Big Tech vs. Europe (next round)

Europe is creating headaches for tech giants.

👋 Welcome to the FWIW by David Tvrdon, your weekly tech, media & audio digest.

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In this edition

🇪🇺 Big Tech vs. EU (& the new regulation proposals)

🏆 Top podcasts of 2020 (summary of all the lists)

💬 Other tech, media, audio & podcasting news

👻 BONUS: My latest column for The Fix is the second part of a mini-series looking back at the 2020 media industry in different topics: Year 2020 in subscriptions and memberships. (first part was: Year 2020 in podcasting).

EU keeps pushing for more strict digital rules, Big Tech is not happy

📸 by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Let’s look at some of the headlines from this week:

  • Big Fines and Strict Rules Unveiled Against ‘Big Tech’ in Europe [The New York Times]

  • The EU’s New Silicon Valley Crackdown [Bloomberg]

  • Europe Unveils Sweeping New Rules for Tech Platforms [The Information]

  • EU announces sweeping new rules that could force breakups and hefty fines for Big Tech [CNBC]

  • EU Digital Services Act set to bring in new rules for tech giants [BBC]

  • Europe triples down on tough rules for tech [Axios]

The European Union revealed a pair of laws - the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act. BBC News called them the biggest revision in 20 years, focusing on competition and making platforms responsible for hosted content.

The laws are still in the “proposal” phase, which means they are not laws yet. But once they are passed, the consequences for Big tech could be far-reaching (New York Times reported that the laws are not expected to be approved before 2022).

Big technology platforms would be forbidden from favoring their own products over rivals (think Apple Music in App Store, Amazon Basics on Amazon, or Google reviews instead of Yelp in Google Search results).

Also, using data from rivals couldn’t be exclusive to the platform (think Amazon using sellers data to develop products, Amazon would have to either not use that data or share it with everyone else).

And, as Axios explained, The Digital Services Act is aimed at making big platforms more accountable for user posts that break EU member nations' laws around illicit materials, such as Germany's prohibition on speech that glorifies Nazism.

As CNBC put it, failure to comply could result in fines as high as 10% of the companies’ annual turnover worldwide. The remedies could ultimately include forcing companies to disinvest if they breach the rules systematically.

If these laws are passed it would possibly open the floodgates for US legislators to act accordingly as well.

Obviously, Big Tech is not happy. That’s, too, the reason why spending on lobbying has hit historic record highs in 2020 and will likely continue to grow in 2021.

In the first half of 2020, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft spent around €19 million on EU lobbying, equal to what they declared for all of 2019 and up from €6.8 million in 2014.

The New York Times reported that the spending is helping to deliver access; the companies and their allies reported hundreds of meetings with officials at the European Commission and the European Parliament. Some see it as the Washingtonization of Brussels, giving money and connections an upper hand over the public interest.

Next year is going to be interesting and I think tech writers will have to spend even more time studying law proposals.

Anyway, at this point I think anything seems better than 2020, hopefully, 2021 won’t surprise us. I wish everyone less to none surprises in 2021. We all need it. No more stable geniuses.

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In other news


👎 Google services and sites including YouTube, Gmail, and Google Docs crashed Monday morning. [The Verge]

  • RELATED: Google services outage showed how much the world depends on the tech giant. [NY Times]

  • HOT FROM THE PRESS: Google got hit with another huge antitrust case, this time over its ad monopoly [Vox]

🤳 Facebook is testing a new video product, basically a Cameo copycat. The new tool, called Super, will allow people to pay celebrities and content creators to interact with them during a live broadcast. [Bloomberg]

💰 Twitter hit with €450,000 GDPR fine nearly two years after disclosing a data breach. [The Verge]

🤠 Why every tech company seems to be moving to Austin? Few reasons: It's (relatively) cheap. No income tax. Austin, Texas is deemed more and foremost more affordable fun for young people. [Protocol]

⚔️ Facebook is angry with Apple, again. And, again, it is due tracking. NY Times writes: Early next year, Apple plans to start requiring iPhone owners to explicitly choose whether to allow companies to track them across different apps, a practice that Facebook relies on to target ads and charge advertisers more. On Wednesday, Facebook went on the offensive to forestall Apple’s changes. The social network created a website that slammed Apple’s moves as potentially hurtful to small businesses. (It did not mention that the changes could hurt themselves.) To reinforce its displeasure, Facebook also took out full-page ads in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times to declare that it was “standing up to Apple.” [NY Times]

🎧 Apple AirPods Max reviews are in. Final verdict: great sound, luxury design, too pricey.

