TikTok will still be a ‘gatekeeper’ under the Digital Markets Act, EU rules

As far as the EU is concerned, TikTok requires strong, ongoing regulations. The EU's General Court dismissed an action brought by TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, which argued that the platform shouldn't be considered a "gatekeeper" under the Digital Markets Act (DMA). The designation came in September 2023, and ByteDance filed to undo it just two months later. 

ByteDance had painted TikTok has an up and comer EU market, citing pushback through the development of Reels and Shorts — the General Court disagrees: "Although in 2018 TikTok was indeed a challenger seeking to contest the position of established operators such as Meta and Alphabet, it had rapidly consolidated its position, and even strengthened that position over the following years, despite the launch of competing services such as Reels and Shorts, to the point of reaching, in a short time, half the size, in terms of number of users within the European Union, of Facebook and of Instagram."

ByteDance had argued that TikTok was not dominant in the EU market, citing Instagram's Reels and YouTube's Shorts as meaningful competition. The General Court disagreed, writing that "although in 2018 TikTok was indeed a challenger seeking to contest the position of established operators such as Meta and Alphabet, it had rapidly consolidated its position ... to the point of reaching, in a short time, half the size ... of Facebook and of Instagram."

The General Court added that TikTok meets the qualifications set out to be a gatekeeper: a €75 million ($82 million) global market value, over 45 million monthly active end users and over 10,000 yearly active business users across the EU over the last three years. 

The DMA went into effect in March and prohibits gatekeepers — including Alphabet, Meta, Amazon and more — from favoring their own platforms or forcing users to stay inside their company's ecosystem. ByteDance has just over two months to launch an appeal with the Court of Justice, the EU's highest court. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/tiktok-will-still-be-a-gatekeeper-under-the-digital-markets-act-eu-rules-131534890.html?src=rss

Apple, NVIDIA and Anthropic reportedly used YouTube transcripts without permission to train AI models

Some of the world’s largest tech companies trained their AI models on a dataset that included transcripts of more than 173,000 YouTube videos without permission, a new investigation from Proof News has found. The dataset, which was created by a nonprofit company called EleutherAI, contains transcripts of YouTube videos from more than 48,000 channels and was used by Apple, NVIDIA and Anthropic among other companies. The findings of the investigation spotlight AI’s uncomfortable truth: the technology is largely built on the backs of data siphoned from creators without their consent or compensation.

The dataset doesn’t include any videos or images from YouTube, but contains video transcripts from the platform's biggest creators including Marques Brownlee and MrBeast, as well as large news publishers like The New York Times, the BBC, and ABC News. Subtitles from videos belonging to Engadget are also part of the dataset.

“Apple has sourced data for their AI from several companies,” Brownlee posted on X. “One of them scraped tons of data/transcripts from YouTube videos, including mine,” he added. “This is going to be an evolving problem for a long time.”

A Google spokesperson told Engadget that previous comments made by YouTube CEO Neal Mohan saying that companies using YouTube's data to train AI models would violate the paltform's terms and service still stand. Apple, NVIDIA, Anthropic and EleutherAI did not respond to a request for comment from Engadget.

So far, AI companies haven’t been transparent about the data used to train their models. Earlier this month, artists and photographers criticized Apple for failing to reveal the source of training data for Apple Intelligence, the company own spin on generative AI coming to millions of Apple devices this year.

YouTube, the world’s largest repository of videos, in particular, is a goldmine of not only transcripts but also audio, video, and images, making it an attractive dataset for training AI models. Earlier this year, OpenAI’s chief technology officer, Mira Murati, evaded questions from The Wall Street Journal about whether the company used YouTube videos to train Sora, OpenAI’s upcoming AI video generation tool. “I’m not going to go into the details of the data that was used, but it was publicly available or licensed data,” Murati said at the time. Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai has also said that companies using data from YouTube to train their AI models would violate of the platform’s terms of service.

If you want to see if subtitles from your YouTube videos or from your favorite channels are part of the dataset, head over to the Proof News' lookup tool

Update, July 16 2024, 3:17 PM PT: This story has been updated to include a statement from Google. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/apple-nvidia-and-anthropic-reportedly-used-youtube-transcripts-without-permission-to-train-ai-models-170827317.html?src=rss

Google reportedly offered EU cloud firms over $500 million to continue antitrust case against Microsoft

Google reportedly offered a group of EU-based cloud firms $512 million (€470 million) as an attempt to derail an antitrust settlement with Microsoft and force the continuation of a formal complaint, according to Bloomberg. The attempt failed and the settlement went through.

