Technology StocksAlphabet Inc. (Google)

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To: JakeStraw who wrote (14783)9/16/2017 9:16:19 AM
From: TimF
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Unfortunately -

However, at the same time, Google is disabling some of its protections against autoplay for mobile users. On Chrome for Android, it’s removing the ‘block autoplay’ setting that’s currently available, and it will also remove autoplay blocking on mobile when the Data Saver mode is enabled.

The company says that, by doing so, it will make this new “muted autoplay” more reliable. In reality, though, that means if you’ve already taken a specific action to block autoplay videos on mobile, you might actually see them play more often as a result of the changes if you’re not careful.

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From: Savant9/18/2017 11:14:36 AM
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Alphabet Inc.'s Google has proposed overhauling its shopping search results so that rivals can bid for space to display products for sale, as part of the tech giant's efforts to comply with the European Union's antitrust order, according to people familiar with the matter.

Under the proposal, Google would bid against rivals to display products for sale in the space above its general search results, according to the people. Google would set itself a price cap that it wouldn't be able to bid above, but competitors could do so if they wished.

The European Commission fined Google a record EUR2.42 billion ($2.89 billion) in June for discriminating against rival comparison-shopping sites in its search ranking. The regulator ordered the company to revamp its search results by late September so that it treats its competitors' offerings and its own shopping service equally. The changes would have to apply in all European countries where Google offers its shopping service.

Google submitted a plan to the EU in August that sketched out how it would amend its search results to comply, but declined to provide more details at the time.

A Google spokesman couldn't immediately be reached for comment Monday.

"The [European] Commission can confirm that, as required by the commission decision, it has received information from Google on how the company intends to ensure compliance with the commission decision by the set deadline," a commission spokeswoman said Monday.

Should Google's proposed remedies fall short, the EU could hit it with penalties of up to 5% of average daily global revenue for the period it is deemed to be not complying.

The proposal is similar to one offered by Google several years ago as part of settlement talks with the previous EU antitrust chief, Joaqu?n Almunia. Those talks crumbled under pressure from complainants and politicians in France and Germany, paving the way for EU regulators to fine the company and demand changes.

Google's final binding offer in February 2014, which the EU made public, would have meant results pages that displayed Google shopping ads would also include shopping results from rivals. Those results would have appeared in a shaded box next to Google's shopping ads, according to screenshots the EU published at the time.

Now, complainants are again objecting to Google's proposed remedies.

"While we have yet to see details of Google's proposal, it seems unlikely that Google could have devised an auction-based remedy that does not fall far short of the equal treatment standard stipulated by the [commission's] decision," said Shivaun Raff, chief executive of, a comparison-shopping website that was the first company to file a formal antitrust complaint about Google to the EU.

The auction-based remedy could force Google's competitors to bid away the majority of their profits to Google, Ms. Raff said. Google could set a high price cap for its own bids, pushing the bids of competitors higher.

Rivals can still file complaints to the EU if they find Google's remedies to be insufficient. Should the commission agree with their concerns, it could then penalize Google for not complying.

Last week, Google announced it would appeal the EU's decision, though the company still has to comply while any legal action is ongoing.

Reuters was the first to report the details of Google's latest proposed remedies.

Write to Natalia Drozdiak at
*EU would prolly complain, even if Google gave the space away for free...protectionism @ its finest

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From: FUBHO9/19/2017 5:51:18 PM
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Why Is Google Hiring 1,000 Journalists To Flood Newsrooms Around America?

by Tyler Durden
Sep 18, 2017 10:40 PM

So what do you do when you fail to elect your chosen candidate and your former political allies and mainstream media turn against you by painting you not as the 'progressive', open-minded, friendly tech company that you used to be but as an evil, racist, Russian-colluding corporate villain intent upon destroying all that is sacred in the world? Well, you just buy the media, of course.

