Jan 26, 2018

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

If you were wondering what I brought you back from Germany, the answer is a cold. The good news is e-newsletters aren't contagious. (I think.)

You might want to drink extra fluids just in case.

Facebook, Google and Twitter turn in their homework to Congress

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Guillermo Gutierrez/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The big internet platforms all turned in written answers to questions from Congress, which is investigating the role the social platforms have played in election interference.

The big takeaway: There's a reason written answers are not ideal. As BuzzFeed's Alex Kantrowitz noted, there was "a lot of boilerplate" in the companies' responses.

Case-in-point: Here's Facebook's "answer" to a question on whether it believes its platform was used to affect last year's elections, including gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia:

"We have learned from the 2016 election cycle and from elections worldwide this last year. We have incorporated that learning into our automated systems and human review and have greatly improved in preparation for the upcoming elections. We hope to continue learning and improving through increased industry cooperation and dialogue with law enforcement moving forward."

Other key points:

  • Russia's 2016 election disinformation campaign included organizing more than 100 different real-world events. Some 62,500 people said they were planning to attend the events. (Facebook says it has no way of knowing which, if any, of the events actually took place.)
  • Twitter says it's getting better at deleting postings from fake accounts, but reiterates it doesn't want to start taking down those that are merely controversial.

Another take: Vanity Fair's Nick Bilton has a piece out this week suggesting Facebook isn't only worried about the hit to its reputation. He says there's a real business concern that people will use the service less or delete apps from their phone.

Go deeper: Read the full responses to the committee from Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Will different AI machines share the same values?

Ina Fried (on left), Alexander Del Toro Barba (center) and Jürgen Schmidhuber at DLD 2018. Photo: Dominik Gigler for DLD

As part of DLD, I moderated a panel on the subject of whether or not AI will ever gain consciousness and emotion — a fascinating question in and of itself. But the part of the discussion that has stuck with me was a conversation we got into at the end over values.

The big question:

"Will there be AI with ethic views of the Vatican, ones with Chinese and some with Islamic worldviews? ... Will a machine one day question its values, that were programmed into it?"
— VisualVest product head Alexander Del Toro Barba

In response, AI pioneer Jürgen Schmidhuber made the case that AI will necessarily settle on one set of values, even if those aren't the values of its creator.

"I don't believe in these country or company dominated values"
— Schmidhuber

China's dilemma: Schmidhuber said even China will have to give its AI freedom if it really wants to lead. "If you want to build a smart machine you’d better give it the freedom to invent it’s own problems," he said.

Watch more: You can see the full session here.

Music industry fight could settle before the Grammys
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Illustration: Caresse Haaser, Rebecca Zisser / Axios 

The music industry may be close to an agreement on how to pay musicians fairly for their work — just in time for Sunday's Grammys, Axios' Sara Fisher reports.

Today: Members of Congress will hold a hearing Friday in New York City to discuss a bipartisan bill to rewrite music licensing and copyright laws, featuring testimony from celebrity artists like Aloe Blacc and Booker T. Jones.

Why it matters: It's unusual that musicians, record labels, and streamers would compromise on something this big. For the first time in over a decade, an overhaul of the copyright laws — and the opportunity to put more money in artists' pockets — has a chance to pass in Congress due to unprecedented support from stakeholders across the industry.

Read Sara's full story here.

The takeaway from Intel earnings

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich speaking at CES 2018. Photo: Intel

Intel blasted past quarterly earnings and sales estimates on Thursday and reiterated its stance that it doesn't see a financial impact from the massive vulnerabilities affecting it and others in the chip industry.

The bottom line: The PC market remains in decline, but Intel has harnessed its strong data center business to generate record results.

No meltdown over flaws: Intel got some headlines for 2 comments on the big chip flaw, but both are things that we and others have reported.

  • It doesn't see the issue hurting its financial results. While it said this initially, it's good news for shareholders that the company continues to see this as the case.
  • The first Intel chips with hardware-based protections against the flaws should hit the market later this year. (Intel has said it doesn't expect those chips to have a performance hit from the fixes.)
Take Note

On Tap

  • The World Economic Forum annual meeting wraps up in Davos, and you still aren't there. (Except for a bunch of you, who actually are. Don't forget your gloves, it's cold out there.)

Trading Places

  • Liza Landsman, who had been president of Jet.com, is leaving the Walmart-owned e-commerce unit. That's just 18 months after Walmart acquired Jet and a year after she was named president, per Recode.
  • Molly Graham, the top operations executive at the philanthropic venture Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, is leaving her post. She's the third top official to leave CZI in the past year.
  • Departing American Express CEO Ken Chenault is joining the board of Airbnb as its first independent director (and a clear step towards readying itself for an IPO). Also, Recode reports that Airbnb reached cash-flow profitability last year, generating $100 million in cash.
  • The Democratic National Committee hired Bob Lord, the former Yahoo Chief Information Security Officer who helped that company in the wake of a massive privacy breach, Wired writes.


  • Walmart is teaming up with Japanese tech conglomerate Rakuten to launch an online grocery delivery service in Japan. Walmart will also sell e-books, audiobooks and e-readers from Rakuten's Kobo subsidiary in its U.S. stores and online.
  • Former Lyft employees say that some company workers were spying on the accounts of prominent users and ex-partners. (Maybe Uber should have patented that move.) Lyft told TechCrunch such action would be against its policies and that it's launching an investigation.
  • The Federal Trade Commission may at long last have its full complement of commissioners, with President Trump having put forth a slate of nominees to fill its vacancies. For the president's first year in office, the commission had just two members, one from each party.
  • Dell Technologies may consider a return to the public market at an upcoming board meeting, Bloomberg reported last night.
  • Snowflake, the data warehousing company run by former Microsoft executive Bob Muglia, has raised another $263 million.
  • China has joined the U.S. and Russia as a top competitor in the space race. Check out Axios' interactive look at the government, military, commercial and civil satellites each contender has launched.
After you Login

Forget self-parking cars. Nissan has created self-parking slippers.

Ina Fried