Category: Internet

Google and Facebook investigated by Israeli tax man

The Israeli Tax Authority has opened an inquiry into the local antics of tech giants Google and Facebook.

The taxmen have conducted meetings with clients of Google, asking detailed questions about the methods used by Google and Facebook to conduct local operations.

Questions put to clients centered around the degree of involvement that local representatives of Google and Facebook had in designing marketing campaigns, and setting budgets and targets for clients.

Basically the Israeli’s are unsure if the Israeli teams were acting independently, or if they were referring business matters to overseas headquarters and then merely implementing corporate decisions in the local market.

Should the investigation conclude with the determination that Google and Facebook Israel teams are independently responsible for activities in the local market, the tax authority may recommend that the companies pay a rather a large tax to the Israeli government for business conducted within the country.

Facebook and Google claim that they operate in Ireland, thereby avoiding paying direct or indirect taxes to the Israeli government.

Research shows that total online advertising expenditures topped $333 million in Israel in 2015, with online taking an ever-expanding segment of budgets from traditional advertising. Of that $333 million, over half was dedicated to spending on social media and search sites, two areas dominated by Facebook and Google.

In April 2016, the Israel Tax Authority unveiled a new set of guidelines regarding tax liability for foreign corporations operating in Israel. Under these rules, an international company would owe taxes if its services were produced in Israel. To prevent double taxation with countries that have international tax agreements with Israel, the foreign corporation must have a permanent establishment within Israel.

A permanent establishment was defined as a physical space used by the business to conduct operations, or a virtual space – including a website – where agents are empowered to conduct local business and enter into contracts on behalf of the corporation.

Online job sites block older workers

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has opened an investigation into allegations that online software tools that millions of Americans use to job hunt is discriminating against older workers.

The San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank found that in a widespread test using fabricated resumes, fictional older workers were 30 percent less likely to be contacted after applying for jobs.

Fictional older women had it even worse, being 47 percent less likely to get a “callback”.  Several forces are conspiring to ensure that many Americans must work well past the traditional retirement age of 65.

Because people are living longer, their retirement savings are inadequate, and Social Security reforms are almost certainly going to require it.

The San Francisco Fed says that the share of the older 65 working population is projected to rise sharply — from about 19 percent now to 29 percent in the year 2060.

But while online job-hunting tools should be making things easier for older employment seekers, online job sites seem to be cutting older workers out with age bias is built right into their software.

In a statement, Madigan said that Job seekers who try to build a profile or resume can find that it’s impossible to complete some forms because drop-down menus needed to complete tasks don’t go back far enough to let older applicants fill them out.

For example, one site’s menu options for “years attended college” stops abruptly at 1956. That could prevent someone in their late 70s from filling out the form.

Madigan’s office said it found one example that only accommodated those who had attended school after 1980, “barring anyone who is older than 52.”

Other sites used dates ranging from 1950 to 1970 as cutoffs, her office said. The Illinois’ Civil Rights Bureau has opened a probe into potential violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Madigan’s office has written letters to six top jobs sites including Beyond.com, CareerBuilder, Indeed, Ladders, Monster Worldwide and Vault to ask them about their policies.

Gates rubbished over robot tax idea

Software King of the World and sworn enemy of the mosquito, Sir William Gates III, has attracted much mock over his idea to tax robots.

Gates pointed out that if robots were going to do the work of a person they should be taxed. That way at least they could help pay the unemployment benefits of those who don’t have jobs because of the robots.

Former Treasury Secretary Summers wrote a Washington Post opinion piece  in which he dubbed Gates “profoundly misguided”.

“Why pick on robots?” Summers said that progress, however messy and disruptive sometimes, ultimately benefits society overall.

Mike Shedlock, a financial adviser with Sitka Pacific Capital Management in Edmonds, Washington, wrote on his bog that robot owners, who likely would pay the tax, would simply pass it along by jacking up prices.

The European Union’s parliament in February rejected a measure to impose a tax on robots, using much the same reasoning as Gates’ critics.

However, it was not all criticism. One Bloomberg columnist thought Gates was right to say that we should start thinking ahead of time about how to use policy to mitigate the disruptions of automation.” So if we’re not going to tax robots, then how should society handle the next great wave of automated labour?

Sir Tim Berners-Lee warns about a dying web

 

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, said he is alarmed at what has happened to it in the past year.

He said that the world needs to step in to reverse three new trends which could kill off the Internet as a useful tool for humanity

Sir Tim cited compromised personal data, fake news and the lack of regulation in political advertising, which he says threatens democracy.

“Even in countries where we believe governments have citizens’ best interests at heart, watching everyone, all the time is simply going too far. It creates a chilling effect on free speech and stops the web from being used as a space to explore important topics, like sensitive health issues, sexuality or religion.”

When Berners-Lee submitted his original proposal for the Web, he imagined it as an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.

He said that his faith has been badly shaken by a series of high-profile hacks and the dissemination of fake news by data science and armies of bots. The scourge of fake news and cyberweapons pose a significantly greater threat.

Dutch big content sues claiming the government should protect their profits

 

A coalition of Dutch film and TV producers is suing the local government claiming that they are responsible for the country’s high piracy rates.

They claim the government tolerated and even encouraged unauthorised downloading for years and want the government to foot the bill.

Dutch local law traditionally allowed piracy, but in 2014 when the European Court of Justice ruled it to be unlawful. The Dutch Government quickly outlawed unauthorized downloading to conform with the law.

But Big Content said that the government did not do enough to go after pirates. The government denied these allegations, pointing out that the filmmakers could go after downloaders directly if they want to recoup their losses.