As Poynter notes today, after a series of public relations debacles in recent weeks, from the firing of James Damore to news last week that Google's algos served up some fairly disturbing keywords to potential advertising buyers (e.g. " Why Do Black People Ruin Neighborhoods"), Google is ramping up its media presence with the announcement that the Google News Lab will be working with Report For America (RFA) to hire 1,000 journalists all around the country.
Many local newsrooms have been cut to the bone so often that there's hardly any bone left. But starting early next year, some may get the chance to rebuild, at least by one.

On Monday, a new project was announced at the Google News Lab Summit that aims to place 1,000 journalists in local newsrooms in the next five years. Report For America takes ideas from several existing organizations, including the Peace Corps, Americorps, Teach for America and public media.

Unlike foreign or domestic service programs or public media, however, RFA gets no government funding. But they are calling RFA a national service project. That might make some journalists uncomfortable – the idea of service and patriotism. But at its most fundamental, local journalism is about protecting democracy, said co-founder Charles Sennott, founder and CEO of the GroundTruth Project.

"I think journalism needs that kind of passion for public service to bring it back and to really address some of the ailments of the heart of journalism," he said.

Here's how RFA will work: On one end, emerging journalists will apply to be part of RFA. On the other, newsrooms will apply for a journalist. RFA will pay 50 percent of that journalist's salary, with the newsroom paying 25 percent and local donors paying the other 25 percent. That reporter will work in the local newsroom for a year, with the opportunity to renew.

Of course, while the press release above tries to tout the shared financial responsibility of these 1,000 journalists, presumably as a testament to their 'independence', it took about 35 seconds to figure out that the primary funder of the journalists' salaries, RFA, is funded by none other than Google News Lab.

Meanwhile, as a further testament to RFA's 'independence, we noticed that their Advisory Board is flooded with reputable, 'impartial' news organizations like the New York Times, NPR, CBS, ABC, etc....

That said, as Jeff Bezos found out this morning, you can buy the media outlet but that doesn't necessarily mean you can buy their loyalty (see: Did WaPo Break The Law When It Disciplined A Writer For This Negative Article On Jeff Bezos?)....

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From: Glenn Petersen9/20/2017 8:11:37 PM
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HTC is halting trade of its shares in anticipation of expected takeover

All eyes on Google

by Vlad Savov @vladsavov
The Verge
Sep 20, 2017, 7:27am EDT

Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge

HTC, one of Taiwan’s premier tech brands and a true pioneer in the development of the Android hardware ecosystem, has today announced it is about to halt trading of its shares tomorrow in anticipation of a “major announcement,” as first reported by Bloomberg’s Tim Culpan. Earlier this month, the company was rumored to be in the final stages of negotiating a takeover with Google, and today’s news appears to be setting the stage for that buyout becoming official. Or it could be some anonymous asset-holding company buying up what’s left of HTC, but the exciting scenario is definitely the one that involves Google.

The official HTC response to the reported Google negotiations was issued today in a boilerplate statement of “HTC does not comment on market rumor or speculation.” But the facts of HTC’s situation speak for themselves: the company has been operating at a loss for well over a year and, in spite of the excellence of its latest U11 flagship, wasn’t looking likely to survive much longer without outside assistance.

Google and HTC already have a close working relationship, having collaborated on the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones of last year. The latest rumors point to HTC also producing the 2017 Pixel, though LG is expected to take over responsibility for building the second-gen Pixel XL. In any case, acquiring HTC is almost a no-brainer for a Google that is intent on developing and expanding its own hardware division. Google previously owned Motorola for a brief period of time and seemed intent on the same goal, but that plan ultimately unravelled. What has happened since then is that Google re-hired the Motorola chief it once had, Rick Osterloh, and founded a separate hardware team under his stewardship. Claude Zellweger, the one-time chief designer of HTC Vive, is also now at Google, working on that company’s Daydream virtual reality system.