Here’s how it went down. A non-profit trade organization called the Cloud Infrastructure Services Providers in Europe (CISPE) issued a complaint to the EU’s antitrust arm, alleging that Microsoft made it too difficult for business customers to change providers because the software was tied to Azure cloud services.

This led to a negotiation between CISPE and Microsoft to give the former better access to the latter’s technologies and end the formal complaint. That’s when Google, a rival to Microsoft, stepped in. The company allegedly offered the aforementioned financial package to the group, so long as they continued with the complaint. This is according to confidential documents and people familiar with the matter, all of which were vetted by Bloomberg.

The financial package broke down into two parts. The vast majority of Google’s offer included software licenses for its cloud technology over five years, with a value of $495 million or €455 million. The remaining amount was offered in cash, as well as a long-term partnership proposal. Amazon Web Services (AWS) also contributed money to Google's offer, despite being an actual member of CISPE. 

Google’s deal was conditional, however, on CISPE continuing its EU antitrust complaint against Microsoft. This didn’t influence the cloud companies that comprise CISPE, which are mostly European firms. Instead, the group went in the opposite direction. It entered into a similar agreement with Microsoft that allows them to use enhanced Azure features and gives them the ability to offer Microsoft products and services on their local cloud infrastructures. There was also a cash payout agreement from Microsoft to CISPE of around $11 million, according to people familiar with the agreement.

"Microsoft's playbook of paying off complainants rather than addressing the substance of their complaint hurts businesses and shouldn't fool anyone," Amit Zavery, head of platform at Google Cloud, told CRN. “We are exploring our options to continue to fight against Microsoft's anti-competitive licensing in order to promote choice, innovation, and the growth of the digital economy in Europe.”

It’s worth noting that Zavery didn’t address the allegations that, well, Google did the same exact thing. According to The Register, an individual familiar with the matter called Google’s response “a bit rich.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-reportedly-offered-eu-cloud-firms-over-500-million-to-continue-antitrust-case-against-microsoft-160721324.html?src=rss

UK antitrust officials join FTC in investigating Microsoft’s hiring of Inflection AI staff

The UK's antitrust watchdog is once again investigating Microsoft. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has opened a formal probe over the company's hiring of former Inflection AI staff and its licensing of the startup's tech. The initial phase one investigation will be wrapped up by September 11, at which point the CMA will determine whether to open a more in-depth (phase two) probe.

The agency will try to determine whether Microsoft attempted to avoid antitrust scrutiny by recruiting Inflection's staff and employing its tech but not buying the company outright. It will look at whether the moves "resulted in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002" and if that has, or is likely to have, a negative impact on competition in the UK.

"We are confident that the hiring of talent promotes competition and should not be treated as a merger,” Microsoft told Bloomberg in a statement. “We will provide the UK CMA with the information it needs to complete its inquiries expeditiously.”

Microsoft's Inflection strategy is also under the spotlight in the US. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the situation.

Microsoft last week gave up its non-voting observer seat on OpenAI's board in what onlookers believed was an attempt to evade further antitrust scrutiny. Microsoft has invested over $10 billion into OpenAI — which has also drawn the attention of the FTC and CMA.

Meanwhile, the CMA and Microsoft are familiar foes. The antitrust agency heavily scrutinized Microsoft's $69 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard. The probe was the final hurdle the companies had to overcome before closing the deal.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/uk-antitrust-officials-join-ftc-in-investigating-microsofts-hiring-of-inflection-ai-staff-143243701.html?src=rss

UK antitrust officials join FTC in investigating Microsoft’s hiring of Inflection AI staff

The UK's antitrust watchdog is once again investigating Microsoft. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has opened a formal probe over the company's hiring of former Inflection AI staff and its licensing of the startup's tech. The initial phase one investigation will be wrapped up by September 11, at which point the CMA will determine whether to open a more in-depth (phase two) probe.

The agency will try to determine whether Microsoft attempted to avoid antitrust scrutiny by recruiting Inflection's staff and employing its tech but not buying the company outright. It will look at whether the moves "resulted in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002" and if that has, or is likely to have, a negative impact on competition in the UK.

"We are confident that the hiring of talent promotes competition and should not be treated as a merger,” Microsoft told Bloomberg in a statement. “We will provide the UK CMA with the information it needs to complete its inquiries expeditiously.”

