Hillicon Valley: Apple's developer dispute draws lawmaker scrutiny of App Store | GOP senator blocks bill to expand mail-in and early voting | Twitter flags Trump tweet on protesters for including 'threat of harm'

Hillicon Valley: Apple's developer dispute draws lawmaker scrutiny of App Store | GOP senator blocks bill to expand mail-in and early voting | Twitter flags Trump tweet on protesters for including 'threat of harm'
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APP STORE UNDER PRESSURE: Apple’s App Store is coming under increasing antitrust scrutiny from lawmakers, regulators and competitors for its treatment of third-party developers.

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Much of the focus is on the fees Apple charges developers and the tech giant’s ability to torpedo apps by denying access to its store following a very public dispute with a high-profile software developer.

That dispute caught the attention of Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineNadler: Barr dealings with Berman came 'awfully close to bribery' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ whistleblower says California emissions probe was 'abuse of authority' | EPA won't defend policy blocking grantees from serving on boards | Minnesota sues Exxon, others over climate change DOJ whistleblower: California emissions probe was 'abuse of authority' MORE (D-R.I.), one of the biggest antitrust hawks on Capitol Hill.

“Because of the market power that Apple has, it is charging exorbitant rents — highway robbery, basically — bullying people to pay 30 percent or denying access to their market,” the chairman of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee said on a podcast from The Verge late last week.

“It’s crushing small developers who simply can’t survive with those kinds of payments. If there were real competition in this marketplace, this wouldn’t happen.”

His comments were in response to Apple’s rejection of an update to a $99-a-year email service from a company called Basecamp, which didn’t offer a way for users to sign up and pay through their app in the App Store. Apple charges a 30 percent fee for use of its payment tools.

Basecamp CTO David Heinemeier Hansson accused Apple of acting like “gangsters” for pressuring the email service Hey to add the in-app subscription feature, saying he would “burn this house down” before agreeing to the 30 percent fee.

Apple ultimately approved a new version of Hey on Monday, but the green light is only temporary. Hey will now offer iOS users a free 14-day account in order to appease Apple’s demand that customers be able to download the app and use it without having to sign up elsewhere first.

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The battle sparked other reports from software developers detailing similar pressure to conform to Apple’s rules.

Read more.

 

GOP SENATOR BLOCKS MAIL-IN VOTING: Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Advocacy groups pressure Senate to reconvene and boost election funding GOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle MORE (R-Mo.) on Tuesday blocked an attempt by Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Fauci says focus should be on pausing reopenings rather than reverting to shutdowns; WHO director pleads for international unity in pandemic response State election officials warn budget cuts could lead to November chaos Biden strikes populist tone in blistering rebuke of Trump, Wall Street MORE (D-Minn.) to push legislation through the Senate that would promote mail-in voting and expand early voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blunt, who serves as chairman of the elections-focused Senate Rules Committee, blocked Klobuchar’s attempt to pass the bill in a Senate by unanimous consent due to concerns that it would federalize the election process.

“I just don’t think this is the time to make this kind of fundamental change,” Blunt said, pointing to concerns that passing the bill would lead to state and local election officials having less control over elections.

The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act, introduced by Klobuchar and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump administration to impose tariffs on French products in response to digital tax Mnuchin: Next stimulus bill must cap jobless benefits at 100 percent of previous income Congress must act now to fix a Social Security COVID-19 glitch and expand, not cut, benefits MORE (D-Ore.) in March, would provide $3 million to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to implement new requirements in the bill. These include requiring states to expand early voting to 20 days prior to the election, and extending the time for absentee ballots to be counted.

“There has been a real desire at the federal level to take over the elections process, I don’t think that’s a good idea, and if it was a good idea, it wouldn’t be a good idea six months Before the election,” Blunt added.

The Republican senator noted that while he did not support passage of the bill, he was open to considering sending more funding to states to help address election challenges.

He also announced the Senate Rules Committee would hold a hearing next month on election concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular to examine ways Americans are voting in 2020. 

