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Amazon Web Services (AWS) said there were “clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias” in the U.S. defence department’s evaluation process for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, and said procurement should be “free from political influence.” Microsoft won the contract in October. (The Wall Street Journal, New York Times)

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Talking point: The procurement has already been reviewed—and that’s part of the problem. In July, U.S. President Donald Trump publicly called for an internal Pentagon investigation, suggesting the process was unfair—but skewed in Amazon’s favour. He claimed he’d received “tremendous complaints” about the contract from unnamed people “saying it wasn’t competitively bid.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper dismissed Amazon’s bias claim on Friday. But Trump’s criticisms of Amazon and CEO Jeff Bezos made it difficult for the defence department to be objective, AWS CEO Andy Jassy told employees this week, saying the company’s cloud technology was two years ahead of Microsoft’s.

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Amazon paid government relations professionals US$12.4 million over the first nine months of 2019—a 16 per cent increase compared to the same period last year—followed closely by Facebook, at US$12.3 million (up almost 25 per cent). Google has spent US$9.8 million, Microsoft US$7.8 million and Apple US$5.5 million. Amazon, Facebook and Apple are all on track for record years of spending on lobbying. (Wall Street Journal)

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Talking point: The push comes as the U.S. Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the House Judiciary Committee are investigating Big Tech. But the companies are also increasing their government contacts as they bid for lucrative federal contracts. On Friday, the Pentagon picked Microsoft over Amazon for a decade-long deal worth up to US$10 billion to build a military cloud-computing system. The companies have also significantly upped their presence in Ottawa under the Liberals, with a major focus on government procurement. About a fifth of tech giants’ communications with officials over the last four years were on the subject, as the federal government increased its use of technology to deliver services to citizens.

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The Free & Fair Markets Initiative (FFMI), a non-profit, has criticized the e-commerce giant over its working conditions, data-safety practices and receipt of government subsidies in tweets and videos as well as op-eds in large newspapers like The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Houston Chronicle. FFMI declined to reveal its funders. Simon, which has 200 malls in the U.S., declined to comment. Oracle confirmed that it had supported FFMI financially. Walmart said it does not, but sources said it funds the group through an intermediary. (Wall Street Journal)

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Talking point: Astroturfing—lobbying efforts designed to look like grassroots advocacy, but driven by large companies with vested interests—typically focuses on influencing major policy decisions that affect a sector as a whole. Such campaigns normally do not target a single company, making FFMI’s effort a sign of what a threat Amazon has become to its competitors in different sectors. The group has achieved some of its aims. FFMI’s backers reportedly want policymakers to target the tech company with antitrust actions, and in Oracle’s case, to stop it from winning a US$10-billion defence contract. Several U.S. regulators have since launched investigations into the company’s anti-competitive practices, and the government has put the procurement on hold.