Skip to content

Big Tech News

The opening salvo in the ongoing crusade against Big Tech—the Justice Department’s (DoJ) landmark antitrust case against Google (like United States v. Microsoft before it)—will be remembered as a defining moment in the history of antitrust law. In a spirited trial, DOJ argued that Google maintained a monopoly in general search and related advertising through a series of agreements with web browser developers and companies that manufacture or sell Android devices, which require Google to be preinstalled at various access points. In its defence, Google attacked the generality of DOJ’s market definition, explaining how competition is just a “click away,” and articulated the procompetitive justifications for its agreements. The trial has concluded, and the judge must now consider which side will prevail. We will be watching out for the result.

Not only Big Tech is being plagued in the USA by a raft of new regulations on children’s privacy and online safety. As with other areas of digital policy, this legislative patchwork demonstrates the need for a federal standard that will protect children without violating users’ free speech or privacy. California got an early lead on children’s online safety and privacy legislation with its Age Appropriate Design Code Act (CAADCA). The Act requires that online services that children are “likely to access”—not just services targeted at children—consider the best interests of children and prioritize children’s privacy, safety, and well-being over commercial interests. Online services must complete a “Data Impact Assessment” for each new product, service, or feature the company offers that, among other things, determines whether the product, service, or feature could subject children to “harmful or potentially harmful” content.

This Act has been challenged in the Federal Court on the basis that the law gives the California state government unconstitutional control over online speech by punishing online services if they do not protect underaged users from “harmful or potentially harmful” content and prioritize content that promotes minors’ best interests. The CAADCA does not define harmful content or content that promotes minors’ best interests, leaving platforms to guess regulators’ intentions and risk fines of up to $7,500 per affected child if they guess incorrectly. While that case goes on other states that were discussing their own age-appropriate design codes, including Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Texas, have had to pause their initiatives. The outcome of the case against the CAADCA will likely determine whether or how these states move forward with their own legislation.

Simultaneously, several states have introduced or passed legislation that would require social media platforms to verify the ages of their users and require parental consent for users under a certain age, either 16 or 18. Currently, most social media platforms only allow people over 13 to create an account, typically confirmed by users entering their date of birth, with no verification that they are telling the truth. As a result, many children lie about their age and create social media accounts anyway.  So far 5 states have passed age verification and parental consent laws for social media. The exact details vary state-by-state, but broadly speaking, all these bills and laws require social media platforms to verify the ages of users in those states and, if the user is under the specified age (either 16 or 18), obtain parental consent before allowing the user to create an account.

Meanwhile US consumers will be able to search for cars on Amazon next year and will be able to check out online with their chosen payment and financing options.

Posted in

Alastair Tempest

Become a member

Join the Ecommerce Forum South Africa and benefit from industry insights in South Africa and Africa.

Sign up to newsletter

Sign up to our newsletter and stay informed of the progress we are making at the Ecommerce Forum South Africa with government during Coronavirus.