“I think funding is one thing, helping states help themselves is something that I think we can still do,” Blunt said.

Congress previously appropriated $400 million for states to address election concerns as part of the CARES Act, a coronavirus stimulus bill signed into law by President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do schools' NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook' Mueller pens WaPo op-ed: Roger Stone 'remains a convicted felon, and rightly so' MORE in March. But experts estimate a total of $4 billion is needed to ensure elections can move forward this year. 

Klobuchar, the top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, argued that passage of the bill would “ensure voters do not have to choose between their right to vote and their health.”

The blocking of the bill came the same day multiple states held primary elections, with some states including Kentucky and New York facing influxes of absentee ballots that could delay election results for days. 

Read more.

 

TWITTER V TRUMP NO. ??: Twitter on Tuesday added an advisory to one of President Trump's tweets that threatened protesters seeking to establish an "autonomous zone" in Washington, D.C., saying it violated the platform's rules against abusive behavior.

"This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about abusive behavior. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible," reads the advisory added to Trump's tweet.

The president had tweeted Tuesday morning that any attempt to establish an "autonomous zone" in the nation's capital "will be met with serious force." Twitter added a notice roughly six hours later stating the tweet violated its policies.

"We’ve placed a public interest notice on this Tweet for violating our policy against abusive behavior, specifically, the presence of a threat of harm against an identifiable group," the platform said.

"Per our policies, this Tweet will remain on the service given its relevance to ongoing public conversation," Twitter added.

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Users can no longer like or reply to Trump's tweet, but they can retweet it with comment, according to the platform.

Trump's threat against protesters came after tense demonstrations Monday night when protesters attempted to topple a statue of former President Jackson in Lafayette Square across the street from the White House. At one point, protesters spray-painted the letters "BHAZ" near the White House, an acronym for "Black House Autonomous Zone."

Read more.

 

GOOGLE TO FACT-CHECK IMAGES: Google will start including fact checks on images on its platform, building on the fact-checking already implemented on the search engine’s "search" and "news" features, the company announced Monday. 

When users search on Google Images they may start seeing a “fact check” label under the thumbnail in image results, it said in the announcement. 

Users will see a summary of the fact check on the underlying web page when they click to see results of the image in a larger format. 

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“Photos and videos are an incredible way to help people understand what’s going on in the world. But the power of visual media has its pitfalls⁠ — especially when there are questions surrounding the origin, authenticity or context of an image,” Google said. 

Google said fact-check labels on results come from “independent, authoritative sources on the web” that meet the search engine's criteria. 

As with its “search” feature, Google said a fact check label in Google Images does not affect the search engine’s ranking, which is designed to “surface the most relevant, reliable information available.” 

Read more.

 

GOOGLE EMPLOYEES SAY NO TO POLICE: More than 1,600 Google employees have signed on to an internal petition calling for the company to cancel its contracts with the police.

“The past weeks have shown us that addressing racism is not merely an issue of words, but of actions taken to dismantle the actual structures that perpetuate it,” reads the letter written by the group Googlers Against Racism.

“While we as individuals hold difficult but necessary conversations with our family, friends and peers, we are also incredibly disappointed by our company’s response.”

The letter, which comes amid rolling protests against police brutality ignited by the killing of George Floyd, highlights the company's Cloud contract with the Clarkstown, N.Y. Police Department, which has been sued for illegally surveilling Black Lives Matter organizers.

It also calls out Google's indirect support for an Arizona sheriff's department tracking people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Americans are grappling with the historical legacies of slavery and genocide that the country is built on, and have begun to identify the role of the police forces in maintaining a fundamentally white supremacist system,” the petition reads. “Google is profiting off of these racist systems, and we believe this means Google is part of the problem.”

The letter also challenges some of Google's recent public commitments and statements.

Google pledged $175 million to support black business owners and workers, Youtube created a $100 million fund to boost the voices of Black creators.

“We should not be in the business of criminalizing Black existence while we chant that Black Lives Matter,” the letter reads.

Read Google’s response.

