Uber dealt blow after EU court classifies it as transport service

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) – Uber [UBER.UL] should be classified as a transport service and regulated like other taxi operators, the European Union’s top court said in a landmark ruling on Wednesday that could impact other online businesses in Europe.

Uber, which allows passengers to summon a ride through an app on their smartphones, has transformed the taxi industry since its launch in 2011 and now operates in more than 600 cities globally.

In the latest of a series of legal battles, Uber had argued it was simply a digital app that acted as an intermediary between drivers and customers looking for a ride and so should fall under lighter EU rules for online services.

“The service provided by Uber connecting individuals with non-professional drivers is covered by services in the field of transport,” the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said.

“Member states can, therefore, regulate the conditions for providing that service,” it said.

The case follows a complaint from a professional taxi drivers’ association in Barcelona that Uber’s activities in Spain amounted to misleading practices and unfair competition from Uber’s use of non-professional drivers – a service Uber calls UberPOP and which has since been suspended in Spain and other countries.

GIG ECONOMY

Uber has taken the fight to regulators and established taxi and cab companies, expanding from a Silicon Valley start-up to a business with a valuation of $68 billion.

Following changes at the top and legal battles, it recently adopted a more conciliatory approach under its new chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi.

The European case had been widely watched as an indicator of how the burgeoning gig economy, which also features the likes of food-delivery company Deliveroo, would be regulated in Europe.

The ECJ said Uber “exercises decisive influence over the conditions under which the drivers provide their service” and that without the Uber mobile app “persons who wish to make an urban journey would not use the services provided by those drivers.”

The decision is unlikely to have an immediate impact on Uber’s operations in Europe, where it has cut back its use of unlicensed services such as UberPOP and adheres to local transportation laws.

“This ruling will not change things in most EU countries where we already operate under transportation law,” an Uber spokeswoman said in a statement.

“As our new CEO has said, it is appropriate to regulate services such as Uber and so we will continue the dialogue with cities across Europe. This is the approach we’ll take to ensure everyone can get a reliable ride at the tap of a button.”

Uber is in the middle of a legal battle over its right to operate in London, its most important European market.

Bernardine Adkins, Head of EU, Trade and Competition Law at Gowling WLG said the ruling provided “vital clarity to its (Uber‘s) position within the marketplace.”

“Uber’s control over its drivers, its ability to set prices and the fact its electronic service is inseparable from its ultimate consumer experience means it is more than simply a platform connecting drivers to passengers.”

TAXI LOBBY CHEERS

IRU, the world road transport organization, which includes taxi associations, cheered the ruling as finally offering a level playing field for providers of the same service.

“In the area of mobility, the taxi and for-hire sector was one of the first to embrace innovation and new technologies,” said Oleg Kamberski, Head of Passenger Transport at IRU.

“Finding a solution that allows both traditional and new transport service providers to compete in a fair way while meeting the service quality standards became necessary.”

EU law protects online services from undue restrictions and national governments must notify the European Commission of any measures regulating them so it can ensure they are not discriminatory or disproportionate.

Transport, however, is excluded from this.

The tech industry said the ruling would impact the next generation of start-ups more than Uber itself.

“We regret the judgment effectively threatens the application of harmonized EU rules to online intermediaries,” said Jakob Kucharczyk, Vice President, Competition & EU Regulatory Policy at the Computer & Communications Industry Association.

“The purpose of those rules is to make sure online innovators can achieve greater scalability and competitiveness in the EU, unfettered from undue national restrictions,” he added.

“This is a blow to the EU’s ambition of building an integrated digital single market.”

Reporting by Julia Fioretti; editing by Keith Weir and David Evans

Singapore central bank warns against investing in cryptocurrencies

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore’s central bank issued a warning against investment in cryptocurrencies on Tuesday, saying it considers their recent price surge to be driven by speculation and that there is a risk investors could lose all their capital.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said it is “concerned that members of the public may be attracted to invest in cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, due to the recent escalation in their prices”.