Big Content must prove that it had suffered financial loss due to piracy, which should not be too difficult, but it might be tricky to calculate the scale of the damages since a pirate download doesn’t directly translate to a lost sale.

Last year film industry group VPSO already asked for $1.27 billion in damages for piracy losses that were allegedly suffered since 2004.

 

 

Italians see off Facebook in court

Facebook has suspended its location-sharing feature in Italy after a Milan court ruled last year that the social networking giant had violated competition and copyright laws by effectively copying a similar app from a local startup.

Italian software developer Business Competence filed a lawsuit in 2013, accusing Facebook’s Nearby feature of having copied its Faround application, which helps users locate Facebook friends in the vicinity.

Facebook launched its Nearby feature only months after Faround was included in the social network’s app store in 2012.

The complaint alleged that the two applications were “extremely similar” in their functions and general set-up.

Facebook said it has discontinued offering what it now calls Nearby Places in Italy while it appeals against the court’s ruling.

The court ordered Facebook to suspend Nearby Places in Italy or daily pay a fine of 5,000 euros for copyright infringement and unfair competition. It said that Facebook may have to pay further damages to be determined at a later stage.

Facebook wanted the order put on hold while it awaited a ruling on the merits of the case, but its request was rejected by the court in December. It said on Monday that it is complying with the decision pending its appeal.

Facebook insists that the claims were without merit and the order was wrongly decided, but we have respectfully complied with the order in the interim.

Business Competence’s Faround app was launched in September 2012 and quickly gained popularity among Italian users.

Faround was the most downloaded new social networking app in the country but downloads plunged the month after Facebook launched its own Nearby feature on December 17 of that year.

“It was a big blow to us to see that we were losing everything we had invested (into Faround),” Business Competence Chief Executive Sara Colnago said. It had cost the outfit half a million euros to build the app.

Swedish ISPs tell Big Content to bork off

Despite getting a ruling from the Swedish Supreme Court, Big Content will have its work cut out trying to get Swedish ISPs to block The Pirate Bay.

Last week Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry ended a three year battle by getting a court to block a ‘pirate’ site

However other ISPs said that the ruling does not apply to them, so connectivity to the site will continue until a court orders otherwise. This means that Big Content will have to get a court order each time it wants to block the site for each ISP. It will then have to go through the whole performance again each time the Pirate site moves IP addresses.

There is also the chance that other courts might reject Big Content’s applications. In an October 2015 trial at the Stockholm District Court, Big Content lost a case and had to appeal.

Last Monday the court ruled that Bredbandsbolaget, the ISP at the centre of the action, must block The Pirate Bay.

Swedish ISPs don’t like the idea of becoming copyright policemen and are continuing to fight. Last week ISP Bahnhof even hinted that it may offer a technical solution to customers who are prevented from accessing the site.

Even the leading telecoms firms, which have been keener on striking an accord with Big Content say that they have no intention of blocking The Pirate Bay, unless it is forced to do so by law.

Sky asks people nicely to stop piracy

8-380x280In a very British approach to online-piracy, the ISP Sky has asked its customers nicely to stop pirating content.

In an entry on its dedicated FAQs page, Sky has started sending out notices to those who have been sharing content on their broadband connection.

“However, if you continue to share content illegally using your broadband connection, Sky will request that you take immediate steps to remove or disable any file sharing software that is being used to share copyrighted content illegally.”

The whole thing is based on the premise that people who share online content don’t know it is illegal. Something which has been ruled as “somewhat silly” by recent studies which show that such notices are not worth the energy as people who know enough to load a torrent know exactly what they are doing.

The scheme, which falls under the Creative Content UK initiative, is supported by most of the major ISPs including BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, and Sky Broadband, they’ve all started sending out educational alerts to users suspected of engaging in piracy.

Google works out how to make Chrome faster

mercedes_benz_slr_mclaren_9qiu5Google announced that it has worked with Facebook and Mozilla to make page reloads in Chrome for desktop and mobile  about 28 percent faster.

The big idea is that if you can cut down the number of network requests the browser makes to see if the images and other resources it cached the first time you went to a site are still valid you can speed things up rather a lot.

Writing in his bog, Google engineer Takashi Toyoshima said that users typically reload pages because they either look broken or because the content looks like it should have been updated. When browser developers first added this feature, it was mostly because broken pages were common. Today, users mostly reload pages because the content of a site seems stale.

Google simplified Chrome’s reload behavior and it now only validates the main resource. Facebook, just like other pages, says its pages now reload 28 percent faster, too.

Google admits that is a very minor change but the effects aren’t so minor. They estimate that the new method reduces the number of validation requests by as much as 60 per cent, making pages reload 28 per cent faster. And the sooner the browser finishes reloading a page, the sooner it can stop using data and hardware resources.

Google boots 200 fake news sites

surprised-newspaper-readerGoogle kicked 200 publishers off one of its ad networks in the fourth quarter, partly in response to the proliferation of fake news sites.

The sites were banned from its AdSense network and is part of an update to an existing policy that prohibits sites from misleading users with their content.

Google regularly weeds out advertisers for false or misleading claims, but impersonating news sites became an addition following the rapid rise of fake news, or propaganda sites.

Publishers were banned in November and December and included sites that impersonate real news organisations through shortened top-level domains, according to Google’s 2016 “bad ads” report, normally released at the beginning of each year.

So-called fake news publishers will sometimes take advantage of “.co” domains by appearing like legitimate news sites that would normally end in “.com”.

Google said in 2016 it took down 1.7 billion ads for violations, compared to 780 million in 2015. Google attributes the increase in ad removals to a combination of advertiser behaviour and improvements in technology to detect offending ads.