It’s not immediately obvious what, if anything, Google would be acquiring from HTC. It could be just the smartphone business or just the Vive VR division, with a total takeover of the entire company presently being considered the less likely scenario. It’s also peculiar that HTC would give advance notice of halting trading — these moves are usually done immediately and designed to prevent shareholders from being freaked out by unfavorable news and rushing to sell off their stock. Is HTC foreshadowing unsavoury news for its stockholders? The most damaging thing for them would probably be the loss of the Vive VR unit, which has the greatest potential for growth.

Putting together a history of collaboration, similar goals in promoting VR and advancing smartphone design, and the favorable price of HTC’s current shares makes an HTC buyout the logical move for Google. Of course, the thing that spoiled the Google-Motorola relationship — namely, Samsung’s objection to Google invading its territory — could still pose an issue, though if Google’s going to proceed with making Pixel phones, it’s of only academic importance whether it owns the manufacturing company or not.

We’ll have to wait and see the exact details of HTC’s major announcement, which should coincide with the stop in share trading tomorrow.

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From: FUBHO9/20/2017 11:29:22 PM
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Internet Giants Face New Political Resistance in DC...

EU ready to move on digital tax...

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission said the EU should proceed with an overhaul of taxes on digital firms even if the rest of the rich world did not follow suit, a draft report said.

The document is part of an EU push to tap more revenues from online multinationals such as Amazon and Facebook, who are accused of paying too little tax in Europe by routing most of their profits to low-rate countries such as Ireland or Luxembourg.

The draft report, to be adopted on Thursday, said that on average brick-and-mortar multinationals pay in taxes in the EU more than twice what their digital competitors do.

Traditional large firms face a median 23.2 percent tax rate, while digital giants do not pay more than 10.1 percent - and when they sell directly to customers, rather than to firms, their effective rate goes down to 8.9 percent, data cited by the Commission showed.

An earlier report by a European lawmaker said EU states may have lost in tax revenues up to 5.4 billion euros ($6.5 billion) just from Facebook and Google, now part of Alphabet, between 2013 and 2015.

"A level playing field is a pre-condition for all businesses to be able to innovate, develop and grow," the Commission said, adding that fairer taxation of the digital economy was urgently needed.

Partly because of the uneven taxation, revenues in the EU retail sector grew on average by only 1 percent a year between 2008 and 2016, while in the same period revenues of the top-five online retailers, such as Amazon, grew on average by 32 percent per year, the Commission's report says.


The document, seen by Reuters, will be presented at a summit of EU leaders on September 29 dedicated to digital issues. Despite divergences and scepticism among some smaller states, the 28 EU countries are expected to find common ground on digital taxation by December.

The Commission is seeking a compromise among rich countries worldwide in a bid to reduce opposition from EU states that fear losing competitiveness if the EU moves ahead on its own in this field.

But "in the absence of adequate global progress, EU solutions should be advanced within the single market", the document said, adding that a legislative proposal may be presented in the spring regardless of global developments.

The best way to tackle distortions would be to review the notion of "permanent establishment" so that firms could be taxed also in countries where they do not have a physical presence, the Commission said.

At the moment online companies can often avoid paying taxes in countries where they generate large revenues because they do not have a physical presence there.

A proposal to change the corporate tax base is already under discussion in the EU. The Commission believes it represents "a basis to address these key challenges", but needs the unanimous support of EU states to turn the plan into law.

To move ahead more quickly, the Commission said short-term solutions could be considered. They include an "equalization" tax on turnover, as proposed by France and backed by 10 EU countries, the report said.

Alternative short-term options would be a withholding tax on payments to digital businesses and a levy on revenues from advertisements or other services provided by digital firms.

But short-term options "have pros and cons, and further work is needed", the Commission said, warning that they may go against double-taxation treaties, state aid rules, fundamental freedoms and EU international commitments under free trade agreements and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

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From: FUBHO9/21/2017 6:43:16 PM
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Artificial intelligence pioneer calls for the breakup of Big Tech...

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From: FUBHO9/22/2017 12:18:52 AM
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GOOGLE at Mercy of Enemies in EU Antitrust Battle...