“MAS considers the recent surge in the prices of cryptocurrencies to be driven by speculation,” the central bank said in a statement. “The risk of a sharp reduction in prices is high. Investors in cryptocurrencies should be aware that they run the risk of losing all their capital.”

The city-state’s central bank added that there is no regulatory safeguard for investments in cryptocurrencies and that it does not regulate cryptocurrencies.

It urged the public to act with “extreme caution” and to understand the “significant risks” they take on if they invest in cryptocurrencies.

“As most operators of platforms on which cryptocurrencies are traded do not have a presence in Singapore, it would be difficult to verify their authenticity or credibility. There is greater risk of fraud when investors deal with entities whose backgrounds and operations cannot be easily verified,” the MAS said.

Bitcoin set a record high of $19,666 (£14,700) on Sunday on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange, its prices having surged more than 1,700 percent this year. On Tuesday, Bitcoin stood at around $17,980, down more than 5 percent on the day.

While Singapore has been an early adopter of fintech, it has not been a major centre for trading cryptocurrencies and none of the big exchanges are based in the city-state.

Reporting by Masayuki Kitano; Editing by Richard Borsuk

China's Tencent, JD.com invest $863 million in online retailer Vipshop

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK) said on Monday it would lead an $863 million investment in apparel platform Vipshop Holdings Ltd (VIPS.N), upping its rivalry in retail with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N).

Tencent will invest $604 million in exchange for a 7 percent stake in Vipshop, while e-commerce firm JD.com Inc (JD.O) – a long-standing ally – will invest $259 million for a 5.5 percent stake, the two firms said in a statement.

The companies did not clarify why the cost of Tencent’s purchased stock was higher than JD.com‘s. Neither company responded to requests for comment on Monday afternoon.

The deal extends a recent push by Tencent into Alibaba’s home turf of retail, where the firm hopes to leverage its messaging service WeChat and its online payment systems to drive shopping demand.

Martin Lau, Tencent’s President, said the tie-up would bring Vipshop Tencent’s “audiences, marketing solutions, and payment support” to help tap China’s rising middle class. Tencent’s WeChat has nearly a billion users.

The looming retail battle reflects a wider, long-running stand-off between Tencent and Alibaba, who have made competing investments in areas as diverse as bike-sharing apps, food delivery and gaming.

“Right now in the Chinese market we have two internet powers,” said Weiwen Han, managing partner for Greater China at Bain & Company. “Investments will either fall into the Alibaba or Tencent camp.”

Slideshow (2 Images)

He added, however, that such deals were difficult to turn into successful ventures.

“It remains to be seen how they will be integrated successfully, (and) whether or not these will actually be effective investments.”

RETAIL FAULT LINES

Alibaba has been looking to reshape the battle lines of China’s online and offline market. Its Tmall and Taobao platforms dominate online and it has invested over $10 billion in a push into brick-and-mortar stores.

Tencent, Asia’s most valuable company with a market capitalization of $473 billion, plans to invest 4.2 billion yuan ($636 million) for a 5 percent stake in supermarket operator Yonghui Superstores Co Ltd (601933.SS).

It is already a major stakeholder in JD.com.

The latest deal, at a 55 percent premium to Vipshop’s closing share price on Friday, will help Tencent tap the firm’s young, female shoppers and give it access to reams of consumer and transaction data to help it compete with Alibaba’s Alipay.

JD.com’s Chief Executive Richard Liu said the move would help “expand the breadth and reach of our fashion business”. That comes after he said last month around 100 Chinese apparel merchants had left its platform in the last quarter due to what he called “coercive” tactics by competing platforms.

Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Christopher Cushing

The Hard Work and Hustle Before Crazy Valuations and Exits

In February of last year, Appcues – the user activation and onboarding tool developed by Jonathan Kim – closed a seed round of $2.5 million, thanks to investors like Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. That’s on top of the company’s initial seed round of $1.2 million in 2014, bringing Appcues’s total funding to $3.7 million.