Reddit acquired Dubsmash, a short-form video app. Founded in Germany in 2014, Dubsmash lets users record videos of themselves that are dubbed over with audio from songs, movies, and TV shows, just like TikTok. According to data from App Annie reported by TechCrunch earlier this year, Dubsmash’s share of the USA’s short-form video market is second only to TikTok. [Reddit Blog]

📚 26 of the most fascinating books WIRED magazine journalists read in 2020. [Wired

💻 Looking for a Zoom alternative? Try Run the World, it has for free some of the features that you have to pay for in Zoom. [Run the World

🚗 Amazon’s Zoox unveiled its robotaxi. It has no steering wheel and looks like a box on wheels. The vehicle can seat four people and run for 16 hours before recharging. Zoox CEO Aicha Evans says they may eventually build package delivery vehicles, but there are currently no plans to do so. [Bloomberg]

📊 2020 in 20 charts. A look at 2020’s biggest trends. [Vox]

📊 The Year in Review: 2020 in 20 Visualizations. [Visual Capitalist]

🇬🇧 Another reason why Brexit wasn’t such a bright idea: Facebook to move UK users to California terms, avoiding EU privacy rules. [Reuters]

🇷🇺 How Russian hackers infiltrated the US government for months without being spotted. [MIT Technology Review]

Hackers first broke into the systems of SolarWinds, an American software company. There, they inserted a back door into Orion, one of the company’s products. For several weeks beginning in March, any client that updated to the latest version of Orion unwittingly downloaded the compromised software, giving the hackers a way into their systems. SolarWinds says that “fewer than” 18,000 organizations ever downloaded the compromised update. The hackers were “extremely clever and strategic,” says Greg Touhill, a former federal chief information security officer. Even once they had gained access through the back door in Orion, they moved slowly and deliberately. Instead of infiltrating many systems at once, which could easily have raised suspicions, they focused on a small set of selected.


🕊️ NiemanLab predictions 2021.

⚠️ Pornhub purged all unverified content from the platform. The decision was preceded by an investigation in The New York Times accusing the service of not acting against sexual abuse content. [Vice

🤦‍♂️ Another “great idea” from this company: Facebook is developing a tool to summarize articles so you don’t have to read them. [BuzzFeed News]

🔍 Gif Engine Optimization is apparently a big thing. According to Giphy’s founder, his service is the second largest search engine in the world by the search volume. [The Morning Brew]

🦠 How influencers are being recruited to promote the Covid-19 vaccine. WHO thinks influencers can be very helpful in spreading awareness about the benefits of vaccines and advocating for vaccine acceptance. [Vox]

📺 JournalismAI festival published all the sessions online. Find all the video on their YouTube or visit the website for the slides and other materials. [JournalismAI YouTube]

📝 New research by Pew Research Center: Measuring News Consumption in a Digital Era. []

🗞️ The Tiny News Collective launched. Its mission: help communities build newsrooms, provide the tools, resources, and commonwealth of knowledge to help people build sustainable news organizations that reflect and serve their communities, and support voices historically excluded from media and media ownership.[Medium,

🧰 Top investigative journalists shared their favorite tools in 2020. [Global Investigative Journalism Network]

⚙️ Open-source content audit tools for local newsrooms. The project is spearheaded by The Lenfest Local Lab, The Brown Institute, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Anyone who has built a successful subscription or membership business knows that a content audit is one of the first things you have to do in order to come up with a good strategy. [The Lenfest Institute for Journalism]

🤝 The Guardian has 900.000 paying digital subscribers and supporters. That’s up 268,000, or 43%, over the past year. [Press Gazette]

👁️‍🗨️ Substack Reader is trying to solve two problems: discovery and summary. The Reader is a new product for the paid newsletter company. It doubles as a discovery platform for newsletters that might interest you and also as an RSS reader (you can add any RSS feed). The second problem the Substack Reader wants to solve is to have a destination for all of your Substack subscriptions. [Substack Blog]


📊 The state of podcasting in 9 charts. [What’s New in Publishing

🎥 News Impact Summits Online 2020: Audio & Voice. The European Journalism Centre published online all the videos from the Audio & Voice part of their three-part online summits (also #NISAudience and #NISData are online). [YouTube]

✒️ Another megadeal for Spotify. The service has signed a podcasting deal with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. [CNN]

🎬 The moment podcasting came into being. Dave Winer, the American software developer who has been given "credit for the invention of the podcasting model" takes us back to the moment it all started. [Scripting

🎧 Podcasting is so big it needs a standard for job descriptions. That’s where Podcast Taxonomy comes in, an international, multidisciplinary collaborative standard for recognizing roles and credits in podcast production. [Podcast Taxonomy]

🔒 2021 Podcast Privacy Report. Everything you need to know about CCPA, CPRA, podcast privacy transparency, and ad identifiers. [Chartable]

💸 The state of podcast advertising in 2020. [Magellan AI]

🏆 Top 2020 podcasts, according to:


🔪 What Explains the Decline of Serial Killers? [Discovery Magazine]

💚 Bloomberg Businessweek published its annual Jealousy List, where its journalists highlight the stories from other outlets they wish they had written.

🌳 This website lets you tune in to a random forest somewhere in the world.

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