Refunds to Advertisers Over Fake Traffic...

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From: FUBHO9/26/2017 3:40:40 PM
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Why It Took Google So Long to End Shady Rehab Center Ads

There could be a billion reasons.

ByMichael Smith,Jonathan Levin, andMark Bergen

September 26, 2017, 5:00 AM CDT

In May, scores of people on the front lines of America’s opioid crisis packed the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers conference in Austin to listen to a Google contractor named Josh Weum. Google LLC doesn’t have anything to do with treating addicts, and the company didn’t send Weum there to talk about helping people get clean. He was explaining how to use Google to cash in on America’s $35 billion addiction treatment market.

Specifically, Weum was part of a panel discussion on ethics. But his job was to promote Google’s giant digital marketing business, and for 14 minutes he threw around such terms as desktop immersion, conquesting, multiscreen dynamic, and PPC (pay per click). At the heart of Weum’s pitch was the product that has made Google’s parent, Alphabet Inc., the second-most valuable company in the world: the AdWords keyword auction system. Through this system, addiction treatment providers (like any other advertisers) bid for search words. If they win, their ads sit atop the free search results; any time someone clicks on an ad, Google gets paid. Weum’s message was simple: AdWords is the most efficient way to the addicts who can afford treatment. “Google is here to help you, as far as growth,” Weum, who gave his title as AdWords ambassador, told the crowd of owners and operators of addiction treatment facilities.

Federal law, including the Affordable Care Act, requires insurers to cover substance abuse treatment—and a single patient can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance claims for such care. That has produced an online battle for well-insured addicts, and Google sells the weapon of choice. Respected and effective treatment centers work the system, and so do crooks. Last December, a grand jury in Palm Beach County, Fla., investigated fraud and abuse in the addiction industry and found that gaming Google searches is a common tool for criminals to lure addicts into questionable and sometimes dangerous treatment. Six months later, the state of Florida—a national addiction treatment mecca with about 1,500 licensed facilities—enacted law HB 807 to crack down on internet marketing abuses by addiction treatment service providers and to regulate call centers. “The ones at the top of the list aren’t necessarily the most popular, the most successful at treatment,” says Dave Aronberg, Palm Beach County chief prosecutor, who directed the grand jury probe. “It’s often the company that pays Google the most.”

Google says it has always been its policy to block sites that traffic in illegal or unethical activities from advertising or showing up in search results. On Sept. 14 the company went further: It announced plans to stop accepting ads for rehab centers. The sudden announcement came a few days after the tech news site the Verge published a story about how unethical treatment providers, and in some cases criminals, use AdWords to exploit addicts. It described treatment operators who deceive vulnerable patients about treatments, facilities, and even the locations of their clinics. Some advertisers posed as caregivers but were really call centers that sold leads on patients to the highest bidder.

Federal and state laws make patient brokering, or selling access to patients, illegal, under the theory that money shouldn’t take precedence over finding the proper care. But the largely unregulated business of addiction treatment in America is driven by effectively paying to acquire patients, in the form of digital marketing or so-called patient lead acquisition. Google is at the center of it all because most people have no idea how to find help for opioid addiction. So they search, say, “addiction treatment near me,” and Google takes over.

There’s big money involved. A midsize addiction treatment center can easily shell out $1 million a month or more for Google AdWords. Fees per click for the most popular addiction keywords have doubled over each of the past three years. To run ads for the term “drug rehab locations,” AdWords suggested in mid-September that marketers place a minimum bid of $187 per click, according to an analysis of Google data from marketing firm Apttus Corp. The suggested starting bid for “drug addiction treatment program” was $106.71; for “drug rehab detox,” it was $93.24.