That’s a huge accomplishment for any company, but for me, it’s not the whole story. I’m every bit as interested in what got Appcues to this point – in the hard work and hustle that led to the company’s eventual success.

That’s why, after an introduction from our mutual friend, Appcues cofounder Jackson Noel, I jumped on a call with Jonathan to learn how the moves he made early on helped him bring Appcues to life. 

From Journalism Major to Startup Maker 

Jonathan doesn’t come from an entrepreneurial background. In fact, he has a journalism degree from Boston University – the cost of which he describes as having led him to work in computer science.

“I had to get a job to pay for school, and the highest-paying job I could find was in the computer lab,” he says. “I started toying around with computer programming, and I started getting better and better at it. I started working at a dev shop through my junior and senior year; when I graduated, I was looking at the prospect of going into the journalism job market. I decided not to do that. I was either going to do a startup or join an early stage company, and that’s how I wound up at Performable.” 

At Performable, Jonathan was employee #8 out of what would grow to 20 total before he left for Hubspot. Both experiences gave him exposure to the growing pains startups face – lessons he still takes to heart at Appcues.

“It was cool to see how the middle-stage culture starts to solidify and how processes start to break down,” he explains. “Then, going to Hubspot, it’s a totally different set of skills and people you need. We were 200-300 people when I joined, and I stayed with the company through about 700 people. It was neat to see what comes after that really early stage, and that perspective helps shape what’s really fundamental when you’re small.”

Leaving Hubspot to Launch Appcues

For Jonathan, entrepreneurship was always the goal. He explains, “I knew when I joined Performable that I was in that bridge between joining a startup or doing one on my own. It was always my plan to do that.”

And while he learned all he could working for Performable and Hubspot, Jonathan’s exposure to the challenges involved in onboarding and activating users within new tools and systems gave him the idea for the engagement processes that would drive Appcues. But before making the leap, Jonathan hustled hard to put himself in the best possible financial position.

“I paid off all my student loans and started saving money,” he shares. “By the time I left Hubspot, I had $20,000 saved up, and I invested all that into starting the company. I moved out of my expensive apartment in Central Square and into an attic with two roommates and my girlfriend, which took our rent down to like $500 each. I bought a bike on Craigslist for $100, and I biked everywhere because I was too cheap to buy a bus pass for $75 a month. 

(As a side note, Jonathan recommends that anyone thinking of going the same cheapskate route he did not start their companies in East Coast towns during the winter, as the bike commuting he experienced was brutal.)

Jonathan cut his costs in other ways, explaining, “I was eating steel-cut oats everyday and a good amount of ramen. I spent probably $100 per month on non-rent, non-utility expenses. When you’ve got $20,000 to last indefinitely, you really have to figure out how to make it stretch. Until we actually started paying ourselves after our seed round, I had $500 left in my bank account.” 

From 23 Customers to 23 Employees

Thanks in large part to Jonathan’s frugality and forward-thinking, Appcues took off quickly. One smart decision he made was to take on consulting opportunities shortly after leaving Hubspot that showed him exactly where his target consumers’ pain points lay with regards to user onboarding. Another early win was a listing on Product Hunt in 2014, which left him with 16 customers who’d promised to pay for his solution (once he finished developing it, of course).

A speaking gig led to a connection with Appcues’s cofounder Jackson, and the pair quickly brought on their first hire in John Sherer, Director of Sales. Jonathan noted that the move was unorthodox:

“The first person we hired was John, who was a salesperson. People are always surprised that we didn’t hire a developer first. But John was literally calling people asking why they weren’t buying and trying to get them to buy. The idea was that he’d learn so much more around the objections and the real must-haves for product that he actually became more effective for product than a developer would have.”

