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India antitrust probe finds Google abused Android dominance, report shows (reuters.com)
132 points by stereoradonc 32 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 37 comments



Oct 2020

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has been looking into allegations that Google creates barriers for firms wanting to use or develop modified versions of Android for smart TVs, such as Amazon Fire TV’s operating system.

“...I reckon that some aggrieved TV manufacturers, who cannot break out from the Google dominance, could be behind this case”

Google’s agreements with companies such as Xiaomi and TCL India effectively stop them from using both the Android system and a modified version of it on different devices they make.

For example, if a company sells smartphones based on Android, it cannot sell smart TVs running on competing platforms, such the Amazon Fire TV system.

And if a company’s smart TV is using the Amazon OS, then it is restricted from offering Google’s popular Play Store or the Google Maps app on its smartphones.

https://www.asiafinancial.com/powerful-forces-behind-new-goo...


Using dominance in the smartphone market to take over the smart TV business sounds like a slam dunk antitrust case (and a lot like copying Microsoft's playbook from the 90s)


This seems to pop all around the world, regulation is needed when companies act like this


Is the Competition Commission of India (CCI) politically independent?


At best an academic question in matters like this. This is rather directly comparable to an 'independent' US commission taking umbrage at something Huawei has done.

On the one hand, maybe it is an independent action. On the other hand, there are so many considerations around security, geopolitics and nationalism that it is hard to even know what they are meant to be independent of.


> an 'independent' US commission taking umbrage at something Huawei has done

Which scarequotes-independent commission are you referring to?


A hypothetical one. I'm not aware of any independent commission looking in to Huawei, and I'd have contempt for its alleged independence if there is one.

Put it another way. If we carbon-copied Google into a Chinese firm with nothing changed about their operations it would be a crisis in the US and probably discovered to be breach all sorts of laws. The pervasive spying that Google must be doing for the NSA alone would be a crisis, ignoring the broader strategic issues. It would be infeasible for any aspect of any resistance to this hypothetical Sinoogle to be free from political interference, the stakes would be too high. Shutting it down in the US at a minimum and ideally globally would be a priority 1 goal for the US establishment. With that as table stakes, what does it mean for a commission to be independent? If it looks like the commission will come to a politically unsatisfactory conclusion laws will change and new commissioners would be found.


Okay, your first comment is useless for everyone trying to figure out how politically independent the CCI is from the executive branch because you're just jumping to bring up Huawei. This isn't an interesting contribution to the discussion, just a long form approach to bring up your entirely unrelated political grievances.


> A hypothetical one. I'm not aware of any independent commission looking in to Huawei

Because there hasn't been one. The claim that the CCI probe is "comparable to an 'independent' US commission taking umbrage at...Huawei" is baseless within this context. (If anything, comparing geopolitical actions against Huawei with the CCI's is an argument against the probe's independence.)


Ad hominem alert!


> Is the Competition Commission of India (CCI) politically independent?

How is it relevant? Android is close to 100% of the mobile phone market. Even if every single member of the commission was named Modi, that still makes Google a monopolist.

I don't understand the fetishization of political independence. Why would you want unelected members who are unanswerable to the people making decisions which would have a massive impact on their lives?


> How is it relevant?

Whether the probe is facts based or politically motivated matters. If the latter, there are cards on the table we aren't seeing, e.g. the promise of the probe being dropped in exchange for something the ruling party values.


It's also worth noting that India has been spending the better half of a decade trying to strongarm Big Tech with their massive market to no avail. The government has become increasingly sensitive and restless in recent years, demanding companies like Twitter and Facebook censor info or risk their domestic employees being perpetually arrested. So, yeah, there are some concerns to be had with their tech policy.


Even if it isn’t the latter , there will always be such open cards.It would remain utopian to claim anything in any democracy is purely fact based and nothing can change with political will.You can probably get it in more authoritative regimes however.


> Whether the probe is facts based or politically motivated matters.

It is for the voters, and no one else, to decide whether they care about so-called political motivation.

The Indian government represents the will of the Indian people. And what it says, goes. If anyone has a problem with that, they can always approach the courts.


Two caveats:

> The Indian government represents the will of the Indian people.

