Mar 18, 2017

The tech press talks 'fake news'

Why it matters: Fake news has affected the whole country, but the social networks and platforms to help distribute them are based in Silicon Valley, leaving the tech industry and the journalists that cover it to wrestle with the consequences and possible solutions.

Here's what a group of journalists — BuzzFeed reporter Alex Kantrowitz, CNBC editorial director Matt Rosoff, NYT reporter Katie Benner, USA Today SF bureau chief Jon Swartz and The Information's Tom Dotan — had to say about fake news at an event in San Francisco on Thursday.

Defining "fake news": All agreed that the intent to mislead or provide false information is central to the term, but there's also a spectrum from Macedonian "fake news" farms to outlets creating misleading narratives on the basis of some facts or opinions.

Facebook's real role: Facebook didn't sway the election thanks to fake news, said Kantrowitz. Instead, that content reinforced people's existing beliefs. Rosoff challenged the notion that Facebook is an alternative to the old ways of getting the news, like watching news programs on TV or buying a newspaper. Instead, it's an alternative for bar talk and gossiping for friends, which is why sensational articles are so commonly shared there. "It was never meant for real journalism," he added.

How tech empowers the grassroots: Certain voices the mainstream media and establishment politicians would have otherwise dismissed are getting power through technology like smartphones and social media, said Benner.

Why Twitter won't ban Trump: "I think the reason they keep him on is to keep the communication open," said Swartz, adding that at least it provides the public some window into his mind.

Video and fake news: With Facebook's increasing focus on—and even shift to—video, that may have an impact on the proliferation of fake news on its network, predicted Dotan. Videos require more resources to produce than blog posts, making it more difficult for bad actors currently churning out content from their computers to do the same in that medium.

Ultimate accountability: "I think it's in the hands of Mark Zuckerberg," said Kantrowitz.

Go deeper

Clyburn: Sanders' "socialist" label will be "extra burden" in House races

Clyburn with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that Sen. Bernie Sanders' identification as a democratic socialist may be an "extra burden" in down-ballot House races if he were to win the Democratic nomination.

Why it matters: Clyburn's comments echo fears from many establishment Democrats, who worry the House majority they won in 2018 by taking moderate seats carried by President Trump could be at risk with Sanders at the top of the ticket.

O'Brien rejects intelligence report of Russia effort to re-elect Trump

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien. Photo: Chris Usher/CBS via Getty Images

White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien repeatedly rejected on ABC's "This Week" an assessment from a congressional briefing led by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to help President Trump get re-elected.

Why it matters: The report put the Trump administration under fresh scrutiny in regard to steps it has been taking to combat the kind of interference that the U.S. encountered in 2016.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 42 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Italy becomes site of largest coronavirus outbreak outside of Asia

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus has spread to more nations as South Korea and Italy step up emergency measures in their countries amid rising case numbers on Sunday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed at least 2,462 people and infected almost 79,000 others, mostly in mainland China. South Korea increased the infectious disease alert to red, the highest possible, as its case numbers jumped to 602 and the death toll to five. Italy's government announced emergency measures as it confirmed a spike from three to 132 cases in matter of days, making it the largest outbreak outside of Asia.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health