Sep 8, 2017

2016's rising Facebook factor

Thibault Camus / AP

The N.Y. Times leads with an investigation by Scott Shane into "The Fake Americans Russia Created to Influence the Election":

  • "The Russian information attack on the election did not stop with the hacking and leaking of Democratic emails ... Far less splashy ... was Russia's experimentation on Facebook and Twitter."
  • "On Twitter, as on Facebook, Russian fingerprints are on hundreds or thousands of fake accounts that regularly posted anti-Clinton messages. Many were automated Twitter accounts, called bots, that sometimes fired off identical messages seconds apart."
  • Why it matters: "The fakery may have added only modestly to the din of genuine American voices in the pre-election melee, but it helped fuel a fire of anger and suspicion in a polarized country."

Taking in this week's new revelations, WashPost media columnistMargaret Sullivan writes on the Style front that "there's increasing reason to believe" that Facebook made Trump president:

  • "[F]or all its power and wealth, Facebook is a terribly opaque enterprise. (It recently hired former New York Times public editor Liz Spayd, a former Post managing editor [and, like Sullivan, a former N.Y. Times public editor], to help with 'transparency.'")
  • "Facebook ... has never acknowledged the glaringly obvious — that it is essentially a media company, where many of its 2 billion active monthly users get the majority of their news and information."
  • "Would Donald Trump be president today if Facebook didn't exist? Although there is a long list of reasons for his win, there's increasing reason to believe the answer is no."

Be smart: In an Oval Office interview with the Financial Times 70 days into his presidency, Trump said: "Without the tweets, I wouldn't be here." Trump's authentic, direct communication with voters is the sunny side of his social-media lift. This week's revelations uncover a darker side, with the potential that a vast swath of Americans were unwittingly manipulated.

Be even smarter: We can't stress enough how much public and political opinion is shifting against the darlings of Silicon Valley. Watch for intensifying calls for new regulations on Facebook and others.

Go deeper

China tries to contain coronavirus, as Apple warns of earnings impact

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's NHC; Note: China refers to mainland China and the Diamond Princess is the cruise ship offshore Yokohama, Japan. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

As China pushes to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus — placing around 780 million people under travel restrictions, per CNN — the economic repercussions continue to be felt globally as companies like Apple warn of the impact from the lack of manufacturing and consumer demand in China.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 1,775 people and infected more than 70,000 others, mostly in mainland China. There are some signs that new cases are growing at a slower rate now, although the World Health Organization said Monday it's "too early to tell" if this will continue.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

Apple will miss quarterly earnings estimates due to coronavirus

Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple issued a rare earnings warning on Monday, saying it would not meet quarterly revenue expectations due to the impact of the coronavirus, which will limit iPhone production and limit product demand in China.

Why it matters: Lots of companies rely on China for production, but unlike most U.S. tech companies, Apple also gets a significant chunk of its revenue from sales in China.

America's dwindling executions

The Trump administration wants to reboot federal executions, pointing to a 16-year lapse, but Pew Research reports the government has only executed three people since 1963.

The big picture: Nearly all executions in the U.S. are done by states. Even those have been steadily dropping for two decades, per the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) — marking a downward trend for all executions in the country.