Google’s announcement about its new policy suggested that the company had recently become aware of the problem of AdWords abuse. “After conducting a thorough review and consulting with experts, we found a number of misleading experiences that led to our decision to restrict ads entirely in this category until we can find a better way to connect those that need help to reputable treatment centers,” a Google spokesperson said. For insight into the timing, Google directed Bloomberg to Facing Addiction, an advocacy group based in Danbury, Conn. Greg Williams, co-founder of the group, says that around the time of the Austin conference, he went to Google with concerns about advertisers. According to Williams, the group’s work documenting abuses was a factor in the policy change. “When somebody without a dog in the fight came to them with a powerful argument, they heard us out,” Williams says.

But it’s hard to believe the company hadn’t known for some time that its advertiser base was riddled with crooks. All you needed to do was Google it. Aronberg has been accusing AdWords addiction treatment advertisers of crimes for several years, and his grand jury report (PDF) was published nine months before Google took action. Legitimate treatment center customers have been filing complaints about shady operators with Google long before the announcement.

Google has been actively pursuing profits from the business, despite complaints that it’s a magnet for criminals. There’s an entire sales division in Cambridge, Mass., Google Health Systems, that focuses on medical markets, including addiction treatment. It’s sent account executives to peddle AdWords and other services at addiction treatment conferences and webinars. Google may be raking in $1 billion or more a year from addiction treatment advertisers, according to Williams, who based the estimate on average marketing spending. (Google declined to comment on anything related to its revenue sources.) “I thought it just happened organically, that because it’s Google, it would naturally get a lot of companies that would pay to market,” says Aronberg. “I did not realize Google is actively courting the industry, suggesting the right keywords and going to conferences. That’s crazy.”

Anti-Google sentiment was palpable at the Austin conference, especially after Weum told the crowd that it was hard for Google to cut off shady treatment providers unless someone tipped off the company.

As the discussion wound down, Jeffrey Lynne, a lawyer in Boca Raton, Fla., had heard enough. Lynne, who specializes in advising addiction treatment centers, stood up and accused Google of not only enabling a dirty business but actively profiting from it. “Google has a fundamental responsibility to stop making money hand over fist by jacking up these ad prices because of an algorithm,” Lynne said, drawing applause from the crowd. “We need you to step up to the plate,” he said. “Because people are using you to human-traffic our children.”

Weum, who hawked AdWords products for two years at a myriad of industry conferences, including several on addiction treatment, says he was shocked by the sense of outrage from people in the Austin hotel ballroom. “It really felt like I was being blamed for it,” he says. “I felt the full brunt of the anger with patient brokering.” One man sitting next to Weum on the same panel, Dan Gemp, wasn’t surprised. Gemp is chief executive officer of Dreamscape Marketing LLC, a Columbia, Md., company that specializes in running ad campaigns for addiction treatment providers. He’d filed multiple complaints with Google about treatment center operators who did such things as hack his clients’ websites to hijack potential patients. He says he’s seen unethical competitors change clients’ phone numbers on Google My Business directories to siphon off potential patients and usurp clients’ names by bidding for them as AdWords keywords. Gemp’s own presentation at the conference was largely about how to defend against these shady practices. Weum says that before the conference was done, he was thinking about ending his stint as a Google contractor. By the time things wrapped up in Austin, Gemp had offered Weum a marketing job, and in August he took it.

So far, there are still holes in Google’s ad ban. On Sept. 25, 11 days after the policy change was announced, searches for “addict treatment,” “rehab Boston,” and “rehab Vermont” produced four paid ads for treatment facilities at the top of the results. Elisa Greene, a Google spokeswoman, said implementation of the changes would come gradually but declined to offer a detailed timeline.

Gemp says his Google reps have told him the company is zeroing in on 70,000 addiction-treatment-related keywords. It will be both complicated and expensive—if Google successfully cuts off shady operators, it’s going to cost the company money. But then, no one ever said it was easy getting clean.

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From: JakeStraw9/27/2017 11:49:38 AM
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Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is now covered by analysts at Wells Fargo & Company. They set an "outperform" rating and a $1,250.00 price target on the stock.

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From: ProThinker9/29/2017 6:54:38 AM
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Google (Alphabet) appears fairly valued at current levels and not much upside.


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