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Absence of Google Apps Hurting Huawei the Most

Ahead of the next round of trade talks between Washington and Beijing, US President Donald Trump's administration is mulling to issue licenses to some American firms that will let them sell non-sensitive equipment to Huawei

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FILE - A man uses his smartphone outside of a shop selling Huawei products at a shopping mall in Beijing, May 29, 2019. VOA

Chinese smartphone maker Huawei has confirmed that the US sanctions were hurting it badly, especially the absence of Google’s core Android software, Play Store and popular apps like Search and Maps on its devices.

According to a Financial Times report quoting a senior Huawei executive, the company hasn’t been successful in finding replacements for Google apps which are very popular on Android devices across the globe.

“There are so many Android users in Europe and south-east Asia. They’re so used to these Google applications on top of Android phones,” Joy Tan, Vice President of Public Affairs at Huawei US, was quoted as saying on Sunday.

“We can continue to use the Android platform since it is open-source, but we cannot use the services that help apps run on it.”

Also Read: DPIIT Sends Questionnaire to Amazon, Flipkart on FDI Norms Adherence: Report

Under the terms of the previous US trade ban, Google was barred from selling Android license to Huawei, meaning its phones could use the base open-source code, but would not have access to the all-important Play Store and Google apps.

A temporary licence was issued which allows Google to support and update the Android OS currently running on existing Huawei devices.

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Huawei smartphones are seen in front of displayed Google Play logo in this illustration picture, May 20, 2019. VOA

However, the trade ban has affected the development of future products. Huawei is also working on its own operating system HarmonyOS but that is far from reality.

Despite trade restrictions put in place by the US, Huawei last week generated 610.8 billion yuan ($86 billion) revenue during the first three quarters of this year, an increase of 24.4 per cent year-on-year, with a net profit margin of 8.7 per cent.

Richard Yu, the head of Huawei’s consumer business, during a media interview last month, said that if the situation does not change with the US government, the company would start using its HarmonyOS.

The newly-launched Huawei Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro doesn’t have access to Google Play services.

Ahead of the next round of trade talks between Washington and Beijing, US President Donald Trump’s administration is mulling to issue licenses to some American firms that will let them sell non-sensitive equipment to Huawei. (IANS)

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“Should Online Platforms Be Liable for User Posts?”, Asks U.S Attorney General William Barr

Barr Asks: Should Facebook, Google Be Liable for User Posts?

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This photo combo of images shows, clockwise, from upper left: a Google sign, the Twitter app, YouTube TV logo and the Facebook app. VOA

U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday questioned whether Facebook, Google and other major online platforms still need the immunity from legal liability that has prevented them from being sued over material their users post.

“No longer are tech companies the underdog upstarts. They have become titans,” Barr said at a public meeting held by the Justice Department to examine the future of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

“Given this changing technological landscape, valid questions have been raised about whether Section 230’s broad immunity is necessary, at least in its current form,” he said.

Section 230 says online companies such as Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Twitter Inc. cannot be treated as the publisher or speaker of information they provide. This largely exempts them from liability involving content posted by users, although they can be held liable for content that violates criminal or intellectual property law.

Barr’s comments offered insight into how regulators in Washington are reconsidering the need for incentives that once helped online companies grow but are increasingly viewed as impediments to curbing online crime, hate speech and extremism.

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U.S. Attorney General William Barr arrives for U.S. President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. VOA

The increased size and power of online platforms has also left consumers with fewer options, and the lack of feasible alternatives is a relevant discussion, Barr said, adding that the Section 230 review came out of the Justice Department’s broader look at potential anticompetitive practices at tech companies.

Lawmakers from both major political parties have called for Congress to change Section 230 in ways that could expose tech companies to more lawsuits or significantly increase their costs.

Lawmakers’ concerns

Some Republicans have expressed concern that Section 230 prevents them from taking action against internet services that remove conservative political content, while a few Democratic leaders have said the law allows the services to escape punishment for harboring misinformation and extremist content.

Barr said the department would not advocate a position at the meeting. But he hinted at the idea of allowing the U.S. government to act against recalcitrant platforms, saying it was “questionable” whether Section 230 should prevent the American government from suing platforms when it is “acting to protect American citizens.”

Others at the meeting floated different ideas.

The attorney general of Nebraska, Doug Peterson, noted that the law does not shield platforms from federal criminal prosecution; the immunity helps protect against civil claims or a state-level prosecution. Peterson said the exception should be widened to allow state-level action as well. Addressing the tech industry, he called it a “pretty simple solution” that would allow local officials “to clean up your industry instead of waiting for your industry to clean up itself.”

Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which counts Google and Facebook among its members, said such a solution would result in tech giants having to obey 50 separate sets of laws governing user content.

He suggested law enforcement’s energies might be better spent pursuing the millions of tips that the tech industry sent over every year, only a small fraction of which, he noted, resulted in investigations.

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Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson with a bipartisan group of state attorneys general speaks to reporters in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. VOA

“There appears to be some asymmetry there,” he said.

Others argued that different rules should apply to different platforms, with larger websites enjoying fewer protections than internet upstarts.

“With great scale comes great responsibility,” said David Chavern, of the News Media Alliance, whose members have bristled as Google and Facebook have gutted journalism’s business model.

How to distinguish

But other panelists argued that distinguishing one site from another might be tricky. For example, would platforms like Reddit or Wikipedia, which have large reach but shoestring staffs, be counted as big sites or small ones?

The panelists also briefly debated encryption, another area over which Barr has pressed the tech industry to change its modus operandi. Facebook in particular has drawn the ire of U.S. officials over its plans to secure its popular messaging platform.

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Kate Klonick, a law professor at St. John’s University in New York, urged caution.

“This is a massive norm-setting period,” she said, with any alterations to one of the internet’s key legal frameworks likely to draw unexpected consequences. “It’s hard to know exactly what the ramifications might be.”  (VOA)