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Regulation December 23, 2022

Am I Eligible For a Fortnite Refund?



Am I Eligible For a Fortnite Refund?

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has slapped Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, with $520 million in fines.

Part of the money will now be used to reimburse gamers and their parents with a Fortnite refund. 

Epic Games to pay epic price

Epic Games have been slapped with not one, but two mammoth fines from the FTC totaling over half a billion dollars.

The first fine of $275 million is for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). A second fine of $245 million is to refund customers for the use of so-called “dark patterns” which tricked young children and teenagers into unintentionally making purchases within the game.

Both are record-breaking penalties.

FTC Chair Lina M. Khan explained why the government body had taken such a dim view of Epic Games and their practices.

“As our complaints note, Epic used privacy-invasive default settings and deceptive interfaces that tricked Fortnite users, including teenagers and children,” said Khan.

“Protecting the public, and especially children, from online privacy invasions and dark patterns is a top priority for the Commission, and these enforcement actions make clear to businesses that the FTC is cracking down on these unlawful practices.”

Fortnite is generally free to download and play, but makes its money through in-game items and purchases. With over 400 million users using the game, there is a huge market for those sales. 

A string of violations

The FTC state that Epic Games made numerous violations, and failed in their duty to protect children.

One of the most egregious examples is that Epic Games Failed to notify parents or obtain their consent before collecting the personal information of young children. When asked by parents to delete this data the company asked guardians to “jump through unreasonable hoops” and even then did not always comply with such requests.

Epic Games is also said to have put young children and teens in harm’s way with lax security settings. These allowed text and voice communications by default, putting children at higher risk of being bullied, threatened, or harassed. In some situations, children may have even been exposed to “psychologically traumatizing issues.”

The commission has now placed Epic Games on notice and has demanded a string of changes to the platform and its safety procedures. These will be subject to independent audit forward.

Am I eligible for a Fortnite refund?

If you are a parent or guardian who has been affected by Epic Games and Fornite then you could be eligible for a refund.

To receive a refund you must first be a citizen of the United States.

You will be eligible if you are a U.S. citizen who also meets one of the following criteria:

-Your child made an unauthorized credit card purchase in the Epic Games store between January 2017 and November 2018.

-You are a Fortnite player who was charged in-game V-Bucks for unwanted game items between January 2017 and September 2022.

-You are a Fornite player whose account was locked between January 2017 and September 2022 after disputing unauthorized charges.

As for receiving the refund, that stage has not yet arrived. Anyone who wishes to be kept up to date on the progress of proceedings can join the FTC mailing list here.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney.


Meta Reportedly Defeats FTC to Receive Court Approval to Acquire Within



Meta Reportedly Defeats FTC to Receive Court Approval to Acquire Within

Meta, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, has reportedly won court approval for the acquisition of VR fitness app Supernatural’s maker, Within, after the Federal Trade Commission attempted to block the deal.

Also read: Lawsuit Filed Against Meta, Snap, TikTok for Mental Health Crisis

A US district judge, Edward Davila in San Jose California, “denied the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the proposed transaction” in a sealed decision on Wednesday, reported Bloomberg, citing a source familiar with the ruling.

Meta’s plan was to acquire Within and Supernatural back in October 2021, but it was blocked by the FTC’s complaint file to stop the deal. The FTC’s complaint was justified by saying Meta already owns a “virtual reality empire.”

Following the news, shares of Meta were slightly positive on Wednesday afternoon.

Facebook and The FTC also declined to comment with Bloomberg’s query citing the sealed nature of Davila’s decisions.

Push for Metaverse

The reported victory in this case may boost Mark Zuckerberg’s push towards the Metaverse. Zuckerberg’s Meta Quest 2 is arguably the best VR headset, even after a massive hike in its price last year.

Meta Quest Pro for $1500 and Meta Quest 3 are also in the company’s VR line-up, which has already developed VR spaces for work and play.

The Supernatural, developed by Within, was one of the first subscription-based services on the original Meta Quest.

Supernatural, a fitness app that features video instructors and motion-tracked workout routines, carries similarities to Meta’s successful fitness VR music game Beat Saber. Beat Saber was also acquired by Meta in 2019.

 Meta’s Dominance

A trial before the FTC’s administrative judge will start on Feb. 13. The FTC will also decide if it will continue with the case. Lina Khan, the chair of the FTC, was appointed by US President Joe Biden to bolster antitrust enforcement as a key principle of his administration’s economic policy. Hence, if this order stands, this loss to Meta will be a significant setback for Khan.

The FTC sued Meta back in July, arguing this acquisition would expand its dominance in the consumer VR market, highlighting its purchase of Beat Saber three years ago. The agency even emphasized that the addition of Within would even eliminate a “beneficial rivalry” between the two companies.

At the time, “the case was) based on ideology and speculation, not evidence, the idea that this acquisition would lead to anticompetitive outcomes in a dynamic space with as much entry and growth as online and connected fitness is simply not credible,” said a Meta spokesperson in a statement.

It’s still to be decided whether this will be the end of this story or not, as the FTC has declined to comment.

“Out of respect for the court’s orders, the FTC is not in a position to comment at this time,” FTC director of public affairs Douglas Farrar told The Verge.

Within would be the third start-up acquired by social media giants over the last decade if this case ends here and Meta purchases one more VR start-up. Previously, Meta acquired Oculus in 2014 before purchasing Beat Saber in 2019.



