Updated Jul 19, 2018

The big picture: Entire countries are in the “fake news” game

Sisi is watching, in Cairo. Photo: Amar Makar/AFP/Getty Images

A law passed by Egypt's parliament this week means that anyone with more than 5,000 social media followers will be treated like a media company under the country’s strict media laws, which make it a crime to engage in vaguely defined bad behavior, like inciting law-breaking or publishing false information.

Why it matters: What the Egyptian government portrays as a strike against fake news, critics see a further muzzling of speech in a country that routinely jails journalists and scores near the bottom of global press freedom rankings. And there’s a broader trend at work here: governments around the world are attempting to control the flow of subversive information (however they define it) through their societies.

Many countries, including Egypt, have adopted a technocratic approach to information control: by passing laws (and in China’s case, implementing sophisticated censorship systems) that regulate online speech, governments can not only clamp down on specific threats, they create a broader chilling effect that encourages self-censorship.

Then there’s the blunt-force option: disconnecting the internet to stop rumors and protests from spreading.

  • Shutoffs have serious downsides: for one, they’re expensive, since many people now depend on the internet for their livelihoods.
  • But they are a popular tool across parts of Africa, where English speaking regions of Cameroon were cut off from internet for much of last year, as well as in India, where authorities have pulled the plug more than 170 times since 2012, most often in anticipation of public unrest in specific regions of the country.

Finally, there is Russia’s favored approach: undermine trust in information by pushing out so much disinformation that people don’t know what to believe.

  • It’s a slow-burn strategy that’s been supercharged by the rise of social media and is now being weaponized and exported to the West.
  • So far, the U.S. and U.K. have resisted passing new laws aimed at stamping out fake news, but Germany, which has a history of censoring hate speech, has adopted the technocratic approach. Last year, it passed a law that threatens websites that fail to quickly delete material that contains incitements to hatred or crime, slander, or other verboten content or face stiff fines.

What to watch: If fake news rocks the 2018 U.S. midterms, more democracies may decide they have no choice but to follow Germany’s lead.

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World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Countries where novel coronavirus cases are falling may be hit with a "second peak" if they relax restrictions too soon, World Health Organization emergencies chief Mike Ryan warned during a briefing Monday. "We're still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up," he added.

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.6 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,900 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,498,849 — Total deaths: 346,306 — Total recoveries — 2,233,180Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,662,768 — Total deaths: 98,223 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 56 mins ago - Politics & Policy

LATAM Airlines files for U.S. chapter 11 bankruptcy

A LATAM air attendant aboard one of the company's planes in March. Photo: Kike Calvo/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

LATAM Airlines Group SA said in a statement early Tuesday the firm and its affiliates in in the United States, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.

Why it matters: Latam is Latin America's largest airline and its shareholders include Delta Air Lines. CEO Roberto Alvo noted in the statement the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the airline industry.