Not really representative of the will or the real issues that are bothering the people. The current government is more of a “show business” than a government (look at how the COVID vaccination drives are dampened and pumped up by sycophants just to please one person).

> If anyone has a problem with that, they can always approach the courts.

The Indian judicial system is excruciatingly slow, easily distracted by trivial matters (like BCCI corruption) and mostly doesn’t stop the government from bulldozing ahead while a case is pending. It took several years and across the terms of three or four chief justices of the Supreme Court to hear the right to privacy case. It took another year and several months to hear the Aadhaar case (which still has pending lawsuits), the cases on electoral bonds hasn’t been heard for years…all these are cases that affect every resident and the future of the country…the list goes on. Depending on the Indian judiciary to save the people from the executive is mostly futile.


> current government is more of a “show business” than a government

You can criticize individual governments all you want. But the principle still stands. The Indian government is formed by people who have been directly chosen by the people of India. Except the brief period of insanity in the 1970s, we have had a good history of peaceful transfer of power from one government to the other.

> sycophants

I don't want to derail the conversation, but I am sure you would agree that this is hardly unique to the current disposition.

> The Indian judicial system is excruciatingly slow

I know. My complaints go far beyond that however. None of the judges are answerable to the people because none of them are elected. The SC even invented the collegium out of thin air. The second problem is that this makes their interference in executive matters even more worrisome because they cannot be voted out and impeaching them isn't particularly easy.

Still, the judiciary is fairly independent and people who think that the government has exceeded its powers can always try to get justice. Whether they get it in time or not is a different matter, but the option is available (unlike in, say, China).


> None of the judges are answerable to the people because none of them are elected.

Small mercies and that's by design. Actions of a lynch mob is very popular within the mob. Its an ironic example given the protection to the pro-government lynch-mobs in India. Lynch-mobs and pro-government it-cell trolls.

Furthermore given by the proportion of the citizens who voted in this government, its quite a stretch to claim that their actions enjoys wide support because a sizeable proportion of the citizenry did not vote, possibly as a symbolic rejection of the poor quality of choices available.

Its possible for a small group to manipulate democracy in the name of populism. History is replete with such examples. Police too needs to be removed from the ambit of politicians. In India they are nothing but henchmen on the hire, supplicant to politicians, serving their criminal aspirations rather than the people who pay them.

That exalted position of 'will of the people' carries meagre weight if one can win elections by buying people TVs, promise them 15L (of course without delivering on it) and lynching communities that a more populous community does not like.


> its quite a stretch to claim that their actions enjoys wide support

The same rules that got previous governments into power got this one in as well. If this government cannot legitimately claim to be the voice of the Indian people, no one else can either.

> Police too needs to be removed from the ambit of politicians.

Who would they report to? Some magically incorruptible entity?

If you don't believe in the 'will of the people' and further believe that most voters are stupid and easily misled, what you are essentially arguing is that democracy does not work in India and that it should be replaced by the rule of a group of "enlightened" but unelected people who are not answerable to the people they govern: an oligarchy.


> The same rules that got previous governments

Completely agree.

> Who would they report to? Some magically incorruptible entity?

This has been worked out quite successfully in other democracies. Laws that legislate rights of the Indian police force are one of the most archaic and are a carry over from the British times when its principal purpose was the subjugation of the population so that they could be exploited in an orderly fashion. Unfortunately, but very understandably, the current crop of politicians are unwilling to change that.

As you surely know, judiciary enjoys more but not complete autonomy. There is a turf war going on right now with Modi government trying to maneuver into a position of appointing judges who are more willing to dance to his tune.

Technically India is not a democracy. Democracy is perhaps the best means of sharing power that we have, but that should not turn us blind to its egregious blind spots. Ku Klax Klan, the Nazis, slave ownership, etc etc had full support of the democratic institutions of their times. That does not make any of them right. India is having its own KKK moment right now.


> This has been worked out quite successfully in other democracies.

No it hasn't. "Who watches the watchmen" is a question as old as time.

> position of appointing judges who are more willing to dance to his tune.