Microsoft's Inflection strategy is also under the spotlight in the US. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the situation.

Microsoft last week gave up its non-voting observer seat on OpenAI's board in what onlookers believed was an attempt to evade further antitrust scrutiny. Microsoft has invested over $10 billion into OpenAI — which has also drawn the attention of the FTC and CMA.

Meanwhile, the CMA and Microsoft are familiar foes. The antitrust agency heavily scrutinized Microsoft's $69 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard. The probe was the final hurdle the companies had to overcome before closing the deal.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/uk-antitrust-officials-join-ftc-in-investigating-microsofts-hiring-of-inflection-ai-staff-143243701.html?src=rss

Verizon faces lawsuit after record labels say it profits from piracy

A group of record labels that include Universal, Capitol, Warner and Sony has filed a lawsuit against Verizon, accusing it of "contributory and vicarious copyright infringement." Verizon "knowingly provides its high-speed service to a massive community of online pirates," the companies said in their complaint. Apparently, the plaintiffs have sent the internet provider "hundreds of thousands" of copyright infringement notices over the past few years, identifying subscribers who've been using Verizon's network to share copyrighted music via peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks. 

Verizon, they said, acknowledged that it received their notices. The company allegedly chose to ignore them and continued to provide internet services to "thousands of known repeat infringers so it could continue to collect millions of dollars from them." Since it didn't terminate the accounts of the alleged copyright infringers, Verizon "obtained a direct financial benefit" from their "continuing infringing activity," the plaintiffs argued. The labels are asking for damages worth up to $150,000 for each work infringed. Based on the list posted by Ars Technica, 17,335 titles are involved in the case, which means Verizon could be fined for as much as $2.6 billion. 

Back in 2018, music labels also sued Cox Communications for allegedly refusing to fully terminate the accounts of users who were pirating music. A US District Court jury originally sided with the labels and ordered Cox to pay $1 billion in damages. But earlier this year, an appeals court overturned the verdict and found that the provider didn't profit directly from its users' activities. A group of record labels also sued Charter Communications in 2021 over over song piracy and similarly accused the company of turning a "blind eye" to music piracy.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/verizon-faces-lawsuit-after-record-labels-say-it-profits-from-piracy-133047303.html?src=rss

A hacking group reportedly leaked confidential data from thousands of Disney Slack channels.

A hacking group leaked over a terabyte of confidential data from more than 10,000 Slack channels belonging to Disney, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. The leaked information includes discussions about ad campaigns, computer code, details about unreleased projects and discussion about interview candidates among other things. “Disney is investigating this matter,” a company spokesperson told the Journal.

Nullbulge calls itself a hacktivist group advocating for the rights of artists. A spokesperson for the group told the Journal that it targeted Disney due to concerns about the company's handling of artist contracts and its approach to generative AI. For weeks, the group teased its access to Disney’s Slack, posting snippets of confidential information such as attendance figures for Disneyland parks on X. Nullbulge told the Journal that it accessed Disney’s confidential information by compromising an employee’s computer computer twice, including through malicious software that it buried in a videogame add-on.

For more than a year, generative AI has sparked tensions between the companies that make and use the tech and members of the creative community who have accused corporations of using their work to train AI models without consent or compensation.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/a-hacking-group-reportedly-leaked-confidential-data-from-thousands-of-disney-slack-channels-001124844.html?src=rss

The EU will start enforcing its new AI regulations on August 1

The European Union has published the full and final text for the EU AI Act in its Official Journal, as reported by TechCrunch. Since the new law will come into force 20 days after its publication, that means it will be enforceable starting on August 1. All its provisions will be fully applicable in two years' time, but some of them will be implemented much earlier than that. 

Six months from now, the bloc will start implementing bans on prohibited applications for AI, such as the use of social credit ranking systems, the collection and compilation of facial recognition information for databases, as well the use of real time emotion recognition systems in schools and workplaces. 

In nine months, the EU will start implementing codes of practice on AI developers. The EU AI Office established by the European Commission will work with consultancy firms to draft those codes. It also plans to work with companies that provide general-purpose models deemed to carry systemic risks. As TechCrunch notes, though, that raises concerns that the industry's biggest players will be able to shape the rules that are supposed to keep them in check.

After a year, makers of general purpose AI models, such as ChatGPT, will have to comply with new transparency requirements and have to be able to demonstrate that their systems are safe and easily explainable to users. In addition to all those, the EU AI Act includes rules that apply to generative AI and manipulated media, such as making sure deepfakes and other AI-generated images, videos and audio are clearly labeled. 

