Illegal Monopoly

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The World

The FTC and nearly every U.S. state sued Facebook, alleging the company is illegally maintaining its personal social networking monopoly through a years-long course of anticompetitive conduct. The FTC is seeking a permanent injunction in federal court that could, among other things: require divestitures of assets, including Instagram and WhatsApp; prohibit Facebook from imposing anticompetitive conditions on software developers; and require Facebook to seek prior notice and approval for future mergers and acquisitions. (FTCFTC complaintStates’ complaint)

  • The FTC case goes further than the state case, explicitly calling on the court to unwind the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, spinning off both into independent companies. (The Verge)

  • Facebook: “In addition to being revisionist history, this is simply not how the antitrust laws are supposed to work. No American antitrust enforcer has ever brought a case like this before, and for good reason. The FTC and states stood by for years while Facebook invested billions of dollars and millions of hours to make Instagram and WhatsApp into the apps that users enjoy today.” (Facebook)

  • How Facebook hopes to monetize WhatsApp. (Bloomberg)

  • The EU has confidential draft regulation to tell Big Tech to police internet or face large fines, with penalties of up to 6% of annual turnover. Separately, French President Macron said that Europe must preserve its “digital sovereignty,” outlining steps to reduce dependence on U.S. tech giants: There needs to be a “European solution and European sovereignty” with tech, Macron said. (Financial TimesCNBC)

The U.S. recorded more than 3,000 deaths in a single day, a new high, as Americans' coronavirus fears are stronger than they've been in months. In Boise, ID, a Covid health order vote via Zoom was postponed as protesters rallied at board members’ homes. Some good news: A study of British school reopenings found a low risk of transmission, while another study found low risk for newborns sharing rooms with Covid-positive moms. (Washington PostAxios-IpsosIdaho StatesmanThe LancetJAMA)

Covid cases in Miami-Dade and Broward schools spiked right before Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, even as public health officials warned against traveling for the holiday, mobile phone location data revealed that 22% of people in the U.S., on average, were not at their residence on Nov. 26. One in eight people traveled more than 30 miles from home, and several states with major Covid-19 hotspots saw some of the most travel. (Miami Herald, Bloomberg)

The pound fell after the U.K. and EU leaders’ dinner failed to break the Brexit impasse, as they warned that “very large gaps” remained and agreed to give trade negotiations until Sunday. Meanwhile, Hungary’s foreign minister declared victory in a row over linking EU funds to rule-of-law standards, as Budapest and Warsaw appeared to be edging toward an agreement to unblock an EU financial package. (Bloomberg, The Times, LeMonde, Reuters)

The French government officially unveiled its draft law against Islamist "separatism,” a bill that has elicited a fierce debate in France and abroad over the limits of government involvement in religious affairs. The government has promoted the legislation as an urgent means of fighting what it has characterized as the separatism that violates the egalitarian values of the French republic and leads to the propagation of terrorist ideology. But the government has also struggled to control the messaging behind the legislation, which would among other things abolish virginity certificates, tightly control home schooling, and ban public-sector employees from wearing religious clothing in the workplace. (Washington Post)

A suspicious increase in the number of foreign companies purchasing plots of land close to Japanese military installations has prompted Tokyo to consider restricting such sales. At least 80 plots of land close to Japanese military bases have been sold to either Chinese or South Korean companies in the last decade or so, a government panel has found, and an official within the Cabinet Secretariat says the transactions appear to be rising. (South China Morning Post)

Greece accused seven charities of colluding with human traffickers who are putting at risk the lives of migrants trying to reach Europe. In Venezuela, Maduro allies win 91% of congressional seats after disputed vote. (The Times, Reuters)

The Arctic continued its unwavering shift toward a new climate in 2020, as the effects of near-record warming surged across the region, shrinking ice and snow cover and fueling extreme wildfires, scientists said in an annual assessment of the region. Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the University of Alaska and one of the editors of the assessment, said “Nearly everything in the Arctic, from ice and snow to human activity, is changing so quickly that there is no reason to think that in 30 years much of anything will be as it is today.” (New York Times, NOAA)

Minneapolis violence is surging as police officers leave department in droves. Meanwhile, the L.A. City Council made its first move toward eliminating hundreds of jobs at the Police Department and other city agencies, while stopping short of a more sweeping plan that would have targeted nearly 1,900 workers. (Washington PostLos Angeles Times)

