Data Sheet—Monday, November 21, 2016
Mark Zuckerberg has done his best to get around the problems that his giant social network has created in the form of viral fake news and hoaxes, a problem that many believe may have played a key role in the election of Donald Trump. But he can’t evade the issue much longer.
One of the arguments that the Facebook CEO offered when the fake news discussion first began was that the small proportion of fake news stories couldn’t possibly have affected the outcome of the election. This was “crazy talk,” he said.
But as a number of people quickly pointed out, Facebook’s entire marketing and advertising business, which is worth billions of dollars a year, is predicated on the idea that having your message on the platform can reach and influence hundreds of millions of people. Zuckerberg can’t have it both ways.
The risk for Facebook is that if it shows that it either isn’t willing to or can’t control the spread of fake news on its network, then it is sending the message that it isn’t willing to or can’t control any of the other activity that takes place there either.
On Friday, Zuckerberg wrote a long post explaining that Facebook is concerned about the problem and is planning to take a number of steps to control it, including getting the help of outside news agencies and third parties to verify news. He needs to step that process up and quickly, or the media isn’t the only institution in which people are going to lose trust.
BITS AND BYTES
Symantec is making a $2.3 billion investment in identity protection. The security software giant plans to buy LifeLock, which was being pushed to “explore its options” by activist investor Elliott Management. The deal, along with the $4.6 billion acquisition of Blue Coat in August, gives Symantec a much deeper portfolio of consumer cybersecurity services. (Reuters)
Microsoft leaps into quantum computing. This is more than its typical, quiet-ish research investment. Microsoft is putting considerable financial and engineering resources behind a prototype for a powerful computer that rivals efforts by Google and IBM. (New York Times)
Alibaba’s cloud is getting much larger outside China. New facilities in Dubai, Germany, Japan, and Australia will give the Chinese e-commerce giant’s Aliyun division a presence on every major continent. Alibaba’s cloud services are forecast to capture about 7.8% of a projected $135 billion global market by 2020. (Reuters)
The IRS wants to know who’s buying and selling bitcoins. The agency wants personal data for everyone who traded the cryptocurrency on the Coinbase exchange between 2013 and 2015. It’s an alarmingly large and indiscriminate information request of the world’s biggest bitcoin exchange. (Fortune, New York Times)
Intel’s strategy for AI chips is smart, but still lags rival. The chip giant hosted a conference last week to highlight its latest efforts to sell more microchips used to meet the booming demand for artificial intelligence, machine learning, and related disciplines. The overall strategy made sense to analysts who follow the company. But some are concerned that Intel has a ways to go to catch up to competitor Nvidia.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Tech Industry Could Be ‘First to Suffer’ From Trump’s Immigration Stances, by David Z. Morris
Red Hat CEO on Microsoft, Google, and Cutting Edge Software, by Jonathan Vanian
Why Microsoft’s Shares Are Near a 52-Week High, by Barb Darrow
Homeland Security Chief Cites Phishing as Top Hacking Threat, by Jeff John Roberts
The Big November Apple Release Isn’t What You Expect, by Don Reisinger
ONE MORE THING
Watch a Tesla navigate crowded urban streets. Its latest video showcases a self-driving car (in autonomous mode) reacting to cyclists and pedestrians that enter its path. (Fortune)