According to a new study issued by Mozilla, a few IT titans are harassing users and maintaining their market dominance using dishonest design elements and other deceptive strategies.
Mozilla’s study represents the most recent effort by smaller tech companies to rally support for more stringent regulation of the conduct of Silicon Valley giants.
The study focuses on the effect that concentration in the tech sector has had on browser engines, the frequently disregarded program that transforms digital code like HTML into what users see on browsers like Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, and others.
The study explained that only Apple, Google, and Mozilla are currently the three most popular browser engines. “Developers and customers also have few options since Apple’s engines are primarily restricted to its products,” according to Mozilla.
Kushall Amlani, global competition and regulatory counsel at Mozilla, said, “We wanted to show that if you don’t have a diversity of browsers, then everyone is built off the same build engine.”
A study of browser usage among citizens of the US, Europe, Asia, and Africa is also included in Mozilla’s evaluation, which identifies alarming patterns.
While most users claimed to be comfortable with “having a wide choice of browsers and knowing how to install a browser on their device,” the poll found that many “never actually install a browser on their device, and even fewer report changing their default.” In March and April, Mozilla conducted an online poll of over 6,000 people in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, India, and Kenya.
Consumers have issues with their browsers, but won’t switch brands
Mozilla claimed that one of the main causes is the use of so-called “dark patterns,” which are deceptive or oblique design elements intended to influence people to buy particular products.
The freedom of customers to switch browsers has “been restricted for years through online choice architecture and commercial tactics that enrich platforms and are not in the best interests of consumers, developers, or the open web,” Mozilla’s paper claims.
Google and Apple have refuted claims that they limit user choice and stifle competition
Google responded to a claim made by competitor DuckDuckGo that it had manipulated browser extensions to promote its products by saying that “Chrome users can easily alter their default search settings at any moment.” Chrome is popular because it is “fast, safe, and offers the greatest experience,” according to a previous statement from Google.
In response to Safari criticism, Apple has stated that it “has every interest in maintaining a vibrant ecosystem of third-party browsers and web apps, and will continue to foster innovation and choice while ensuring users’ privacy and security are protected.”
The company did not immediately respond to an early Thursday request for comments on the report.
Allegations of a lack of competition in the browser marketplace
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority said in June that it investigated competition among browser developers as part of an antitrust investigation into Google and Apple.
The European Union’s sweeping new competition rules, known as the Digital Markets Act, also take aim at practices by tech giants that could entrench their browser dominance.
More scrutiny is still warranted
“I think it’s an important point that people are looking at parts of all of the picture, and what we want to do is build that whole picture so that people can connect the dots themselves,” he said.
He said that Mozilla would then turn its attention to developing measures and making proposals to address the issues outlined in the report.
Florida asks Supreme court to consider social media bill
Florida’s attorney general asked the court to determine whether the First Amendment bars states from requiring that platforms host certain posts and whether states can force companies to explain to users when they remove posts, Cat Zakrzewski and Will Oremus report. It sets up the most serious test yet of claims that major technology companies are unlawfully censoring conservatives.
The decision could have far-reaching implications for the future of democracy and elections, as tech companies play an increasingly important role in disseminating news and information about politics, Kat and Will write.
The petition comes in response to a ruling this year by the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit that found that major parts of Florida’s law, which would forbid firms from banning politicians, violated the First Amendment. The petition incorporated a recent ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which upheld a Texas law forbidding companies from removing posts based on political ideology. The Florida petition says the Supreme Court needs to resolve the differences in the two rulings, which it said were in conflict.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) didn’t respond to a request for comment. Industry group NetChoice, which brought the original lawsuit to block the Florida bill and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, said the Supreme Court should weigh in.
Companies are not doing enough to combat election misinformation
Fifty civil rights organizations pleaded with Facebook parent Meta, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube to bolster the content moderation systems that the civil rights organizations believe allowed Trump’s baseless claims about election rigging to spread. Still, with less than two months until midterm elections, members of the Change the Terms coalition say they’ve seen little in the way of a response from the companies, Naomi Nix reports.
In a memo, the coalition said Facebook’s parent company Meta still allowed posts supporting the idea that the 2020 election was stolen, while Twitter’s ban on misinformation in 2020 was consistently enforced. It said YouTube had not invested enough resources to combat problematic content in languages other than English.
According to Naomi, the civil rights activists’ comments shed light on the political pressures tech companies face behind the scenes.
Social media companies defended their practices
- YouTube spokeswoman Ivy Choi said in a statement that YouTube continues to enforce its policies regardless of the language of the content.
- Facebook spokeswoman Elizabeth Busby said she is focused on promoting credible election information and vigilantly enforcing its policies- accurate election information.
- TikTok has responded to questions from the coalition and values their shared “goals of protecting election integrity,” TikTok spokeswoman Jamie Favazza said.
- Twitter is focused on promoting “reliable election information” and “vigilantly enforcing” its policies, Twitter spokeswoman Elizabeth Busby said.
Apple’s plans to use Chinese chips
A group of senators from both parties asked Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to review the security threat posed by Apple’s plan to use memory chips from Chinese chipmaker YMTC in its new iPhone 14, Ellen Nakashima reports.
Apple previously said that YTMC chips aren’t used in its products and that it was “evaluating” whether to use the chips for some iPhones sold in China. All user data stored on such chips are “fully encrypted,” the company said. The company reiterated to The Post that it wasn’t planning to use the chips in iPhones sold outside China. It declined to comment on the letter.
But senators fear the phone could make inroads into the global market
The senator also wants Haynes to consider what he said about the YMTC’s role in helping other Chinese companies, including telecommunications equipment maker Huawei, which is under strict US export controls, Ellen wrote. They are asking her to investigate the YMTC’s ties to the Chinese military.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the news will impact Kitty Hawk, a joint venture between Boeing and Google co-founder Larry Page’s flying vehicle firm.
Featured image: Mozilla Evelyn Ave Headquarters by Fmarier under CC BY-SA 3.0