Apple app store investigation and Rio’s new Trap de Cria

in May 10th, 2021

Here's what we emailed out the week of May 10, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.

Isn’t it annoying when a rock is blocking your lawn mower? One Belgian farmer felt a similar annoyance when a large stone got in the way of his tractor, so he shifted the rock 7.5 feet over and continued on — not realizing it was a marker for the border with France, accidentally moving the border and making Belgium slightly larger and France slightly smaller. Given these stones were placed in 1819, let’s just say French officials weren’t too happy with it.


The world is not happy with Apple’s app store practices  

Fri Apr 30

If you want to download an app on your iPhone, you have to go through the Apple app store. But is that good? A number of countries don’t think so, saying it hurts both consumers (by excluding cheaper alternatives) and app developers (who are forced to play by Apple’s rules). The EU’s European Commission has now issued a Statement of Objections, a formal step that continues an investigation of Apple’s practices two years after Spotify issued a complaint.

If Apple is proven to be in violation of EU antitrust laws, they’d be fined up to 10% of their annual revenue. These antitrust concerns are also shared by the U.S., U.K., and Australia:

  • First, the Apple app store has strict, costly rules. They require developers to use Apple Pay, which cuts 30% to Apple in the first year and 15% thereafter. Spotify argues the hefty commissions forced them to increase subscription costs for users while Apple Music bears none of these costs. Epic Games (creators of Fortnite) also sued Apple for banning them from the store after they attempted to bypass Apple Pay.
  • Second, that app store is also the only way iPhone users can get apps, which deprives them of potentially cheaper alternatives. Apple also makes it hard for apps to let users know they can buy subscriptions outside of the app store.
  • And finally, Apple can see the performance of all apps hosted in their store, allowing them to recreate top performers and pre-install their own versions on iPhones — a tactic for which Amazon has been criticized. In 2019, Elizabeth Warren even proposed that Apple shouldn’t be allowed to both run an app store and distribute its own apps in it.

In parallel with the EU investigation, Apple has faced scrutiny around the world. Australia has warned of possible regulation to address Apple’s market power. The U.K. launched their own investigation in March and several U.S. states are working on laws targeting Apple (and Google’s) app store fees and practices, though none have passed so far. 

Some additional resources...


Trap music, gang life, and police crimes in Rio

Mon May 3

Fake guns, borrowed cars, and synthesized drums are all a part of Trap de Cria, a new kind of hip hop music that has Brazil concerned. Why? Let’s start with the history of Rio de Janeiro's favelas: A favela is a low-income settlement in Brazil, and the favelas of Rio de Janeiro are among the most crime-ridden. Many residents there grew up around drug trafficking, gang control, and shootings. It’s this lifestyle that inspired the start of Trap de Cria, or “homegrown trap" in an area battling with one of the deadliest law enforcement units in Brazil. 

In 2019, Rio police killed 1,546 people during police operations (the highest number since 1998), with most taking place in favelas. And just last Thursday, a warlike police raid against a gang of drug traffickers killed 25 people, including one police officer. 

Back to music. While the rappers themselves are not gang members, Brazil believes their content idolizes gang life and glorifies it for children watching. Rio police have launched investigations into a number of the artists, a practice not foreign to the country.

  • A century ago, samba was persecuted for its association with former Black slaves, and musicians just playing the hand drum were arrested. One woman, referred to as Aunt Ciata, became the movement’s fearless leader as she hosted secret backyard samba performances while the entrance of her home served as a front by constantly playing police-approved music.
  • In the 1990s, it was funk and hip hop’s turn. “Rio Funk” grew in popularity as musicians entertained massive funk dances in the favelas. Quickly, authorities began cracking down on the dances saying gangs were becoming popular as a result. 

Some additional resources... 

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I had no political motives - it’s just how I roll!

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