Google faces Antitrust Investigation

Missouri

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Missouri’s attorney general said his office would enquirer into whether Alphabet Inc’s Google breach the state’s consumer safety and antitrust laws.

A Republican Josh Hawley trying to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill in next year’s elections, declare at a press conference that he provide an investigative subpoena to Google.

He show concern over the precision of the company’s privacy strategy, claiming it unfair content from rivals and claims it downgrade competitors’ websites in search results.

Google said it had not yet received the writing order.

“But, we have strong privacy protections in place for our users and keep on to operate in a highly competitive and energetic environment,” spokesperson Andrea Faville said this in a statement.

Google has come under growing inspection worldwide as it has become a top provider of online search, mobile software and advertising technology.

But formal investigations have attained different results in the last seven years.

Attorney generals of 37 states reached a $7 million agreement in 2013 over Google’s unofficial collection of Wi-Fi data via its Street View digital-mapping cars.

A Federal Trade Commission inquiry also prompted Google that year to concur to provide advertisers and copyright licensees more easy terms.

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The FTC, though, did not bring the stronger antitrust charges that Google competitors such as Microsoft Corp and Yelp Inc sought.

States including Ohio, Mississippi and Texas saw inquiries delay without substantive result.

Missouri’s Hawley said the FTC’s lack of action created an opening.

“We are going to act to hold corporate giants responsible for the good of the people of Missouri,” Hawley said.

When asked at the press conference whether his senate candidacy played a role in opening the Google inquiry, Hawley said he take action upon his oath of office and desire “to get to the truth.”

In June European Union charge Google $2.7 billion for unfairly favoring links to its own shopping service over those from other e-commerce websites Hawley stated this.

Hawley said he was moved to take action because of worry that Google is engaging in similar behavior domestically.

Google is soliciting the EU charge.

The other problems noted by Hawley might be tied to complaints from Yelp.

The business evaluation’ website wrote the FTC and the attorney generals of all 50 states in September that Google has copied images from its service without authorization in violation of a commitment made to the United States antitrust regulator.

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Another Psychotic Ex-Google Executive Registers First Church of AI With IRS

 

BY TYLER O'NEIL 

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Futuristic head with DNA strands and code suggesting artificial intelligence.

[Getty Images]

A former executive at Google has filed paperwork with the IRS to establish an official religion of technology. This religion doesn't just worship scientific progress, but artificial intelligence itself, with the goal of creating a godhead.

The new church of AI will aim "to develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society," according to IRS documents.

The non-profit religious organization would be called "Way of the Future" (WOTF). According to the website (wayofthefuture.church), the movement is "about creating a peaceful and respectful transition of who is in charge of the planet from people to people + 'machines.'"

"Given that technology will 'relatively soon' be able to surpass human abilities, we want to help educate people about this exciting future and prepare a smooth transition," the site explains. "In 'recent' years, we have expanded our concept of rights to both sexes, minority groups and even animals, let's make sure we find a way for 'machines' to get rights too."

There is an inherent contradiction in creating a deity of artificial intelligence and then worshipping it.

"Let's stop pretending we can hold back the development of intelligence when there are clear massive short term economic benefits to those who develop it and instead understand the future and have it treat us like a beloved elder who created it," the site argues. Yet the IRS document spoke about a "Godhead based on artificial intelligence."

The website argued that the creation of "super intelligence" is inevitable, and that fear of this development is unhealthy. "We don't think that there are ways to actually stop this from happening (nor should we want to) and that this feeling of we must stop this is rooted in 21st century anthropomorphism (similar to humans thinking the sun rotated around the earth in the 'not so distant' past)."

Perhaps WOTF meant to use the word "anthropocentrism," the idea that the universe is centered around humanity, rather than "anthropomorphism," the attribution of human characteristics and purposes to inanimate objects. Indeed, it is arguable that WOTF is attributing human characteristics — or perhaps divine characteristics? — to technology.

Google Exec: World Will Survive Artificial Intelligence's "Difficult Episodes" to Come

After all, the very next sentence continues, "Wouldn't you want to raise your gifted child to exceed your wildest dreams of success and teach it right from wrong vs locking it up because it might rebel in the future and take your job." This encouragement to consider machines as children — coupled with the notion of giving them rights — is arguably textbook anthropomorphism, but it may be the opposite of anthropocentric.

Wired's Mark Harris first reported the IRS filing, which lists former Google executive Anthony Levandowski as the "Dean" of WOTF. Levandowski, the engineer behind Google's self-driving car project known as Waymo, quit Google to found his own autonomous trucking company, Otto, in May 2016. Uber acquired Otto in July of that year.

Waymo sued Levandowski, claiming that he had downloaded Waymo's files and trade secrets before resigning to found Otto. In May 2017, U.S. District Judge William Haskell Alsup ordered Levandowski to stop working on Otto's Lidar and required Uber to disclose its files on the technology. Uber later fired Levandowski for refusing to cooperate in an internal investigation.

