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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

The hype around Russia's involvement in the elections and fake news is complicated.

The bottom line: Fake news is only going to get worse. Earlier this year, Axios outlined a number of ways fake news creators are becoming more creative in the face of efforts to stamp them out, often pivoting from circulating their own misleading stories to developing sophisticated techniques that manipulate real news.

Here are some truths around the topic:

  1. It's nearly impossible to sway an election with the amount of money we've so far uncovered from Russian spending. If there were no debates, hundreds of millions of other ad money not spent, no campaign visits etc., then perhaps the pool of money we've uncovered so far on Facebook, Twitter, Google etc. could sway opinions. But what we've uncovered thus far is way too small to have done this alone. (Mark Penn has a column about this in the WSJ.) However, Russian fake news spread by bots through organic posts could've had a much larger impact, and we're still uncovering details about those efforts.
  2. Fake news isn't illegal, but it can be weaponized: There's no law that says the spreading of false information is technically illegal. Internet libel laws are not very strong in the U.S. and the government only has jurisdiction over illegal content (like child pornography), which the FCC regulates, or clickbait scams, which the FTC regulates.
  3. The tech platforms mostly define fake news as financial hoaxes: Most tech platforms take action on content that leads to false commercialization or "hoaxes," things like diet pill scams or clickbait. A lot of fake news sites that are removed on Facebook are hoaxes, as Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg emphasized in her interviewwith Axios two weeks ago. Ryan Goodman and Justin Hendrix have a good list that shows the scale of Facebook's organic fake news problem.
  4. Fake news perpetrators have a lot of financial incentives to create fake news that has nothing to do with politics: Any content that caters to emotions is more likely to be engaged with, and thus is easier to monetize from an advertising perspective. BuzzFeed's recent piece about overseas content farms making money off fake content is a good example.
  5. This isn't just a Russia problem: A lot of cheap information and fake news is created in other countries and right here in the United States. While it's troubling that a foreign entity could've utilized tech platforms to illegally buy ads or produce fake content to sway our elections, the prevalence of false or misleading information being peddled by U.S. citizens or citizens around the world is also a problem. For example, The Daily Beast reported last night that a company owned by a man on Staten Island provided internet infrastructure services for a Kremlin propaganda and fake news site.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
2 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO sees making own chips as a matter of national security

Pat Gelsinger. Photo: Axios on HBO

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger is putting the pressure on the U.S. government to help subsidize chip manufacturing, insisting the current reliance on plants in Taiwan and Korea as "geopolitically unstable."

Why it matters: There is bipartisan support for funding the domestic semiconductor industry, but Congress has yet to sign the check. The Senate has passed the CHIPS Act that includes $52 billion in semiconductor investment, but it has yet to pass the House.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children are among a group of 17 missionaries kidnapped in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, per a statement from Christian Aid Ministries Sunday.

The latest: "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children," the Ohio-based group said. Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne on Sunday identified the 400 Mawozo gang as the group responsible, in a statement to AP.

Ina Fried, author of Login
4 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO wants to compete against Apple

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger hasn't given up on the idea of the Mac once again using Intel chips, but he acknowledges it will probably be years before he gets that chance.

  • In the meantime, he is focused on powering Windows machines that give Apple CEO Tim Cook a run for his money.

Why it matters: In getting pushed out of the Mac, Intel not only lost a customer but picked up a new rival.