The team’s hard work, hustle and instincts paid off. Appcues, which started with three employees and 23 customers at the start of 2015 now boasts 23 employees and 530+ paying customers – none of which would have been possible without Jonathan grinding it out in the company’s early stages.

If you’re thinking about launching your own startup, Jonathan’s example is a great one to follow. Crazy valuations and flashy exits are fun to watch, but at the end of the day, it’s the kind of hard work and hustle he’s demonstrated that leads to real success.

To catch up with Jonathan, visit the Appcues website or follow him on LinkedIn. Or, for more info on our conversation, leave me a comment below with your follow-up questions:

New Evidence Could Blow Open the Uber/Waymo Self-Driving Lawsuit

Today, after three weeks of legal hemming and hawing, the Northern District of California finally made public a potentially key piece of evidence in the rollicking, roiling, rolling trade secrets lawsuit between self-driving Alphabet spinoff Waymo and ridehailing company Uber.

That evidence is the Jacobs Letter, a 37-page rundown of truly outrageous allegations about Uber’s business practices, put to paper by the lawyer for former Uber employee Ric Jacobs. Originally sent to Uber’s lawyers as part of a dispute between the company and Jacobs, it’s now at the center of Uber’s legal fight with Waymo. Whoops.

And while the letter’s contents most definitely have not been proven true, they include some tremendous new assertions: that former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick himself directed trade theft; that the company employed spies to trail competitors’ executives; that it illegally recorded a call with employees about sexual assault allegations; and that it used a meme-filled slideshow to teach employees how to hide implicating documents from nosy lawyers.

So we—like you, presumably—have a few questions.

Back up. What’s this whole Uber-Waymo thing anyway?

In February, Waymo sued Uber for trade secret theft. It alleged longtime Google engineer Anthony Levandowski secretly downloaded thousands of files, resigned, and used the ill-gotten intellectual property to start his own self-driving truck company, Otto. Uber bought Otto in August 2016 (for a reported $680 million) and put Levandowski in charge of all its autonomous driving efforts. Waymo argues that Uber knew Levandowski had stolen its IP, then used that info to accelerate its own R&D.

After months of discovery, the case was supposed to go to trial in early December, wrapping up in time for holiday hot chocolates and trips to European snow chalets (for the lawyers, probably). Instead, in late November, the US Attorney’s Office made the very unusual move of sending William Alsup, the judge overseeing this case, a new piece of evidence. (Legal experts speculate the government lawyers did this as a sort of courtesy, because Alsup had flagged the trade secrets theft case for them back in May—another unusual move. The US Attorney’s Office confirmed this week it’s investigating the case.)

How true is this letter?

Who knows? An Uber spokesperson writes: “While we haven’t substantiated all the claims in this letter—and, importantly, any related to Waymo—our new leadership has made clear that going forward we will compete honestly and fairly, on the strength of our ideas and technology.”

Earlier this month, new Uber head lawyer Tony West told the company security team there was “no place” for competitor surveillance at Uber, and that anyone involved in that kind of shady behavior should “stop it now.”

During pretrial hearings a few weeks ago, Jacobs took the stand and walked back some of the claims in the letter, including the allegation that an Uber team stole trade secrets from Waymo. “I don’t stand by that statement,” he said, explaining that his lawyer had written the letter, and that he had reviewed it in a rush while on vacation.

Who is Ric Jacobs?

Ric Jacobs is a former Uber global threat operations employee who left the company this spring, after telling top Uber execs he was uncomfortable with his team’s ethically and legally dubious practices. The document portrays him as a whistleblower.

Uber says that’s not true, and its employees testified Jacobs was demoted for performance issues, resigned after he was caught downloading documents, then used trumped-up charges to extract a big payout in “consulting fees” on his way out the door—$4.5 million, plus another $3 million for his lawyer. Is Jacobs an extortionist? Would Uber pay that much to a bad actor? The letter only tells his side of the story.