According to the IRS filings, Way of the Future plans its first events — "workshops and educational programs throughout the San Francisco/Bay Area" — later this year.

Given Levandowski's legal troubles, that timeline may be a bit too ambitious. Even so, the IRS filings suggest he is extremely dedicated to this new religion of artificial intelligence.

Google Issues Ultimatum to Conservative Website: Remove "Hateful" Article or Lose Ad Revenue

NEW SILICON VALLEY LEADERS SAY "GOOGLE IS A MENACE TO SOCIETY"

Is billionaire VC Peter Thiel trying to break up Google?

  • X.Com Corp. Chairman Peter Thiel, left, and  president and CEO Elon Musk, right, hold up their VISA credit cards they use for PayPal at the company's corporate headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., Friday, Oct. 20, 2000.  (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

  • (L-R) Founders Fund's Max Levchin, Founders Fund Managing Partner Peter Thiel and TechCrunch Co-Editor Erick Schonfeld speak onstage at Day 1 of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2011 held at the San Francisco Design Center Concourse on September 12, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Araya Diaz/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

  • PayPal co-founder and former CEO Peter Thiel speaks about his National Review article, "The End of the Future," during a discussion sponsored by e21, a conservative think tank, and the Manhattan Institute at the National Press Club October 3, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Peter Thiel winner for VC of the Year at the 6th Annual Crunchies Awards at Davies Symphony Hall on January 31, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Steve Jennings/Getty Images for The Crunchies)

  • Founders Fund Managing Partner Peter Theil (L)  and TechCrunch Co-Editor and Moderator Alexia Tsotsis  speak onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt  at Pier 48 on September 8, 2014 in San Francisco, California.  (Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

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  • Venture Capitalist Peter Thiel in his offices at the Presidio in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. Thiel, who cofounded PayPal with Max Levchin and Elon Musk recently released a book called Zero to One, a how-to for building startups. (John Green/ Bay Area News Group)

  • Entrepreneur Peter Thiel gives remarks at the National Press Club on October 31, 2016 in Washington, DC. Thiel discussed his support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook, right, and PayPal founder Peter Thiel, center, listen as President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with technology industry leaders at Trump Tower in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

  • Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, stands on stage prior to the start of the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

  • Entrepreneur Peter Thiel (R) participates in a discussion with National Press Club president and Washington correspondent for the Salt Lake Tribune Thomas Burr (L) at the National Press Club on October 31, 2016 in Washington, DC. ( Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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By | ebaron@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News Group

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So far, high-profile Silicon Valley venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel isn’t saying publicly why he gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign of a state attorney general who’s just launched an antitrust probe of Google.

But it’s not the first time Thiel has handed cash to an AG who went after Google over monopoly concerns.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announced Nov. 13 that his office was investigating Google to see if the Mountain View tech giant had violated the state’s antitrust and consumer-protection laws. The Missouri attorney general said he had issued an investigative subpoena to Google. He’s looking at the firm’s handling of users’ personal data, along with claims that it misappropriated content from rivals and pushed down competitors’ websites in search results.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Missouri action and Thiel’s support of Hawley.

The company has been at the center of controversy over whether some of America’s most successful tech companies are monopolies and should be regulated or broken up. A New York Times op-ed in April asked, “Is It Time to Break Up Google?”

 

“We are going to have to decide fairly soon whether Google, Facebook and Amazon are the kinds of natural monopolies that need to be regulated,” wrote Jonathan Taplin, former director of USC’s Annenberg School of Innovation and author of “Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook, and Amazon Have Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy.”

In June, the European Union slapped Google with a $2.7 billion antitrust fine for favoring some of its services over competitors’. Google has said it was considering an appeal.

In Missouri, Thiel put his money behind Hawley in 2015, with $100,000 contributed during Hawley’s campaign for the state attorney general’s seat, then added two more $100,000 donations to the campaign in 2016, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Hawley was sworn in on Jan. 9.

Hawley is not the only state attorney general to have probed Google over antitrust concerns. Former Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott began investigating Google in 2010. In 2013, Thiel donated $100,000 to Abbott, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

This news organization has asked the Texas Attorney General’s office for information about the status of the Google investigation — this article will be updated if an answer is provided.

In response to Abbott’s probe, Google in 2010 said in a blog post that it was sometimes asked about the fairness of its search engine.

“Why do some websites get higher rankings than others?” the post said.

“The important thing to remember is that we built Google to provide the most useful, relevant search results and ads for users. In other words, our focus is on users, not websites. Given that not every website can be at the top of the results, or even appear on the first page of our results, it’s unsurprising that some less relevant, lower quality websites will be unhappy with their ranking.”

Thiel, a billionaire libertarian, previously used his ample financial resources to target a different company: media firm Gawker. Thiel funded a lawsuit by entertainer Hulk Hogan over a sex tape published on Gawker.com, which had earlier publicly outed Thiel as gay. The lawsuit brought about the website’s demise.

Thiel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.