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In Brief

The U.K.’s keenness to identify and prosecute online trolls and bullies is well-documented, but a Freedom of Information request by Sky News has given us some numbers. The channel found that British police deal with around 20 “social media abuse” cases a day. In the last 3 years, there have been 20,000 investigations involving adults and almost 2,000 targeting children – although, since around a third of police forces did not give up their data, the number must be higher. Over 1,200 children have been “charged with a criminal offence or given a caution, warning or fine,” including four 10-year-olds and one 9-year-old. All this points to both a serious bullying problem and increasing watchfulness over what happens online.

Black Cab on Westminister Bridge
photo: Shutterstock / Rob Wilson

The city’s transport authority says it reckons the services of companies like Uber don’t qualify for regulation in the same way as traditional taxi services do, but it realizes the law is unclear on this point and wants senior judges to step in. Read more »

In Brief

Facebook has asked the European Commission’s antitrust watchdog to review its $19 billion takeover of the messaging service WhatsApp, according to the Wall Street Journal and also my own sources. The move may seem counterintuitive, but it would save Facebook the hassle of seeking regulatory approval in each European member state. European carriers in particular are reportedly worried that the deal – already green-lit by U.S. regulators — would give Facebook too much leverage in the SMS-revenue-stealing mobile messaging market. Personally, I think that market is in too much flux for a dominant position to be a sure thing just now, at least in Europe, but the concern is understandable.

In Brief

Turns out Chromecast didn’t just launch in Japan and Australia this week: Google is also bringing its streaming stick to Belgium, Switzerland and Portugal. Combined with the European launch earlier this year and the expansion to South Korea two weeks ago, this means that Chromecast is now available in a total of 18 countries. Google VP of Product Management Mario Queiroz told me late last year that the company intended to launch in “a number of international markets,” in 2014, adding that people were going to be “pleasantly surprised” by the scope of this international expansion.

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In Brief

Russia’s new Kremlin-friendly search engine Sputnik – planned since last year — reportedly achieved lift-off on Thursday. As spotted by on Wednesday and confirmed to me today by local sources, Sputnik was launched on Thursday by state-controlled Rostelecom. Recent reports suggest the venture cost $42 million to develop and Sputnik, unavailable from outside the country, will be the default search engine for government departments and state-controlled companies. Russia is increasingly keen on censoring the internet there, and having an amenable search engine will prove useful to the authorities … if they can get significant numbers of people to switch from rivals such as Google and market leader Yandex. Sputnik’s name may harken back to past days of technological glory, but it’s also fitting for these days of Cold War revivalism.

In Brief

Norway’s Consumer Council has taken issue with Apple’s terms and conditions for iCloud storage. Following a review of various providers’ terms (including those of Google and Dropbox), the council has referred the firm to the Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman – it says Apple’s “convoluted and unclear” 8,600-word terms for the service give the company the right to change those terms without notifying customers, and this is unacceptable under consumer rights law. “Receiving notice when terms change should be a bare minimum requirement,” said Finn Myrstad, the council’s digital chief.

In Brief

Networking giant Ericsson has just beefed up its broadcast services portfolio – on Monday it said its takeover of Red Bee Media, announced in July 2013 with an undisclosed price, was finalized following regulatory approval. Red Bee started off as the BBC’s commercial broadcast management arm (multi-platform distribution, marketing and so on), before being sold off to Australia’s Macquarie in 2005. Ericsson’s own broadcast services efforts began in 2007, but they now benefit from an extra 1,500 employees in Europe (mainly the UK) and Australia, along with a formidable client roster ranging from the BBC and BSkyB to carriers such as EE and brands such as Hyundai.

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