What did Uber’s shadowy Strategic Services Group and Marketplace Analytics team actually do?

The letter says the Strategic Services Group was made of spies who allegedly handled human intelligence collection and stole data and info from competitors. It says Market Analytics members acquired trade secrets, competitive intelligence, code, and details on the operations of competitors’ apps—sometimes directly at the behest of then-CEO Travis Kalanick.

The letter also recounts some very sketchy (and, remember, alleged) fraud-like espionage behavior. Jacobs’ lawyer writes that SSG infiltrated Facebook groups and WhatsApp group messages for anti-Uber protestors, Uber drivers, and taxi operators. It alleges the Market Analytics team remotely accessed confidential corporate communications from a competitor, impersonated rider and drivers on the competitors’ platforms, and used the competitors’ data to “steal” drivers and riders for its own service. This sounds like—but is not necessarily—a reference to Uber’s “Hell” project, which used secret software to track rival Lyft’s drivers. (That program is reportedly being investigated by the FBI). The letter also alleges Uber stole a taxi driver database containing 35,000 records.

Did Uber surveil competitors?

During a pretrial hearing this month, one Uber employee testified that a vendor had passed along a taped conversation between executives at Didi Chuxing and Grab (Uber competitors from China and Singapore, respectively). The letter describes a similar (but maybe not identical?) situation, wherein, at the personal direction of Kalanick, “multiple surveillance teams infiltrated private-event spaces at hotel and conference facilities” where executives were staying, to record private conversations.

Does Uber really have an active mole within a competitor’s ranks?

Quoth the letter: “To date, Jacobs is aware Uber still benefits from at least on well-place [sic] [human intelligence] source with access to [REDACTED] executives and their collective knowledge of [REDACTED] on-going business practices.” Yeesh.

Did Uber hide stuff from legal proceedings on purpose?

The Jacobs letter details a complex system of shielding documents from eventual lawsuits, using forwarding techniques and strategic marks on draft documents to assert attorney-client privilege. It also alleges Uber employees used non-attributable devices, wiped clean after each use, and ephemeral messaging apps like Wickr and Telegram to communicate about things they’d rather not have regulators and lawyers see. (Experts note there are perfectly good reasons to use such devices and anonymizing techniques.) The letter says one Uber official trained the company’s autonomous driving unit to “impede, obstruct or influence the investigation of several ongoing lawsuits against Uber.”

Is anyone here working pro bone-o?

The letter alleges an Uber employee “developed a training using innocuous legal examples and the ‘lawyer dog’ meme to produce a slide deck that taught the ThreatOps team how to utilize attorney-client privilege to impede discovery.”

Did Uber actually wiretap an employee?

Among the creepiest allegations: Uber did not tell employees it was recording them during a call about the sexual harassment allegations. Recording a phone call without the consent of all parties involved is illegal in California.

What did Uber have nailed to its wall?

“Like a ‘scalp’ collected, the Market Analytics team proudly has a [REDACTED] nailed to the wall in their workplace to signify their successful theft of [REDACTED] trade secrets,” the letter says. Twitter’s best guess: a pink Lyft mustache.

Does the Jacobs Letter even matter?

Again, it’s unclear whether any of these allegations are true, or why Jacobs had his lawyer write the letter in the first place. Still, Waymo will undoubtedly use the details here to argue Uber had established protocols to conceal its alleged trade secrets theft.

Whatever the truth, the letter will have an immediate effect: The court has found Uber should have definitely turned over this 37-pager during the discovery process. And that’s a problem.

“To use a legal term, Uber is in deep doo-doo,” says Peter Toren, a federal prosecutor who specializes in trade secret litigation. “Judge Alsup is not going to be pleased with this at all.”

