Tech regulation in Europe will only get tougher

European governments have been bringing the hammer down on tech in recent months, slapping record fines and stiff regulations on the largest imports out of Silicon Valley. Despite pleas from the world’s leading companies and Europe’s eroding trust in government, European citizens’ staunch support for regulation of new technologies points to an operating environment that is only getting tougher.

According to a roughly 25-page report recently published by a research arm out of Spain’s IE University, European citizens remain skeptical of tech disruption and want to handle their operators with kid gloves, even at a cost to the economy.

The survey was led by the IE’s Center for the Governance of Change — an IE-hosted research institution focused on studying “the political, economic, and societal implications of the current technological revolution and advances solutions to overcome its unwanted effects.” The “European Tech Insights 2019” report surveyed roughly 2,600 adults from various demographics across seven countries (France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, and the UK) to gauge ground-level opinions on ongoing tech disruption and how government should deal with it.

The report does its fair share of fear-mongering and some of its major conclusions come across as a bit more “clickbaity” than insightful. However, the survey’s more nuanced data and line of questioning around specific forms of regulation offer detailed insight into how the regulatory backdrop and operating environment for European tech may ultimately evolve.

 

Distractions

Paris to tax scooter and bike services

According to the City of Paris, there are 15,000 free-floating vehicles of all forms and shapes in the city, from electric scooters to fluorescent bikes and motorcycle-like scooters. And the City of Paris announced today that companies that operate free-floating services will have to pay a tax depending on the size of their fleet.

If the plan goes through and if you’re running a bike-sharing service, you’ll have to pay €20 per bike per year. For scooter companies, they’ll pay €50 per scooter per year. Motorcycle scooters will be taxed €60 per scooter per year.

According to Le Parisien, it will be a tier system. Every time you go over the basic tier, you’ll have to pay more. Companies will pay 10 percent more for vehicle No. 500 to vehicle No. 999, 20 percent more for vehicle No. 1,000 to vehicle No. 2,999, and 30 percent more for any vehicle after No. 3,000.

Paris is a tiny city — it’s smaller than San Francisco when it comes to geographical footprint. And it’s also impossible to park a car and drive in Paris. That’s why a vast majority of people who live in Paris don’t own a car. It’s simply much faster and cheaper to use the subway or other transportation methods.

That’s why bikes, scooters and motorcycle scooters are thriving. Having fewer cars on the road is a great thing, but it has created some unexpected challenges.

Bike-sharing services thrived when the city’s bike-sharing system was more or less useless during a network upgrade. GoBee Bike, oBike, Ofo and Mobike all launched their services in the streets of Paris. But they’ve all failed. GoBee Bike shut down, Ofo still has a few bikes but no team, Mobike is scaling back international operations…

That was a bad start for free-floating services, as many broken bikes are littering the streets of Paris. The dock-based bike-sharing system Vélib is now working, fine with more than 1,200 stations and tens of thousands of rides per day — you basically see them everywhere.

On the scooter front, there are now nine companies operating in Paris. Yes, you read that number correctly. They all have funny-sounding names too — Lime, Bird, Bolt, Wind, Tier, Voi, Flash, Hive and Dott.

They’re quite popular because there are a ton of bike lanes in Paris. Most people still don’t wear helmets and there are a lot of injuries — but that’s another issue.

Like many other cities, many people complain about scooters crowding the sidewalk. If you’re in a wheelchair, pushing a stroller or if you’re visually impaired, navigating the sidewalk can be difficult these days.

The City of Paris wants to make those companies accountable. They need to take care of their fleets in order to maximize the number of scooters that actually work and remove the broken scooters. And I’m sure there will be some consolidation and bankruptcies in the space.

When it comes to motorcycle scooters, Cityscoot and Coup have been putting more scooters on the road. There’s no reason they would be excluded from the tax. Sometimes, they are cluttering bike parking space, for instance:

Let’s see if that strategy works to avoid a dumping strategy. Free-floating services have a huge impact on the environment. Scooters only last a few weeks before they need to be replaced. The solution isn’t to throw more scooters at the problem.

Slowdown or not, China’s luxury goods still seeing high-end growth

Despite well-documented concerns over an economic slowdown in China, the country’s luxury goods market is still seeing opulent growth according to a new study. Behind secular and demographic tailwinds, the luxury sector is set to continue its torrid expansion in the face of volatility as it’s quickly becoming a defensive economic crown jewel.

Using proprietary analysis, company data, primary source interviews, and third-party research, Bain & Company dug into the ongoing expansion of China’s high-end market in a report titled “What’s Powering China’s Market for Luxury Goods?

In recent years, China has become one of the largest markets for luxury good companies globally. And while many have raised concern around a drop-off in luxury demand, findings in the report point to the contrary, with Bain forecasting material growth throughout 2019 and beyond. The analysis provides a compelling breakdown of how the sector has seen and will see continued development, as well as a fascinating examination of what strategies separate winners and losers in the space.

