This is our inaugural daily digest, bringing you quick updates on the tech space, policy making and digital rights from India and across the globe.
China has begun cracking down on tech firms
Dissent does not go down well with the Communist Party of China, even if you’ve built a $110 billion e-commerce empire and a $220 billion fintech giant. The Chinese government has historically always stepped in when members of the corporate elite amass ‘too much’ wealth. In 2016, the government forced Wang Jianlin, the founder of the commercial real estate Dalian Wanda Group Co. Ltd, to sell his overseas assets and develerage his business. A year later, China’s richest person, Hui Ka Yan was directed to deleverage and sell his personal assets as his company was highly indebted.
For Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba and Ant Fintech, two Chinese behemoth companies, a speech in October last year cost him dearly. His Ant Group IPO was put on hold by the government, the Chinese antitrust watchdog fined Alibaba $76,500 over a few acquisitions and now the same regulator has set issued fine of $2.8 billion against Alibaba. The last large fine on a company by the antitrust regulator was $1 billion. The fine is unprecedented as it about 12% of Alibaba’s net income in 2020. The Chinese markets regulators’ investigation found that Alibaba used its platform rules, data and algorithms to gain “improper advantage” over its competitors.
While Ma remains third richest person in China, he has lost much of his wealth. But this crackdown on outspoken and wealthy entrepreneurs and their businesses by regulators, politically motivated or not, has made about 100 Chinese tech startups pull their IPO plans. The intensified scrutiny is leading to IPO delays and penalties, as both entrepreneurs and bankers pull their applications for fear of punishment.
- China Fines Alibaba Record $2.8 Billion After Monopoly Probe [Bloomberg]
- Analysis: Chinese tech start-ups pull IPO plans as Beijing tightens scrutiny [Reuters]
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RBI doesn’t want to supervise NUEs
The Reserve Bank of India is not so interested with the prospect of supervising New Umbrella Entities (NUE), The Indian Express reported. Regulating NUE’s, which will set up payments systems competing with NPCI’s systems, will be costly endeavour, and day-to-day supervision is best left to agencies such as the NPCI or a newly-formed body, senior government officials reportedly told the publication.
Read: Keeping costs in mind, RBI not in favour of supervising NUEs [Indian Express]
MEITY refusing to defer targets for smartphone PLI scheme
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has opposed, 15 of the 16 applicants in the PLI scheme for smartphone manufacturing treat 2021-22, instead of 2020-21, as the first year of production targets, reported The Economic Times. An unnamed official told the publication that the opposition was because Samsung has met its targets for 2020-21, and the government could not set one timeline for one company, and another for the rest. Other applicants for the PLI scheme include Apple manufacturers Foxconn, Winstron, Pegatron, Lava and Bhagwati (Micromax).
Haryana-based journalist booked for social media post, accused of ‘cyber-terrorism’
Haryana police has booked Hisar-based journalist Rajesh Kundu for “cyber-terrorism” and “promoting enmity between classes” for social media post, reported PTI. Kundu in the alleged post, according to the FIR filed by a police official, had said that Hisar would witness caste-based violence in a week, and that it would be a blueprint for an experiment in the state and then in the country. Police have said the messages, “which could incite the public”, were sent on WhatsApp groups and over Facebook from Kundu’s mobile phone. Opposition leaders and journalists, including the Chandigarh Press Club, condemned the registration of the FIR.
DuckDuckGo to block Google’s new browsing activity tracking system Floc
DuckDuckGo has announced plans to block FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts), which is Google’s replacements of third-party cookies. Google, which has promised to phase out invasive third-party cookies from its ad tech business, has previously claimed that FLoC will allow users to not be targeted individually. However, privacy oriented company DuckDuckGo has said that many concerns around FloC have still not been addressed, even as Google pushes them upon its users. DuckDuckGo will be updating its Chrome browser extension to give users the ability to block FloC interactions on websites.