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.
Politicians on the left and right are manipulating the news to bolster their election efforts with fake headlines, websites and articles.
Why it matters: Media manipulation has always been a part of the political playbook, but technology has enabled politicians to take the practice a step further by changing or mimicking real stories and news outlets to mislead voters.
Speaking at a joint press conference Friday, President Trump insisted that he did not criticize British Prime Minister Theresa May in his interview with The Sun and accused the British tabloid of being "fake news," despite the interview being on tape.
"“I didn’t criticize the prime minister. I have a lot of respect for the prime minister and unfortunately there was a story that was done which was generally fine, but it didn’t put in what I said about the prime minister... And I said tremendous things... they didn't put it in the headline, I wish they put that in the headline. And she's a total professional, because when I saw her this morning, I said, 'I want to apologize, because I said such good things about you.' She said, 'Don't worry, it's only the press.'"— President Trump
Nearly all Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (92%) say that traditional news outlets knowingly report false or misleading stories at least sometimes, according to a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll. Democrats and non-leaning independents also feel this way, but not nearly to the same extent.
Why it matters: The data shows that trust in the media is heavily influenced by partisan politics, with Republicans more skeptical of mainstream media than their Democratic and independent counterparts. Other studies from Gallup and Pew Research Center have drawn similar conclusions.
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A quiet wager has taken hold among researchers who study AI techniques about whether someone will create a so-called Deepfake video about a political candidate that receives more than 2 million views before getting debunked by the end of 2018, writes Jeremy Tsu for IEEE Spectrum, a magazine edited by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
The bottom line: "It all comes down to when the technology may mature enough to digitally create fake but believable videos of politicians and celebrities saying or doing things that never actually happened in real life," Tsu writes.
President Trump reacted Wednesday morning to reports on the North Korean summit — which he considers "an interesting and very positive experience — saying the "Fake News" is trying to "downplay the deal."
Note: NBC is an investor in Axios and Andy Lack is a member of the Axios board.
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, continued his criticism of the media on Saturday, saying he was "stunned to see the level of contempt many in media have for their readers."
The big picture: As previously reported, Musk appears to have taken a cue from President Trump in his opposition of the media on Twitter. Axios' Steve Levine reported in December that Musk has a different persona online than he does in person — he "can seek to humiliate people who challenge him or, in his view, cast him in an adverse light." That kind of response is similar to what Trump has used Twitter for as well.
NewsGuard, a new service that uses trained journalists to rate thousands of news and information sites, will announce that it has launched a secure, encrypted digital and telephone hotline for political candidates and members of the public to report suspected fake news sites.
The big picture: Steven Brill, co-CEO of NewsGuard: “We’ve already seen one case of a candidate citing an endorsement from a bogus site that was created by supporters of that candidate. This is a particularly insidious variety of fake news, because it is aimed directly at unsuspecting voters.”
President Trump started his Sunday morning with a tweet calling The Washington Post "made up garbage" in response to a story the Post published on Saturday describing Chief of Staff John Kelly's frustrations in the West Wing.
The backdrop: Axios' Jonathan Swan kicked things off yesterday with his report that Kelly threatened to quit on March 28 after blowing up at the president in an Oval Office meeting.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's government approved a law banning the malicious spread of false news reporting on Monday, instituting penalties of up to six years in prison and $125,000, Reuters reports.
Why it matters: Fake news — the term used in the law — is an international concern after its starring role in the 2016 U.S. elections. This is an early post-2016 attempt to regulate a potential scourge.