Speaking at SXSW on Friday, Facebook director of product Alex Hardiman said that a change in News Feed ranking wouldn't be enough to entirely decimate an outlet's traffic.

When we look at the publishers who aren't doing well, most likely it's because they're abusing the system in some ways. The content could be sensationalist, it could be misleading in certain ways.
— Alex Hardiman

Why it matters: Media companies routinely criticize Facebook for carelessly wielding its enormous power over their distribution and ability to reach readers. Just in the last two weeks, two websites announced they'll be shutting down following Facebook's decision to tweak its News Feed to emphasize news less.

"Shouldn't we be having a conversation about Facebook paying for the quality journalism that’s out there," CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter pushed back about the company's relationship with news outlets.

Still: "I think for us, we historically didn't distinguish between diff types of news,” conceded Hardiman of Facebook's longstanding approach of rewarding "viral" articles that garnered a lot of comments and clicks, even if they were not credible.

The reporters on the panel also had some compliments for Facebook:

  • "They’ve done a good job at creating products that serve consumers well," said Axios media trends reporter Sara Fischer of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Stelter praised the new ability to simultaneously block a Facebook user when deleting their abusive comments, along with the new tag for unverified news articles.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 19,705,715 — Total deaths: 727,984 — Total recoveries — 11,963,915Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,022,187 — Total deaths: 162,696 — Total recoveries: 1,643,118 — Total tests: 61,080,587Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says states don't have the funds to comply with Trump's executive order on employment — Mnuchin says Trump executive orders were cleared by Justice Department.
  4. Public health: Ex-FDA head: U.S. will "definitely" see 200,000 to 300,000 virus deaths by end of 2020 — Fauci says chances are "not great" that COVID-19 vaccine will be 98% effective.
  5. Schools: Nine test positive at Georgia school where photo showing packed hallway went viral — How back-to-school is playing out in the South as coronavirus rages on.

Blumenthal calls classified briefing on Russian interference "absolutely chilling"

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D- Conn.) called on the Trump administration to declassify intelligence detailing Russian efforts to influence the 2020 elections, telling MSNBC on Sunday that the classified briefing lawmakers received about the Kremlin's activities last week was "absolutely chilling."

The big picture: National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina said in a statement Friday that the Russian government is "using a range of measures" to "denigrate" Joe Biden ahead of the election. China and Iran would prefer that Trump is defeated, according to Evanina.

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Ex-FDA head: U.S. will "definitely" see 200,000 to 300,000 virus deaths in 2020

Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" that the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. will be "definitely" somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 by the end of 2020.

Why it matters: "Whether we're closer to 200,000 or closer to 300,000 depends on what we do now and how it evolves," Gottlieb warned on Sunday as the U.S. surpassed five million confirmed coronavirus cases.