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Exclusive: French Antitrust Investigators Say Google Breached Its Orders On Talks With News Publishers – Sources

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PARIS: French antitrust investigators have accused Google of failing to comply with the state competition authority’s orders on how to conduct negotiations with news publishers over copyright, two sources who read the investigators’ report said.

In the 93-page report, known as a statement of objections, the investigators wrote that Google’s failure to comply was of an exceptionally serious nature, the sources said. The competition authority can impose fines of up to 10% of sales on firms it deems to be in violation of its rules.

A spokeswoman for the competition authority declined to comment.

In response to a Reuters request for comment, Google, owned by Alphabet, Inc, said in a statement: “Our priority is to comply with the law, and to continue to negotiate with publishers in good faith, as evidenced by the agreements we have made with publishers in the past few months.”

“We will now review the statement of objections, and will work closely with the French competition authority,” it said.

In one of the first major deals in Europe to resolve a dispute over how internet giants should share revenue with news publishers, Google agreed to pay $76 million over three years to a group of 121 French publishers, Reuters reported earlier this month.

The deal was presented as a major step forward by both Google and the publishers who signed it, but other French publications that were excluded were furious.

The French report on Google’s negotiating tactics comes at a time when countries around the world are pushing U.S. internet giants such as Google and Facebook to share more revenue with news publishers. The issue gained international attention this week when Facebook banned all news from its services in Australia over a draft law there that would mandate arbitration.

According to the two sources, the French investigators say Google did not comply with requests from the watchdog to start negotiations with the publishers within a three-month deadline, and to provide all data the watchdog felt publishers needed.

The publishers’ lobby that signed the deal with Google, APIG, did not immediately reply to a request for comment. French news agency AFP, and another media lobby group, SEPM — both of which did not sign a deal with Google — did not respond to requests for comment.

Reuters reached its own global deal with Google in January on terms which have not been publicly disclosed.

($1 = 0.8233 euros)

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TECHNOLOGY

Twitter Fleets Gets Twemoji Stickers, Some Android Users Can Now Access Twitter Spaces Audio-Chatroom

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Twitter’s version of Snapchat Stories, called Fleets is now getting a new update that brings Twemoji Stickers tray. The latest feature enables users to add emojis or stickers to Fleets for a better visual appeal. Until now, the Fleets feature on the Twitter Android or iOS app only allowed users to add text over photos or videos. Users could still add emojis if the keyboard had in-built emoji options; however, the latest feature gives access to more 3D-enhanced stickers directly. Moreover, Twitter Spaces, a Clubhouse-inspired audio-chat room is reportedly rolling out to select Android customers.

The Twemoji option for Twitter Fleets is now rolling out to users in Japan and will likely reach other markets in the coming months. The Twemoji button sits next to the text button, as per a photo shared by Twitter. Additionally, the Twemoji currently appears to be limited to iOS users while availability details for Android client remain unclear. Though the feature does not seem to be substantial, it is likely that Twitter would soon add more options like AR filters – similar to what Facebook offers with Stories on Instagram. Notably, the micro-blogging company acquired Chroma Labs last year, the team behind Chroma Stories. The app basically allowed users to add a range of colourful frames and filters to their Stories content.

In another Twitter-related news, some Android users are now getting an early preview of Twitter Spaces, a Clubhouse-inspired voice-based conversation room right on the platform. According to Android Police, Android users who have access cannot start Spaces chatroom yet but can join others and react with emojis. The company is expected to roll out the stable version in March, though the availability may vary according to regions. Twitter Spaces has been available to select iOS users since early February. Twitter Product Designer Maya Patterson had previously explained that the Spaces feature is meant to create a safe space for intimate conversations in public. It will essentially allow users to join or start a voice-based chatroom where they can discuss any topic. Admins will have control over who can speak or join.



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