I support that. He should have been more forceful on the NJAC issue and the act should have excluded all judges from the composition of the council. The council should have been composed purely of members of parliament. The funny thing is, every one from the BJP to the TMC has the exact same complaint about "judges appointing judges."[1][2]

Judges encroaching on the territory of parliament isn't something that is unique to India. While it might have started in India when the SC invented the concept of the constitution having a "basic structure," with the Golaknath and Kesavananda Bharati judgments, you can see the same thing happening in the US with Marbury v. Madison within a few years of the establishment of the republic. Like politicians, judges are not immune to the trappings of power.

> India is having its own KKK moment right now.

You are mistaken. We are having a BLM/end-of-apartheid moment right now. The native population that was invaded, raped, plundered, enslaved, forcibly converted to the religion of the invaders, had their places of worship desecrated, destroyed and replaced with those belonging to the god of the invaders, and, after freedom from the British, saw their homeland chopped up into two has finally said: enough is enough.

[1] Two days after the Supreme Court pronounced its verdict on the 99th Constitution Amendment Act and the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), declaring them to be ultra vires the Constitution, the Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, said in his blog, “Indian democracy cannot be a tyranny of the unelected and if elected are undermined, democracy itself would be in danger.” (https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/njac-constitutions-wil...)

[2] Sukhendu Sekhar Ray further said, "An opaque system has been adopted in the country where judges appoint judges. Taking advantage of this, the Narendra Modi government is making use of this." (https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/other/bjp-vs-tmc-in-west-beng...)


This ain't China or US


I just clicked around online, but it appears that they've been targeting Google for a while now, seemingly after they refused to comply with surveillance requests from the rest of the government:

> In 2014, CCI imposed a fine of ₹10 million upon Google for failure to comply with the directions given by the Director General seeking information and documents. [0]

4 years later they sued them for some unexplained "search bias" and then 3 years after that, they're back for some sort of market-dependent anti-trust case. I think there's plenty of skeletons in Google's closet, but this is not one of them. If I had to guess, this is the reaction of a frustrated conservative regime discovering that "big tech" doesn't really kowtow to any and all government requests. Following the pushback from the farmer's protest censorship, I'd imagine they're pretty pissed at Google, Facebook and Twitter.

[0] https://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=104701


Just wanted to clarify that the first one from 2014 was under a different ruling party than the current one as the date is 27th March 2014.

I don't like attempts made at censoring information either, but lumping these together doesn't come off as honest.


That's true, I'm not so sure on the subject myself which is why I prefaced it with 'if I had to guess'. In any case, it's still a worrying pattern of behavior for a country with so many people in it.


> frustrated conservative regime

On 27th March 2014 (the date of the press release you linked to), the Congress-led UPA was in power.

I know Hinduphobia is very fashionable within the "smart" set, but they should spend some time meditating on their biases before constructing arguments that have no basis in fact.


Also note how they drop the farmers’ protests without any context. “Modi is punishing Google because people are searching for the protests”


Indeed, truly an evil conflation to make when the Indian government threatened to jail domestic Twitter and Facebook employees.


Then why not threaten to do the same for Google?


> Indian government threatened to jail domestic Twitter and Facebook employees.

Only if they continued to violate the law. Anyway, the matter is now in the courts along with tens of millions of other cases and I am sure it will be resolved by the end of the current decade.


The the thing is -- every country now can find problems with US big techs inside their borders and can earn some revenue by fining them millions for one reason or another.

Interested in watching where that leads.


> every country now can find problems with US big tech's inside their borders

Big Tech intentionally expands into global markets for profit - it’s their responsibility to abide by the rules setup in each market. If they exhibit harmful behavior in every market, they will be investigated and fined in every market.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.


Guess that is the consequences for tax evasion.


Is there a purpose to Android other than to abuse it's dominance?


[flagged]


At the level of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Instagram, Twitter? No, it hasn't. But there are apps like Paytm, Ola Cabs which work in few other countries than India (It's fine if you haven't heard of these apps, because AFAIK they aren't in the US, or most of Western Europe for that matter. But some apps did get big enough to be implemented in other countries).

Also if we're going by that then there are hardly 5 countries out of 195 whose apps are used worldwide.


Some more notable ones:

HackerRank, Zoho, Freshworks, Postman, BrowserStack, VWO, WebEngage, Zomato, Byjus, etc.


Your point being? And how does that relate with this?




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