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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

Journalism enters dangerous new era

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Capitol attack on Jan. 6 resulted in at least nine physical assaults against journalists and at least five arrests, per the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker's top editor.

Why it matters: President Trump's harsh rhetoric towards the press has empowered leaders abroad and locally in the U.S. to continue to attack press that they don't like.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The beginning of the beginning for Biden's climate push

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Joe Biden's inauguration and the days right after will bring a rat-tat-tat burst of climate policy moves, but keep this in mind amid the splashy pledges: pushing through most of his agenda will be a long, uncertain slog.

Why it matters: Biden's climate plan is far more expansive than anything contemplated under President Obama. But for all the immediate pledges, it will take years to see how far Biden gets.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Biden's inflation danger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President-elect Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal has economists and bullish market analysts revising their U.S. growth expectations higher, predicting a reflation of the economy in 2021 and possibly more booming returns for risk assets.

Yes, but: Others are warning that what's expected to be reflation could actually show up as inflation, a much less welcome phenomenon.