Alsup already has already been very impatient with Uber’s lawyers. Now, he could impose monetary sanctions on Uber, charging them court costs and/or Waymo’s bills associated with the trial delay, which could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. He could also allow the Waymo team to draw “adverse inferences” from Uber’s omission—to argue that, because Uber couldn’t produce ephemeral messages and hid documents, it’s fair for the jury to assume that they were filled with nefarious dealings.

Finally, the Jacobs letter could be used to supplement other lawsuits in the galaxy of those filed against Uber—or to launch entirely new ones. “To the extent that somebody now has a cause of action they may not have had before, it gives them evidence,” says Toren. Waymo lawyers are not the only ones reading the Jacobs letter. And they won’t be the only ones with questions.


More Uber, Waymo Problems

Data integration is one thing the cloud makes worse

One, enterprises have too many decisions to make. Two, it’s difficult to find success with complex data integration. Those are the two main excuses I hear these days, as enterprises move to the cloud. Whatever the justification, the lack of attention to data integration is beginning to cause some real damage. 

So, what went wrong? Enterprises have so much coming at them that they don’t think about every approach and technology that they need to think about. Security, management, monitoring, and governance are getting the attention they need, but data integration has fallen off the radar screen.

A byproduct of this behavior? More data silos. We all know that data silos are bad, but we seem to be building more data silos—not only on premises but in the public cloud. 

Data silos by themselves are not bad if they are integrated with other data silos. This means that as one silo is updated, the other silos are aware of the update and can immediately exchange information. 

The idea is that you need a “single source of truth” for data, using an old Oracle phrase. A single record of a customer, inventory, sales, or other information you want to track. 

But without a data integration strategy and technology, a single source of data truth is not possible. Systems become islands of automation unto themselves, and it doesn’t matter if they are in the public cloud or not.

The cloud makes many things better, but it makes data integration worse. Indeed, as you migrate applications and data to the cloud, as well as build new applications and databases, chances are you’re forgetting about data integration. 

The result is a far-diminished value of the systems you use, because the data is redundant and out of sync. Enterprise IT should treat data as a single consistent resource that can span all systems and platforms, both cloud and noncloud. If you overlook this aspect, you won’t find the business value you’re seeking. 

Alphabet's X sells new wireless internet tech to Indian state

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s X research division said on Thursday that India’s Andhra Pradesh state government would buy its newly developed technology that has the potential to provide high-speed wireless internet to millions of people without laying cable.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the agreement, which begins next year, would see 2,000 boxes installed as far as 20 kilometers (12 miles) apart on posts and roofs to bring a fast internet connection to populated areas. The idea is to create a new backbone to supply service to cellphone towers and Wi-Fi hotspots, endpoints that users would then access.

The agreement is an outgrowth of X’s Project Loon, which on several occasions has beamed cellphone service to Earth from a network of large balloons. The balloons link directly to smartphones but are meant for rural areas with a low population density, according to X.

Alphabet, which owns Google, and other online service providers view increasing internet accessibility in developing countries as crucial to maintaining their fast-growing businesses.

Andhra Pradesh, a southeastern coastal state with 53 million people, had nearly 15 million high-speed internet subscribers as of last December, according to a report by India’s telecom regulator. The state wants to connect an additional 12 million households by 2019, Alphabet said.

X plans to deploy free space optical technology, which transmits data through light beams at up to 20 gigabits per second between the rooftop boxes. There would be enough bandwidth for thousands of people to browse the Web simultaneously through the same cellphone tower, X said.

Researchers have said such systems hold promise in areas where linking cellphone towers to a wired connection is expensive and difficult. But the technology has not taken off because poor weather or misalignment between the boxes can weaken the connection.

Baris Erkmen, who is leading the effort inside X, said his team is “piloting a new approach” to overcome the challenges, but he did not specify the software and hardware advancements.

X plans to have a small team based in Andhra Pradesh next year to help roll out the technology.

