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Weekly Digital Breakdown

Tech Giants To Face Congressional Hearing

Next week, digital tech giants Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook will put their competitiveness aside as representatives from each are set to testify before a congressional panel. The companies are all part of an antitrust investigation as concerns rise about their hold on the market. Details are still sparse, but questioning will likely center around the massive control and influence the digital companies have over internet practices.The case comes as there are growing concerns the tech companies are abusing power to discourage competition.The hearing will involve each facing the House of Representatives antitrust subcommittee. 

As the congressional trial hearing looms, the case isn’t to be taken lightly as big tech company practices have been under intense scrutiny over the last year.  the investigation is not focused on any one particular company, but rather the operation of the industry as a whole, potentially having a ripple effect on others in the space.

 The probe is just one of the legal challenges big tech is facing lately. As reported by the Wall Street Journal last month, Google is involved in a separate investigation with the Department of Justice in relation to the collection and monetization of personal data. Legislation, such as the DASHBOARD Act and a bill preventing location tracking without direct consent from users, is also being proposed to better regulate the industry and protect consumers.

As the spotlight continues to shine on tech industry leaders, more details are being uncovered about operation practices. However, with the evolution of technology continuing at record speed, proactively protecting consumers will be an ongoing challenge.

https://adage.com/article/news/google-amazon-apple-testify-antitrust-probe-congress/2182656

Instagram Adds Restrictions For Bullies

In a follow-up to Instagram’s anti-bullying commitment, the company unveiled a new platform feature this week intended to combat harmful and offensive comments. As previously noted, Instagram has been experimenting with ideas to promote a greater focus on community rather than competition and encouraging users to have more control over their experience.

The new feature will leverage AI to monitor comments as an added reminder for posters to rethink negative online comments. When a user attempts to post something which could be deemed offensive, they will receive a notification asking if they are sure they want to continue the post. The alert is meant to trigger additional thought and reconsider their actions before posting.

The next phase of control options plans to test ways to restrict unwanted users without their knowledge. With many young people reporting that they are hesitant to block, unfollow or report harassing users in an effort to avoid escalation, both on and off online, Instagram will offer a “Restrict” option. Without notifying the offensive party, all comments from the restricted user will only be visible to them as if they are posted but no others will see their comments on posts without the approval of the profile owner. This will also prevent the blocked user from seeing if the person who enabled the function is online or has read their direct messages. 

As bullying and positive mental health continue to be prevalent issues for social media platforms, Instagram is dedicated to refining their strategy to maintain a community focus.

https://instagram-press.com/blog/2019/07/08/our-commitment-to-lead-the-fight-against-online-bullying/

Google shopping just got more personal

For many shoppers, Google has become the first stop for a quick comparison of products and brands. Without having to visit multiple sites for information, a quick search displays multiple options for buyers, making shopping online even easier. The feature also benefits retailers as purchases must be made on their respective sites, driving additional traffic.

The ability to see reviews in the product postings is a feature many shoppers value when comparing options. In an effort to add authenticity and a more personalized experience, Google has now included customer photos to the product reviews. With 88% of shoppers researching products online before making a purchase, this addition will encourage more user-generated content and unscripted product information.

While it’s uncertain exactly how this will impact advertisers, it will incentivize them to encourage customer feedback and take note of what people are saying in the market. As shoppers are increasingly influenced by consumer reviews, the added feature will not go unnoticed. 

https://searchengineland.com/new-google-shopping-program-enables-customer-photos-to-show-with-their-product-reviews-319341

Weekly Digital Breakdown

Big Tech Could Be Required To Reveal Your Data 

With ongoing scrutiny of how big tech handles user’s data, specifically Google and Facebook, new legislation was introduced this week which could require companies to face more transparency than ever. The task? To reveal specifically what personal data is collected from users, how it’s used and what it’s worth as it pertains to advertising.

The proposed Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act, would require companies with over 100 million monthly active users to file an annual report assigning value with user data collected. The act would also require full disclosure with third party partnerships who benefited from this information for financial gain. As part of the pending regulations, the SEC would be responsible for developing the methodology for calculating value to data obtained that all companies would have to adhere. 

While people around the globe access free services like Facebook and Google around the clock, most fail to realize that these companies cannot operate for free and use advertising to make a profit. While this may seem obvious, what they don’t understand is how these companies then leverage profile and behavioral data to help marketers narrow in on their target audience. The Dashboard Act also proposes users would receive their own report, potentially impacting online behavior and willingness to supply personal information.

As users are becoming increasingly aware of lack of privacy online, the bill would be an additional step to protect their personal information while increasing the bar for some of the largest data based advertising companies.

https://www.adweek.com/digital/new-united-states-legislation-would-require-internet-giants-to-disclose-the-value-of-user-data

Amazon Prime the Target of Competing Sales

With Amazon Prime Day quickly approaching, what started out as Amazon’s day to shine, has quickly become one of the most competitive shopping times of the year among e-tailers. Due to the overwhelming success of the annual event, over 250+ online retailers are expected to offer comparable sales July 15th and 16th in direct competition. According to a recently released study by RetailMeNot, Amazon Prime Day sales are the official kick-off for fall shopping, including purchases for back-to-school making it a critical time for retailers to capitalize on the excitement. The desire to get a piece of the action is well warranted based on last year’s sale beating out both Cyber Monday and Black Friday.

Target, in particular, has taken direct aim at the retail giant in its promotional push to encourage shopping during “Target Deal Days.” The event is being promoted for the same days as the Amazon Prime sale, in hopes of cashing in on the massive audience. The press release announcing the event goes so far as to address its sale has “no membership required” to shop and save on thousands of products, a not so subtle reference at Amazon’s membership requirement to receive the extended discounts. In addition, Target is offering the additional 5% discount offered to Target Redcard carriers along with multiple delivery and pick-up options, including same-day delivery.

There’s no doubt the playing field has changed for retailers in July. With over $4 billion dollars in revenue at stake based on Amazon’s sales in 2018, the competition is sure to heat up. In order to be part of the game, marketers need to be proactive, strategic and creative. The good news for shoppers, retailers are clamoring for your dollars which could result in record savings.

https://www.retaildive.com/news/target-aims-at-amazon-as-it-preps-for-another-prime-day-melee/557686/

Instagram Moving To A Shift In Focus

This week, Instagram publicly addressed the negative effects of the platform’s likes and how it hopes to implement changes to the experience. In what has been an ongoing conversation since April, Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, acknowledged the company is considering various changes including removing public access to the likes a post receives. The brand has not solidified a solution, but they are experimenting with ideas.The goal is to remove aspects that contribute to online bullying and narcissism, both of which can be detrimental to mental health and create a larger focus on community.

Instagram is also looking at other ways to make the site more focused on people connecting rather than competing. Another suggested idea is the implementation of warning notifications on comments deemed harmful or offensive. The alert would not restrict the comment from being sent, but would instead be an additional layer to remind users to be more mindful of what they are posting.

While nothing has officially been decided, the company is very aware of the impact the social platform has offline for users. Acknowledging the problem and working to create a solution, despite  the possible initial impact to the bottom line, could in the end, increase platform usage and engagement in a more positive and less competitive space.

https://www.cnet.com/news/instagram-boss-adam-mosseri-says-likes-might-go-private/