 

RACIST EMAILS SENT TO UNIVERSITIES: The FBI is investigating several recent incidents of racist emails being sent to thousands of affiliates of major institutions including Harvard University, Stanford University, and Iowa State University, according to multiple reports.

According to The Ames Tribune, around 4,900 individuals with Iowa State University email accounts were sent messages supposedly from Equity Prime Mortgage offering loans to “whites only” and making racist threats against Black individuals. 

The Harvard Crimson reported Monday that “thousands” of Harvard-affiliated individuals received the same email, and The Stanford Daily reported that the emails were sent to 3,600 Standard University-affiliates. Affiliates of the University of Michigan were also targeted.

Harold Reid, a media strategist representing Equity Prime Mortgage, told The Harvard Crimson that the company was working with the FBI to investigate the emails, which were sent following a compromise of Equity Prime Mortgage systems. 

Reid told the publication that the company “recently learned that an organization has obtained a list of emails from an outside source that includes students and administrators from higher education institutions to deliver false information on behalf of the company.”

According to Reid, these email addresses were then used by the organization to “fraudulently apply for loan applications on behalf of the individuals impacted.”

The FBI declined to comment on the investigation, telling The Hill it “does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations.”

The Stanford Daily reported that the University IT office was able to block the email, and purged it from inboxes. The Harvard University IT office was also investigating, according to the Crimson, while Iowa State University was able to remove about 70 percent of the emails before they were viewed, according to The Ames Tribune.

Read more about the emails here. 

 

NEW HOLIDAY: Twitter will make Election Day a paid holiday for its U.S. employees, the company announced Tuesday.

The company added that any employees who do not have time outside of working hours to vote in their country will be compensated for the time it takes to vote, according to The Associated Press. All employees responsible for election-related work, including those responsible for security, will continue working on the day, the company said.

“Given the importance of voting, going forward all national election voting days that take place on a weekday will be a paid day off. Since the U.S. presidential election falls on a work day (November 3), we will plan to close all U.S. offices on that day,” the company told employees in an internal memo shared with CNBC.

“For all other elections, if you do not have enough time outside of working hours to vote or your country doesn’t already have a process in place to address this, you should take the time you need to do so and you will be compensated for the time off,” the memo added.

Read more here. 

 

BEN & JERRY'S JOINS THE BOYCOTT: Ben & Jerry’s on Tuesday became the latest major company to join an advertising boycott of Facebook, saying that it stands with all of those calling for the tech giant to take greater steps to police abusive content on the platform.

The ice cream brand said in a statement that its ad boycott would begin on July 1 and also apply to Instagram, the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook.

"Ben & Jerry’s stands with our friends at the NAACP and Color of Change, the ADL, and all those calling for Facebook to take stronger action to stop its platforms from being used to divide our nation, suppress voters, foment and fan the flames of racism and violence, and undermine our democracy," the company said. 

"Facebook, Inc. must take the clear and unequivocal actions to stop its platform from being used to spread and amplify racism and hate," it added.

The move comes as Facebook faces growing criticism inside and outside the company over how it addresses incendiary posts on the platform. A coalition of civil rights groups last week launched the "#StopHateForProfit" campaign as part of an effort to get corporations to cease their ad spending on the platform until Facebook changes its policies. 

Since the campaign's announcement, at least a dozen companies have said they would pull their advertising from Facebook and Instagram. Outdoor apparel brands North Face, REI and Patagonia were among the first organizations to join the boycott. 

Read more about the ad boycott here. 

 

Lighter click: Can anyone please help

An op-ed to chew on: Consumers are right to demand rigorous professional licensing remain as states reopen

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Square, Jack Dorsey’s pay service, is withholding money merchants say they need (The New York Times / Nathaniel Popper) 

Over 1,000 AI experts condemn racist algorithms that claim to predict crime (Vice Motherboard / Janus Rose) 

Why one tech company is rejecting its state’s push to reopen (Protocol / Kevin McAllister) 

How activists should be thinking about cybersecurity (The Verge / Andrew Marino)