Reporting by Paresh Dave, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

??Mirai? ?Botnet?: 3 Men Plead Guilty to Cybercrimes

Three men have pleaded guilty to charges related to the widespread Mirai botnet cyberattack in Oct. 2016 that took down various Internet services and websites.

The Justice Department said Wednesday that the three men—Paras Jha, Josiah White, and Dalton Norman—created what’s known as a botnet, a collection of computers used to covertly carry out commands without the knowledge of their owners.

The men, all in their early 20s, were able to spread the so-called Mirai malware onto Internet-connected devices like routers and wireless cameras so they could take control of them. The men then used those web-connected devices to flood online services like Internet-monitoring firm Dyn with so much traffic that they would slow or go offline.

Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter.

One of the men, Jha, plead guilty to also launching a botnet attack on Rutgers University where he was a student, which took down the school’s computer network. Jha’s guilty plea confirmed an earlier report by cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebbs, who wrote an article in Jan. 2017 tracing the Mirai botnet attacks to Jha and White.

A lawyer representing Jha said he is remorseful and “accepts full responsibility for his actions.”

Rakuten eyeing entry into Japan's mobile carrier market: source

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese online retailer Rakuten Inc plans to join a government auction for wireless spectrum to be held in January, potentially becoming the country’s fourth major wireless carrier, a source briefed on the matter said on Thursday.

A woman pushing a pram walks in front of a Rakuten Cafe store at a shopping district in Tokyo August 4, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

The source declined to be identified because the talks are private.

Japan’s mobile carrier market is currently dominated by NTT Docomo Inc, KDDI Corp and SoftBank Group.

The Nikkei business daily, which reported on the plan on Thursday, said Rakuten would raise 600 billion yen ($5.3 billion) by 2025 to invest in base stations and other infrastructure.

Rakuten said in a statement that while it was true it is weighing entry into the mobile carrier market, media reports on the matter were not something announced by the company.

Rakuten shares were down 1.7 percent in early trade. The benchmark Nikkei average was flat.

($1 = 112.6300 yen)

Reporting by Yoshiyasu Shida and Thomas Wilson; Writing by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Stephen Coates

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Ex-Trump aide Carter Page tells court to stop AT&T Time Warner deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page argued in court papers on Tuesday that AT&T Inc (T.N) should not be permitted to buy CNN parent Time Warner Inc (TWX.N) because there was a risk it would lead to “recklessness” in journalism.

FILE PHOTO – One-time advisor of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump Carter Page addresses the audience during a presentation in Moscow, Russia, December 12, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Page, whose contacts with Russia have been under scrutiny by Congress and a special counsel, made his argument in a friend-of-the-court brief that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has yet to accept.

Trump criticized the deal on the campaign trail last year and has repeatedly attacked the reporting of Time Warner’s CNN news network.

Page said in an interview with Reuters that he had not been in contact with the White House about the filing.

The U.S. Department of Justice sued AT&T in November to block its $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner, saying the deal could raise prices for rivals and pay-TV subscribers while hampering the development of online video. A trial is set for March 19.

FILE PHOTO – The AT&T logo is pictured during the Forbes Forum 2017 in Mexico City, Mexico, September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Both AT&T and the Justice Department declined to comment.

“This market power concentrated in the hands of a few dominant mega corporate telecommunications-media conglomerates encourages extreme levels of journalistic recklessness and impropriety since it allocates considerable resources to the media outlets under their control,” Page said in the court papers.

Page, who traveled to Russia twice in 2016, has testified to congressional committees investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In that testimony and elsewhere, he has argued that he has been the subject of unfair and inaccurate media coverage.

As an example of what he said was media abuse, Page criticized Yahoo, which is owned by Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N), for publishing what he called a “highly misleading” story in September 2016 regarding U.S. intelligence officials probing Trump’s ties to Russia.

Page, who described himself as a “junior, unpaid, informal adviser” to the Trump campaign, also argued that it would provide an incentive for the big media outlets to exclude viewpoints it does not like.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.