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.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 a.m. ET: 19,655,445 — Total deaths: 727,353 — Total recoveries — 11,950,845Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 a.m. ET: 4,998,802 — Total deaths: 162,425 — Total recoveries: 1,643,118 — Total tests: 61,080,587Map.
  3. Politics: Trump signs 4 executive actions on coronavirus aid — Democrats, and some Republicans, criticize the move.
  4. Public health: Fauci says chances are "not great" that COVID-19 vaccine will be 98% effective — 1 in 3 Americans would decline COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Science: Indoor air is the next coronavirus frontline.
  6. Schools: How back-to-school is playing out in the South as coronavirus rages on — Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Howard to hold fall classes online.

Elevator anxiety will stifle reopenings

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Will you step back into an elevator any time soon?

Why it matters: Tens of billions of dollars — and the future of cities around the country — rest on the answer to that question. So long as workers remain unwilling to take elevators, hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of office real estate will continue to go largely unused.

Updated 6 hours ago - World

Brazil coronavirus death toll tops 100,000 and case numbers surpass 3 million

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro posted a photo of himself to Facebook congratulating his soccer team, Palmeiras, for winning the state title Saturday, moments after the health ministry confirmed the national COVID-19 death toll had surpassed 100,000.

Why it matters: Brazil is only the second country to confirm more than 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus. On Sunday morning, it became the second country to surpass 3 million cases, per Johns Hopkins. Only the U.S. has reported more. Bolsonaro has yet to address the milestones. He has previously tested positive for COVID-19 three times, but he's downplayed the impact of the virus, which has crippled Brazil's economy.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with the latest coronavirus case numbers and more context.