NASA selected 18 astronauts — 9 women — to train for the first crewed U.S. missions to the moon in 48 years. (National Geographic)


Economy

Bets that Covid-19 vaccines will propel the global economic recovery next year have prompted investors to buy assets outside the U.S., pushing the dollar lower in recent weeks. That has left the euro up more than 8% against the greenback this year, and near its highest level since April 2018. It traded Wednesday at about $1.2135 apiece.
The rally in the common currency threatens to impede European policy makers’ efforts to stoke inflation in the region. (Wall Street Journal)

Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Gary Gensler, the former Commodity Futures Trading Commission chief top the list of potential picks by Biden for SEC chair. Both have built reputations as no-nonsense enforcers against industry wrongdoing. (Washington Post)

DoorDash skyrocketed in its market debut, closing up 85% at $189.51. Meanwhile, Airbnb raised $3.5 billion in its IPO at a fully diluted valuation of around $47.3 billion, and will begin trading today on the NYSE under ticker symbol ABNB. (CNBC, Axios)

The 2021 outlook for the U.S. higher education sector remains negative as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic continue to threaten key revenue streams. Moreover, the length of the health crisis and pace of economic recovery remain uncertain, adding additional credit risk for colleges and universities. Community colleges will face particular headwinds because of lower enrollment and softening state revenues. Community college enrollment this fall fell 9.5%, while net tuition revenue, typically those colleges’ largest source of income, will decline by 5 to 15% in 2021. (Moody’s, Chronicle of Higher Ed)

Yelp data shows that historic Chinatowns in several U.S. cities have been enduring an economic downturn longer and more severe than in surrounding metros. (Bloomberg)


Technology

Businesses still have a dim grasp on 5G security: Some 31% of 1,000 global business leaders and security professionals polled in September said they believe 5G will be fully secure at the network provider point. 26% said they have no strategic plan to address 5G security, yet 56% said they understand they'll have to tailor their approach to cybersecurity for 5G. (Axios, AT&T Cybersecurity)

Google CEO Sundar Pichai apologized for the company's handling of the departure of AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru and said he would investigate the events and work to restore trust. In an internal memo, Pichai acknowledged the depth of the damage done by the company's actions and said the company would look at all aspects of the situation, but stopped short of saying the company made a mistake in removing Gebru. (Axios)

A startup that sells software to barbershops raised $59 million, tripling its valuation to $250M. Squire lets businesses schedule appointments, offer loyalty programs and install contactless and cashless payment. (TechCrunch)

  • App stores to see 130 billion downloads in 2020 and record consumer spend of $112 billion. (AppAnnie, TechCrunch)

The Sports Industry’s Gen Z Problem: Gen Z sports fans place less value on watching live events than older generations. 53% of Gen Zers identify as sports fans, compared to 63% of all adults and 69% of millennials. Meanwhile, Gen Zers are half as likely as millennials to watch live sports regularly and twice as likely to never watch. Esports are more popular among Gen Z than MLB, NASCAR and the NHL, with 35% identifying as fans. (Morning Consult, Morning Consult-2)

Engineers investigated how people's moods might affect their trust of autonomous products, such as smart speakers. They uncovered a complicated relationship: the experiments support the notion that a user's opinion of how well technology performs is the biggest determining factor of whether or not they trust it. However, user trust also differed by age group, gender and education level. The most peculiar result was that, among the people who said the smart speaker met their expectations, participants trusted it more if the researchers had tried to put them in either a positive or a negative mood -- participants in the neutral mood group did not exhibit this same elevation in trust. (Stanford University)

SpaceX's Starship prototype exploded on landing after test launch. (Reuters)


Smart Links

100 Most Powerful Women in the World (VP-elect Harris is No. 3). (Forbes)

32 innovators who are building a better future. (Wired UK)

14 podcast predictions for 2021 from industry leaders. (Pacific Content)

Human-made materials could now outweigh all life on Earth. (Axios)

Berlin remains Germany’s most innovative state. (ING Innovation Index)

Dry ice sales are booming as hospitals prepare to store Pfizer’s Covid vaccine at minus 94 degrees. (CNBC)

CRISPR gene therapy shows promise against blood diseases. (Nature)

The Northern Lights are out as Sun launches explosion of electromagnetic energy towards Earth: Geomagnetic Storm Watch issued. (CNN)