Companies training their AI models will have to respect copyright laws, as well, unless their model is created purely for research and development. "Rightsholders may choose to reserve their rights over their works or other subject matter to prevent text and data mining, unless this is done for the purposes of scientific research," the AI Act's text reads. "Where the rights to opt out has been expressly reserved in an appropriate manner, providers of general-purpose AI models need to obtain an authorization from rightsholders if they want to carry out text and data mining over such works."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-eu-will-start-enforcing-its-new-ai-regulations-on-august-1-140037756.html?src=rss

Biden administration awards car factories $1.7 billion so they can build EVs

The US Energy Department has revealed that it's awarding car and auto parts factories in eight states a total of $1.7 billion in funding, so that they can be retooled to build electric vehicles and their components. According to The New York Times and The Washington Post, the money will come from President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, which provides subsidies to EV and battery plants, as well as the $7,500 tax credits consumers can get if they buy an electric vehicle.

One of the 11 recipients is a Jeep factory in Belvidere, Illinois that closed last year. The $334.8 million it will get from the initiative will allow it to reopen to produce electric vehicles and restore 1,450 jobs. GM, which will be awarded $500 million, will convert a plant in Lansing, Michigan to produce EVs instead of gasoline cars. The US subsidiary of Korean auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis will also get $32.6 million to refit a plant in Toledo, Ohio for the production of plug-in vehicle components. 

Government officials said they chose communities that are disproportionately affected by pollution or lack of investment. In addition, employees in all of the selected companies are represented by unions. The grants aren't set in stone — the companies still have to negotiate terms with the Department of Energy. They have to commit to retaining their current workers despite the shift to EVs, and they have to meet employment targets. The companies also have to promise to provide their workers with certain benefits, such as child care, pensions and training to further their careers. 

As The Times notes, several factories selected for the initiative are located in "battleground states" for the upcoming presidential elections. "This investment will create thousands of good-paying, union manufacturing jobs and retain even more — from Lansing, Michigan to Fort Valley, Georgia — by helping auto companies retool, reboot and rehire in the same factories and communities," Biden said in a statement. "This delivers on my commitment to never give up on the manufacturing communities and workers that were left behind by my predecessor."

Jennifer Granholm, the US Energy secretary, believes the fund will retain 15,000 jobs and create 3,000 new ones. Granholm also said that it will help the US "compete with other countries who were subsidizing their auto industries." While the secretary didn't mention China specifically, the country is known for subsidizing its EV manufacturers. Earlier this year, the US government quadrupled import tariff for Chinese EVs, while the European Union announced that it was going to impose additional tariffs of up to 38 percent on Chinese-made electric vehicles to protect local manufacturers. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/biden-administration-awards-car-factories-17-billion-so-they-can-build-evs-133008903.html?src=rss

Elon Musk escapes paying $500 million to former Twitter employees

The social media platform formerly known as Twitter has been at the center of multiple legal battles from the very beginning of Elon Musk's takeover. One such suit relates to the more than 6,000 employees laid off by Musk following his acquisition of the company – and his alleged failure to pay them their full severance. Yesterday, Musk notched a win over his former employees.

The case in question is a class-action lawsuit filed by former Twitter employee Courtney McMillian. The complaint argued that under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Twitter Severance Plan owed laid off workers three months of pay. They received less than that, and sought $500 million in unpaid severance. However, on Tuesday, US District Judge Trina Thompson in the Northern District of California granted Musk's motion to dismiss the class-action complaint.

Judge Thompson found that the Twitter severance plan did not qualify under ERISA because they received notice of a separate payout scheme prior to the layoffs. Instead, she dismissed the case, ruling that the severance program adopted after Musk's takeover was the one that applied to these former employees, rather than the 2019 one the plaintiffs were expecting.

This ruling is a setback for the thousands of dismissed Twitter staffers, but there are future chances for them to win larger payments. Thompson's order noted that the plaintiffs could amend their complaint for non-ERISA claims. If they do, Thompson said "this Court will consider issuing an Order finding this case related to one of the cases currently pending" against X Corp/Twitter. There are still lawsuits underway on behalf of some past top brass at Twitter, one which is seeking $128 million in unpaid severance and another attempting to recoup about $1 million in unpaid legal fees.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/elon-musk-escapes-paying-500-million-to-former-twitter-employees-203813996.html?src=rss