The Week in Tech: Big Trouble With Trustbusters and China

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Each week, we review the week’s news, offering analysis about the most important developments in the tech industry. Want this newsletter in your inbox? Sign up here.

Hi, we’re Jim Kerstetter and Pui-Wing Tam, tech editors filling in for Jamie Condliffe while he’s on a much-deserved vacation. Here’s a look at the week’s tech news:

After years of not paying much attention, regulators and legislators in Washington from both parties appear very interested in curbing Big Tech’s influence. They’ll have plenty of people offering opinions on what they should do, as our colleagues Jack Nicas and Karen Weise reported. Karen and Jack went deep into the many, many other industries ready to complain about Big Tech, from retailers to musicians.

So what have big tech companies like Google done to upset so many people? Take your pick.

A noodle restaurant in Harlem complains that Google shows ads for food-delivery apps on the company’s listing in search results that hurt its business. The delivery services charge the restaurant a fee, cutting into already thin profit margins. Other small businesses have lodged similar complaints.

Big tech companies like the software giant Oracle, on the other hand, say Google competes unfairly in the advertising business, where it is dominant. It’s important to note that the two have been involved for years in an intellectual property fight, with billions of dollars at stake.

On Tuesday, a House subcommittee began hearings on potential antitrust enforcement of Big Tech. It could be years before something concrete comes out of these actions, but it is increasingly clear that some of tech’s giants face years of headaches from government scrutiny.

The tech Cold War between the United States and China keeps getting further and further away from any détente.

Our colleague Kate Conger reported that the Chinese government had summoned major international tech companies — including Microsoft, Dell and Samsung — into meetings to deliver a message: There would be consequences if they complied with the Trump administration’s recent ban on sales of key technologies to Chinese companies.

It appeared to be the latest in an escalating series of tit-for-tat moves. The back-and-forth is also unfolding at the corporate level, with Chinese and American companies lashing out at each other.

An example surfaced midweek when it was revealed that Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant that is being hurt by the Trump administration’s ban, had demanded that Verizon, the American carrier giant, pay licensing fees on hundreds of patents that Huawei owns. The demand was unusual, since in the past Huawei rarely moved to capitalize on its intellectual property.

But in today’s acrimonious tech environment, along with the trade war being waged by the United States and China, there seems to be an anything-goes mentality.

The war on drug sales online is beginning to resemble the war on drugs in the physical world. Nathaniel Popper, who has been writing about the dark web for years, looked at how online drug sales continue to prosper, despite repeated law enforcement crackdowns.

■ How does someone become radicalized on YouTube? Kevin Roose took a disturbing journey down the rabbit hole with a young man whose search for answers to his problems led him to very dark places on the video service.

■ The phones and online activity of protesters in Hong Kong were targeted. Paul Mozur and Alexandra Stevenson explained how the authorities brought aggressive enforcement from mainland China to the city.

■ “Death comes for all of us, but Silicon Valley has, until recently, not come for death.” Nellie Bowles looked at a new arboreal trend in death.

■ Don’t count on that merger between Sprint and T-Mobile just yet. Attorneys general from nine states and the District of Columbia sued to stop the $26 billion deal, Tiffany Hsu and Matthew Goldstein reported.

■ The scooter wars live on. Bird bought rival Scoot for $70 million, The Wall Street Journal reported, in a move that could bring Bird back to San Francisco, which kicked out the company last year.

■ Salesforce is still making big acquisitions. The cloud-computing company announced plans to buy Tableau Software for $15.3 billion, Don Clark wrote.

Jamie Condliffe will be back to write the newsletter on June 21.

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