put a post on his public Facebook page condemning racism that has been directed toward members of Cowichan Tribes following a COVID-19 outbreak in the First Nations community. That post went viral, with more than 200,000 views and extensive media coverage. Many other provincial and even federal leaders have joined Siebring in his call for this racism to cease.

On Jan. 14, Siebring posted again about the harassment some of the posters of racist comments have since received.

According to Siebring’s post, the harassment has included messages such as “You are a disgusting human being,” “Pathetic racist,” “I hope your children catch [COVID-19] and choke,” and “I am white. You are a vile excuse for a human being and I will do everything in my power to make sure your children are removed from you.”

The individual who was targeted with those messages has reached out to Siebring to “apologize unreservedly,” the mayor said.

“This person — and to be clear, there were lots of people posting [objectionable] stuff, not just this individual — initially wrote me a private message saying: ‘I was very wrong. I feel like [expletive]… I did put up an apology which was deleted… (But) there were many remarks on that apology. Some people were going to come to my home and cut me a new [expletive]. As well, I need a huge beating. I was told I should just kill myself.”

That person wrote to the mayor again the next day, saying, “I am ready to kill myself just to save my family from being harrassed.” They have since deleted their Facebook account, and Siebring said he hasn’t been able to respond to the messages.

“But the threats of violence have precipitated RCMP involvement. And the suicidal iterations were real enough to precipitate multiple hours of people sitting with this individual to ensure they didn’t self-harm.”

“Folks, THIS HAS TO STOP,” Siebring wrote. “Racism is wrong. But so is this kind of reaction. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. And we all need to learn to apply grace and forgiveness. Please, please… let’s tone things down.”

Cowichan Tribes councillor Stephanie Atleo said she fully agrees with Siebring.

“I know in seeing some of the messages, a lot of the anger is coming from non-First Nations citizens, and I do appreciate that they’re speaking up and letting individuals know this is not OK, but there are also ways to do that that are OK and not OK. I don’t want anyone to be on suicide watch because they are being harassed.

“I think it goes both ways: whether you are spreading racist remarks or challenging them, how you challenge them says a lot about yourself, too.”

There is sometimes a tendency to “overcompensate,” Atleo said.

“People know they have to do something, and they want to do it boldly,” she noted. “But they can go over the edge and be as cruel as the original act.”

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READ MORE: Cowichan Valley leaders condemn COVID-related racism

READ MORE: Racism towards Cowichan Tribes in COVID-19 fight is denounced by federal minister

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