The report is worth a quick read, as it manages to provide several insightful and differentiated data points with relative brevity, but here are the most interesting highlights in our view:

Using opponent’s photo in a campaign mailer is fair use, court rules

An image from the RNC flyer. We're quite sure that our use of this image is fair, since we're engaging in comment and criticism about this photo and its role in the lawsuit.

When Erika Peterman saw photographs she had taken in a flyer put out by the Republican National Committee, she wasn’t happy about it. Peterman was a supporter of Rob Quist, the Democratic candidate for Montana’s at-large seat in Congress in the 2017 special election. The Montana Democratic Party had hired Peterman to take photographs of Quist at a Democratic Party event. The photographs showed Quist wearing a cowboy hat and holding a guitar.

The RNC had downloaded three of the photos from Quist’s campaign Facebook page and used them in a campaign mailer attacking Quist. Peterman sued the Republican Party, arguing that the mailer infringed her copyright. But in a February ruling, a federal judge rejected Peterman’s arguments, ruling that the Republicans’ use of her image was fair use.

“The mailer uses Quist’s musicianship to criticize his candidacy, subverting the purpose and function” of Peterman’s original photographs, Judge Dana Christensen wrote. Her ruling noted that Peterman had charged the Montana Democrats a flat $500 to cover the event and had published the photographs on social media, suggesting that she had no expectation of making further money from them.

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Cable lobby seeks better reputation by dropping “cable” from its name

A cable TV set-top box, with cables laying on top.

Cable lobbyists don’t want to be called cable lobbyists anymore. The nation’s top two cable industry lobby groups have both dropped the word “cable” from their names. But the lobby groups’ core mission—the fight against regulation of cable networks—remains unchanged.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) got things started in 2016 when it renamed itself NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, keeping the initialism but dropping the words it stood for. The group was also known as the National Cable Television Association between 1968 and 2001.

The American Cable Association (ACA) is the nation’s other major cable lobby. While NCTA represents the biggest companies like Comcast and Charter, the ACA represents small and mid-size cable operators. Today, the ACA announced that it is now called America’s Communications Association or “ACA Connects,” though the ACA’s website still uses the americancable.org domain name.

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Judge orders government to re-do climate analysis on Wyoming oil leases

A natural gas facility stands on the Pinedale Anticline on May 3, 2018 in Pinedale, Wyoming. (Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

On Tuesday, a federal judge wrote that the Department of the Interior must complete a thorough climate change analysis when considering leasing public land for oil and gas extraction.

The opinion included an order to halt all new oil and gas leases on more than 300,000 acres of publicly managed land in Wyoming until the DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can complete a proper review.

The case was initially brought in 2016 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia against former President Barack Obama’s DOI. The plaintiffs, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility, argued that the DOI made oil and gas lease sales in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming without taking into account the “direct, indirect, and cumulative” impacts to the climate that drilling would have.

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“He’s literally suing an imaginary cow”: Late-night hosts mock Nunes

“He’s literally suing an imaginary cow”: Late-night hosts mock Nunes

On Monday, Devin Nunes’ cow was an obscure Twitter account with around 1,200 followers. Then Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) filed a lawsuit demanding that Twitter and several Twitter accounts—including the user behind the pseudonymous cow—pay him $250 million for the “pain, insult, embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress and mental suffering, and injury to his personal and professional reputations” caused by their tweets.

Now, Devin Nunes’ cow has more than 420,000 Twitter followers—that’s more than Nunes himself, who has 395,000 followers.

It’s a beautiful example of the Streisand Effect. Nunes appears to have filed the lawsuit in part to raise his own profile within the conservative movement, as the lawsuit was peppered with gratuitous swipes at the Democratic Party, Fusion GPS, and other high-profile villains in the conservative pantheon.

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4chan, 8chan blocked by Australian and NZ ISPs for hosting shooting video

A laptop with a no-entry sign over its screen.

Internet service providers in Australia have temporarily blocked access to dozens of websites, including 4chan and 8chan, that hosted video of last week’s New Zealand mass shooting. New Zealand ISPs have also been blocking websites that host the video.

In Australia, ISP Vodafone said that blocking requests generally come from courts or law enforcement agencies but that this time ISPs acted on their own. “This was an extreme case which we think requires an extraordinary response,” Vodafone Australia said in a statement, according to an Australian Associated Press (AAP) article yesterday.

Telstra and Optus also blocked the sites in Australia. Besides 4chan and 8chan, ISP-level blocking affected the social network Voat, the blog Zerohedge, video hosting site LiveLeak, and others. “The ban on 4chan was lifted a few hours later,” AAP wrote.

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