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Elon Wants A Twitter For Everything, Pushes The Payments Button



Elon Wants A Twitter For Everything, Pushes The Payments Button

Elon Musk is forging ahead with plans to turn Twitter into a payment platform and compete with Apple Pay and PayPal with the company reported to have started the licensing processes in the US.

Payments could be another way for Twitter to generate revenue, by enabling transactions between users, from which it would then take a small percentage.

However, the process is expected to take long, to get regulatory approvals.

Also read: Hiroshima Adopts Metaverse in Education

The social media platform company is hoping to complete the licensing process in the US within a year. Thereafter, Twitter will likely try getting regulatory approvals needed to expand internationally.

According to the Financial Times report which cites people close to the company’s plans, Musk wants users to be able to purchase stuff on Twitter as well as send money to each other.

The system, according to the report, will be based on fiat, although crypto functionality might be added at a later stage.

Already, Twitter is working on a system that allows users to award creators. These new features will need the company to satisfy regulatory checks, and the Financial Times says its already registered with the US Treasury as a payments processor. Furthermore, the company has also started applying for the necessary regulatory licenses in the US.

Is Elon Musk replicating WeChat?

According to a New York Times report, Musk told  Twitter investors that his goal was to see Twitter bring in about $1,3 billion in payment revenues by 2028.

His broader plans are for a more functional app, which would replicate the utility of China’s WeChat, which is used by Chinese for everything from ordering groceries, to buying public transport tickets and bill payments.

The platform has become an important element, that it formed a key part of China’s Covid 19 response. Authorities used the app as means to manage people who tested positive for the pandemic and restrict their movement.

Since he purchased the social media platform for $44 billion, Musk has wanted to bring payments to Twitter, even before he owned the company, returning to the firebrand entrepreneur to payments industry where his story began. Ever since his October acquisition, a flurry of filings points to imminent plans to introduce embedded payments across service.

Payments could be the olive branch

Since his takeover, advertisers have been leaving the platform on concerns over content moderation and related issues.

Ad revenues have been in the range of $5 billion a year, but the platform was widely reported to have lost up to half its advertising commitments by November.

NPR wrote that “Chevrolet, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., Ford, Jeep, Kyndryl, Merck & Co. and Novartis AG all issued statements about halting Twitter ads or were reported and confirmed as doing so,” adding their names to a longer list of advertiser defections.

Andrew Hutchinson, a content and social media manager writes that the plan could give Twitter the much needed revenue boost.

After Musk implemented cost-cutting measures that resulted in a 70% reduction in Twitter staff, the company could be on track to potentially break even this year or close. Hutchinson however says a lot has to go right to get the platform back on track.

“And with advertisers continuing to back away from Twitter spend, it’s not looking good, while subscriptions to Twitter Blue are unlikely to provide much relief, at least at this stage,” said Hutchinson.

“As such, the shift into payments can’t come fast enough, though it’ll still be some time before we see the possibility of in-app payments,” Hutchinson added.

Musk is an early platform payments innovator who formed the online bank in 1999, which, through a sequence of events, became the first version of PayPal in 2001.

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Twitter Users Can Appeal Account Suspensions From Feb 1



Twitter Users Can Appeal Account Suspensions From Feb 1

Microblogging platform Twitter users can appeal their account suspensions starting Feb. 1, using the company’s new reinstatement criteria. The social media giant on Friday said that from February 1 and onwards users will be able to appeal account suspensions and be evaluated under its new criteria for reinstatement, Reuters reported.

Also read:Twitter Q4 Revenue Tumbles 35% as 500 Advertisers Suspend Spending

However, the accounts will only be suspended for severe or repeat violations of the platform’s policy. The company’s new reinstatement criteria were announced following Elon Musk’s takeover in October.

“As we shared earlier, we have been proactively reinstating previously suspended accounts. Starting February 1, anyone can appeal an account suspension and be evaluated under our new criteria for reinstatement,” said Twitter.

The platform even said that it would take less severe action than suspending accounts, such as limiting the reach of tweets or asking users to remove tweets that violate policies.

Musk took over Twitter after paying $44 billion in October and tweeted “the bird is freed” immediately.

Since becoming the head of the company, Musk has frequently made controversial statements on social media, particularly targeting individuals with centre-to-left political views, whom he frequently characterizes as possessing a “woke mind virus.”

Not Reinstating All Accounts

The platform has made it clear that accounts involved in illegal activity, harm, violence, or similar will not be reinstated.

“We did not reinstate accounts that engaged in illegal activity, threats of harm or violence, large-scale spam and platform manipulation, or when there was no recent appeal to have the account reinstated,” said Twitter.

In December 2022, Twitter took down the accounts of several tech journalists who reported on Twitter’s suspension of a handle that shared publicly available data on Elon Musk’s flight movement, according to the Guardian. Twitter later reinstated the accounts.

Twitter stated that there would be warnings before taking severe action to ban such accounts. According to a recent tweet, users who violate policy will be warned to remove their Tweets, and account suspensions will be reserved for serious or ongoing, repeat policy violations.

The conversation began in December last year when the Twitter Safety account tweeted that they had identified several policies “where permanent suspension was a disproportionate action for breaking Twitter rules.”

People Appreciating the Effort

Some users are appreciating Twitter’s efforts to make it a better place for all sides.

“We appreciate the effort and making the place better for all sides,” tweeted, Raiya Safaia.

“Whoever at twitter looked at my appeal and let me out of twitter jail early last night so I could pay my bills?” another user tweeted.

Over 368 million monthly active users worldwide were part of Twitter’s audience as of December 2022, according to a Statista report.

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