Jun 4, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🇬🇧 Top of the morning! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,149 words ... < 5 minutes!

  • Situational awareness: Joe Biden has released his 2020 climate plan, which vows to go "well beyond" President Obama's policies.

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1 big thing: 2020 campaigns aren't ready for deepfakes

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The 2020 presidential campaigns appear to have done little to prepare for what experts predict could be a flood of fake videos depicting candidates doing or saying something incriminating or embarrassing, Axios emerging technologies reporter Kaveh Waddell writes from the Bay Area.

  • Why it matters: The recent manipulated video of Speaker Pelosi was just a taste of what could lie ahead. Fake video has the potential to sow huge political chaos, and countering it is wildly difficult. And right now, no one can agree who's responsible for doing so.

Axios contacted all 24 Democratic presidential campaigns, plus the Trump campaign and Republican challenger Bill Weld.

  • Nine Democratic campaigns and the Trump campaign responded. None could point to any specific protective steps they had taken against deepfakes.

What's happening: A whole lot of buck-passing.

  • Several Democratic campaigns said they rely on the DNC for help protecting against disinformation.
  • But the DNC says that job is ultimately the responsibility of campaigns. It does send campaigns a regular email with tips and pointers on dealing with misinformation — the only concrete step we found in our reporting.
  • The RNC says it doesn't usually work with campaigns on cybersecurity.
  • A Trump campaign official said the campaign "maintains constant vigilance, since the media and others online routinely distort the president’s remarks."

A few campaigns had other ideas about who should be responsible.

  • Julián Castro's campaign identified DHS and the FBI. Contacted by Axios, DHS pointed to the FBI, which said in a statement that it investigates all types of foreign threats.
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard told Axios in a statement that the media should play "a major role."
  • And one Democratic campaign aide said the responsibility rests with social media platforms: "There's only so much that a campaign can do."

Consultants who specialize in warding off misinformation are by and large unimpressed with campaigns' preparations for dealing with fake media.

  • "We've met with a bunch of them," one consultant told Axios. "We don't feel like they are serious about investing the resources required."
  • Experts say campaigns should have a rapid-response plan in place to deal with various kinds of manipulated media, cultivate close contacts with social media companies, and assiduously film their own candidates at every turn so that they can show when a clip has been altered.

The bottom line: Do-it-yourself deepfakes are within reach of anyone with some computer savvy and a decent laptop.

2. Tech's summer forecast: D.C. heat

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Aggressive U.S. antitrust action against Big Tech moved abruptly from speculation to reality in the past 72 hours, as both Congress and regulatory agencies ramped up investigations, Axios' David McCabe writes.

  • Why it matters: This one-two punch could result in the firms being broken up. Even if it doesn't, it could seriously distract the platforms from growing their businesses.
  • Microsoft learned that the hard way after its antitrust fight with Washington two decades ago.

What's new: The House Judiciary Committee said yesterday that it is launching a bipartisan investigation into whether Big Tech platforms are engaged in monopolistic practices.

  • A person familiar with the investigation said that, in addition to public hearings, the inquiry would include requesting documents from a wide range of companies.
  • That could allow the committee to receive information from small competitors of the tech giants who would otherwise be wary of testifying publicly.
  • "Given the growing tide of concentration and consolidation across our economy, it is vital that we investigate the current state of competition," House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).

Between the lines: The investigation could help lawmakers develop a factual record to shape legislation overhauling the nation's antitrust laws, which reformers say are inadequate for reining in corporate power as it exists today.

The announcement followed reporting that the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission split up investigations into anti-competitive behavior by tech giants:

  • DOJ got Apple and Google.
  • The FTC got Amazon and Facebook.

Our thought bubble: Once inquiries like this get started, they develop their own momentum. These companies likely face years of entanglement.

Screenshot via Drudge Report
3. A record for the economy — and what could go wrong

The Wall Street Journal's Jon Hilsenrath, who returned to reporting as a senior correspondent in April after two years as economics editor, writes that the U.S. expansion reaches its 10-year mark this month.

  • Next month, it "will become the nation’s longest on record — eclipsing the decade-long expansion of the 1990s."
  • Key stat: "More than 20 million jobs have been created so far in the expansion that started in mid-2009, and the net worth of American households ... has increased by $47 trillion."

So what could go wrong? "[T]rade wars, interest-rate mistakes and the ballooning budget deficit."

4. Pics du jour: Trumps in London
Photo: Victoria Jones/Pool via AP

Sorry, Twitter: The shot above, from a welcome ceremony in the Buckingham Palace garden, is actually a clasp — not a first bump.

Below, President Trump, Queen Elizabeth II, First Lady Melania Trump, Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, attend a state banquet at Buckingham Palace.

Photo: Jeff Gilbert/Pool via Getty Images

Below: The Trumps signed a visitors book after touring Westminster Abbey.

Photo: Stefan Rousseau/Pool via AP

See 12 more photos on one page.

5. Who is paying attention?

37 migrant children, ages 5 to 12, were left in vans overnight as they waited to be reunited with families at Port Isabel Detention Center, Texas, last July. (NBC)

6. A surprise for Mayor Pete
Mayor Pete last night (left) and in 2003. Screenshot via MSNBC

On "Hardball" last night, Chris Matthews surprised Pete Buttigieg, 37, with a clip of his 21-year-old self, asking Rep. Dick Gephardt a question about young voters and Rock the Vote, during a Hardball College Tour at Harvard in 2003.

  • Chris quipped: "You haven't aged a year. Look at this guy!"

Gephardt then made a surprise appearance live from Santa Rosa, Calif., and asked Mayor Pete a softball about democracy.

7. Dire warning to Republicans

David Brooks — in a column subtly headlined "The Coming G.O.P. Apocalypse" — warns Republicans that "young adults hate them":

[I]t’s hard to look at the generational data and not see long-term disaster for Republicans.
Some people think generations get more conservative as they age, but that is not borne out by the evidence. ...
Seventy-nine percent of millennials think immigration is good for America. Sixty-one percent think racial diversity is good for America.
8. Coming to Apple Watch
Apple CEO Tim Cook yesterday. Photo: Jeff Chiu/AP

As part of Apple's effort to diversify beyond the iPhone, a host of changes are coming to the Apple Watch, Axios' Ina Fried reports:

  • Apple is bringing the App Store to the watch; previously apps had to be installed using an iPhone.
  • New health features will let you track menstrual cycles (also coming to iPhone) and monitor environmental noise levels.
9. Kids cringe at parents' posts

Gen Zers "are now old enough to have their own ideas about what they want their online presence to look like, and who has the right to define it," writes the Washington Post's Caitlin Gibson.

  • Many "have begun asking questions and expressing opinions when their parents decide to share a photo or personal anecdote on social media."
  • "If you made a joke that your dad shared on Twitter, will a college-admissions officer think it’s funny? If a potential employer Googles your name, would they find pictures of you and your sister in bathing suits at the beach?"
10. 1 fun thing
Stephen Colbert does his Steven Mnuchin impression last night. Screenshot via CBS

Stephen Colbert to N.Y. Times Magazine "Talk" columnist David Marchese:

By the spring of 2016, we had figured out how I want to do a monologue: We never do setup, punch, setup, punch. Instead, it’s always, I’m going to tell back to you what happened today. ... It’s a transformation of the poison into something entertaining. ...
Trump consumes the news cycle, and our mandate, as we’ve established for ourselves, is that I want to inform the audience of my opinion about what they’ve been thinking about all day.

Keep reading.

Mike Allen

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