Daily Digest (9/17)

FTC May File Antitrust Case Against Facebook; US Charges 7 in Broad Chinese Hacking Effort; Hackers Indicted for Vandalizing 51 Websites With Pro-Iranian Sentiments; Google Executive Under Fire by Lawmakers Over Advertising Practices. Click “Continue reading” below.

FTC May File Antitrust Case Against Facebook

The Federal Trade Commission is considering an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook — and may file by the end of the year, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The agency has spent more than a year investigating concerns over how Facebook has used its position to stifle competition.

The possible court action is part of a broader effort by U.S. antitrust authorities to examine the conduct of a handful of dominant tech companies, the Journal reports, citing “people familiar with the matter.”

Facebook is still in the process of making its case to the commission — and recent testimony obtained by CEO Mark Zuckerberg resulted in one $5 billion settlement.

No final decision has yet been made on an antitrust action, the Journal reports, but FTC staffers continue to ask questions about the company’s past acquisitions and about how Facebook manages its platform and its app developers.

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US Charges 7 in Broad Chinese Hacking Effort

The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday that it has charged five Chinese residents and two Malaysian executives in a wide-ranging hacking effort.

The scheme targeted a wide range of platforms, from videogames to pro-democracy activists, Reuters reports.

The Chinese nationals were charged with hacking more than 100 companies in the U.S. and abroad.

They included software developers, computer manufacturers, telecommunications providers, universities, think-tanks — as well as foreign governments, politicians and civil-society figures in Hong Kong.

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen expressed exasperation with Chinese authorities, though his statement stopped short of alleging that the hackers worked for Beijing.

“We know the Chinese authorities to be at least as able as the law-enforcement authorities here and in like-minded states to enforce laws against computer intrusions,” Rosen’s statement said, Reuters reports. “But they choose not to.”

He also alleged that one of the Chinese defendants had stated that he was “very close” to China’s Ministry of State Security and would be protected “unless something very big happens.”

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Hackers Indicted for Vandalizing 51 Websites With Pro-Iranian Sentiments

Two hackers, one an Iranian teenager, have been indicted for allegedly vandalizing at least 51 websites with pro-Iran sentiments because of the killing of Iran’s top military commander, Qasem Soleimani, by U.S. forces in January.

Federal grand jury documents identified the attackers as Behzad Mohammadzadeh, who is “believed to be approximately 19,” and Marwan Abusrour, whose age was not disclosed, The Verge reports.

They are charged with conspiracy to commit intentional damage to a protected computer and two counts of committing intentional damage to a protected computer.

Websites belonging to small businesses and some individual Americans were defaced with slogans that included “Down with America,” according to the indictment.

In addition, Abusrour allegedly gave Mohammadzadeh access to compromised websites, some of which were in the U.S.

They also are accused of replacing the sites’ original content with their own images and text, including photos of Soleimani and the Iranian flag, the Verge reports.

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Google Executive Under Fire by Lawmakers Over Advertising Practices 

A top Google official was under fire by a Senate panel over the company’s powerful position in online advertising.

Donald Harrison, Google’s president for global partnerships and corporate development, told the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee Tuesday that the company’s ad business faced strong competition, The Associated Press reports.

Harrison also claimed that Google’s ad policies benefited consumers and had kept prices low for advertisers, local newspapers and other publishers.

The news comes as the Justice Department continues its sweeping antitrust investigation of the four big-tech companies — Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple — and whether they have quashed competition.

The agency reportedly is preparing a major case accusing Google of abusing its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and boost profits.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minn., the panel’s senior Democrat, said a case against Google “could be the beginning of a reckoning for our antitrust laws,” AP reports.

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By DPN Staff